Toughest 2013 SEC non-conference football schedules

By Clayton Tinkle -

The long awaited 2013 SEC non-conference football schedule rankings are here. Much debate will be had over the best conference in football and whether they need to beef up their schedules or not. As you will see, some are lackluster and some are quite the opposite.

Be sure to check out the rest of the AQ rankings by conference as well. The Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC, AAC, and Big 12 have all been ranked. Also, the non-AQ conferences have started as well with the MWC.

14. Vanderbilt Commodores

Stereotypically, there are a lot of question marks behind the SEC and their non-conference schedules. While some of these schedules aren’t deserving of those question marks, this one is. Easily the best team on Vandy’s slate is the five-win Demon Deacons from last year. That same team lost 55-21 to the Commodores in 2012 as well. Winners of two games in Conference USA last year, UAB looks to be of no challenge either. Traveling to Gillette Stadium to play the Minutemen of UMass should also present no challenge as Tom Brady won’t be on the field this go round.

13. Auburn Tigers

When it comes to schedules, a few things remain constant. First, traveling earns you points when it comes to strength of schedule. Second, just because you have a decent name on the slate doesn’t earn you respect if that team is bad. Washington State is a perfect example of the latter situation. The Cougars lack of performance doesn’t help the Tigers case of playing all their non-conference games in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. Arkansas State might be — scratch that, they are — the best team on this list. The Tigers struggled with the upset minded Sun Belt colleagues of the Red Wolves last year, barely winning in OT 31-28 against ULM. We’ve covered FAU and their dismal football program in previous pieces of this series so there’s not much to dissect there.

12. Alabama Crimson Tide

Obviously the highlight of this schedule is traveling to Atlanta to play the Hokies. Props to Alabama for stepping out to play a good program once again, but that’s not quite enough to put them any better than 12th in these rankings. Colorado State had eight losses last year with one coming to FCS foe North Dakota State. We’ve also covered Georgia State — in their transitional period to FBS football — in the previous pieces in this series. That game as well as the one against Chattanooga should be no contest.

11. Arkansas Razorbacks

Remember the traveling theory we mentioned before? It benefits Arkansas here. Virginia Tech edged out Rutgers last year in the Russell Athletic Bowl in overtime, so the two games appear to be of equal strength. However, Arkansas is traveling to Piscataway to play a very stingy Rutgers defense that also beat the Razorbacks last year. The Ragin’ Cajuns hold merit as a strong mid-major opponent coming off of a nine-win season last year. Southern Miss, winless last year, and Samford should be cake walks for the Razorbacks, though.

10. Missouri Tigers

Cracking the top ten with a schedule anchored by the aforementioned Arkansas State Red Wolves are the Missouri Tigers. ASU is once again the best team on this list as they are coming off of two consecutive ten-win seasons. If this was basketball, the trip to Bloomington and Memorial Stadium would hold a lot of merit. As good as the Hoosiers are on the hardwood they might be just as bad on the gridiron. Rounding out the slate is Toledo, which is coming off of a nine-win season and a bowl appearance, and Murray State.

9. Texas A&M Aggies

  • 08/31 – Rice
  • 09/07 – Sam Houston State
  • 09/21 – SMU
  • 11/02 – UTEP

Johnny Football and company should be all over this schedule like white on rice, pun intended. Rice was a .500 team last year in the regular season, but did stomp Air Force 33-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl. Texas A&M will continue their Conference USA tour against a three-win UTEP team which should also pose no challenge. SMU adds another .500 team to the slate and June Jones probably won’t have an answer for the Aggies defense. Sam Houston State, a very good FCS team, rounds out the slate.

8. Kentucky Wildcats

Louisville is a common game for Kentucky and the Wildcats are looking to end the Cardinals’ current two-game win streak in the series. That’s the toughest game on the schedule. The combination of Western Kentucky and Miami (OH) aren’t enough to move this schedule higher as those two teams had seven and four wins last year, respectively. We will overlook Alabama State, as they should provide no contest for the Wildcats.

7. Ole Miss Rebels

  • 09/07 – Southeast Missouri State
  • 09/14 – at Texas
  • 10/26 – Idaho
  • 11/16 – Troy

The 7th through 10th positions in these rankings could have gone in any direction. Ultimately, Ole Miss got credit for not doing either of the negative things we discussed earlier. They scheduled a good powerhouse and they will play them on the road in Austin. That’s the way to climb to the higher spots in schedule rankings. Idaho and Troy are both lackluster opponents, as is Southeast Missouri State of the FCS. However, just Texas alone is more formidable than the combination of some opponents farther down in the rankings.

6. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Stepping out to play a good team in Oklahoma State plus a solid mid-major team from last year in Bowling Green earns the Bulldogs a spot just outside of the top five. The aforementioned Bowling Green game could be a bit of a challenge since it follows a visit from the LSU Tigers. Don’t sleep on the Falcons or they might pull the upset. MSU should cruise in their other two games, Alcorn State and Troy.

5. Tennessee Volunteers

Wow! A trip to Autzen Stadium! That’s a great game! And that’s it. A tour of the Sun Belt and a cupcake in Austin Peay rounds out the non-conference slate for the Vols. That includes a game against South Alabama who is in their first year of full FBS status. Western Kentucky was .500 in conference play last year as well. Nine times out of ten the trip to Eugene would carry this schedule a little farther, but not when your other opponents are that lackluster.

4. LSU Tigers

  • 08/31 – TCU (at Arlington, TX)
  • 09/07 – UAB
  • 09/14 – Kent State
  • 10/26 – Furman

LSU comes away with the fourth toughest schedule overall and the toughest in the West. The Tigers open in prime time against TCU in Arlington in another kickoff classic featuring an SEC team. I don’t think that game ends up as bad as the blowout that Michigan suffered to Alabama last year, though. The combo of TCU — which was undefeated in non-conference games last year — and the eleven-win Kent State Golden Flashes is tough. UAB and Furman will be easy games for the Tigers though.

3. South Carolina Gamecocks

The top three are littered with two things — SEC-ACC match-ups and the top three SEC East teams. South Carolina holds the three spot with home games against two ACC powers in North Carolina and Clemson. Clemson is coming off of a huge win in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU and, in tow, an 11-win season. North Carolina was an eight-win team a year ago, as well. The lone road game is a trip to Bright House Networks Stadium to take on the UCF Knights. UCF lost in overtime of the C-USA Championship Game last year in their last year in the league. They also throttled Ball State in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. UCF is not to be messed with and could give USC all they want and more.

2. Florida Gators

If not for longstanding rivalries, the Gators schedule wouldn’t be nearly this high. Unfortunately, this will be the last scheduling of Miami for the foreseeable future. The Gators won the last meeting 26-3 in Gainesville in 2008. They take their one-game win streak to the table when Florida State visits in November, too. Florida struggled a bit in the non-conference last year, almost losing to UL Lafayette if not for a blocked punt in the last minute. The Gators also struggled in 2011 against Furman. Toledo could be that surprise game this year as #MACtion comes to town. All in all, the inclusion of the two in-state rivals — one on the road — and a very solid Toledo team give Florida the second overall spot.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

The Dawgs open the 2013 season with a trip to Clemson to take on the Tigers in prime time in Memorial Stadium, and their other marquee game on the non-conference docket is in Atlanta. Not to overlook North Texas and a good FCS program in Appalachian State — both will be victories — but the combo of Clemson and Georgia Tech is enough to put this schedule over the top. Two powers in the ACC — one heated in-state rivalry, and one prime time visit to Death Valley — add up to the toughest non-conference schedule in the SEC.

Clayton Tinkle is a contributor to

Comments (61)

Thanks for the read, sir. I think seven through one are all decent slates, with a few great ones. Very respectable, in my opinion.

I think you are over looking Troy. Ask Mizzou, Oklahoma State and Mississippi State how over looking the Trojans works out

Troy is one of those teams that can pull off an upset every now and then, but I would still consider them a “lackluster” opponent as far as non-conference scheduling goes. But definitely better than scheduling a mediocre FCS team.

Troy is the most consistent of the SB schools, if Troy are lackluster then all of the SB teams are regardless of what they have done in the last 2 years.

When I look at these 4 game OoC schedules I try to compare them to the 3 game OoC schedules and the worst team in the conference (Kansas or Colorado) and most of these SEC schedules still look worse.

And please stop referencing losing to NDSU as a bad thing, they are better than half the schools in FBS.

It is what it is with SBC teams. They just aren’t a marquee game on an SEC schedule, even though they may be capable of pulling off an upset.

In regard to North Dakota State, all Clayton said is that that CSU lost to them. He thinks highly of them, and you can see for yourself in the Big 12 Non-Conference Schedule article where he picks the Bison to upset Kansas State.

G, thanks for the read. As far as NDSU goes, as Kevin said, I raved about the Bison earlier in this series. They are a well respected program and I gave credit where credit was due. Thanks for the read!

He was pointing out that CSU was no good, and used the loss to a FCS team to prove that point. NDSU was painted in a negative light, if he thinks so high he would have remembered that when he wrote this blurb.

The Trojans had a good run and they did rule the Sun Belt, but now the Ragin’ Cajuns and the Red Wolves have pulled ahead of them. What has Troy done for the Sun Belt lately? Don’t worry, when those two teams leave for a better conference, Troy will rule what is left of the Sun Belt.

I was pointing out CSU wasn’t up to par, yes. However, they are an FBS school. No matter how good a FCS school is, they are just that: FCS. The FBS program should — and I just should lightly — have more talent, better resources and coaching. Therefore, losing to an FCS opponent is not acceptable, at any time, in my opinion.

Troy has been down the last few years but still has more football history then Arkansas State and ULL put together.

PNB, correct me if I am wrong, but Troy only has 2 bowl wins. Louisiana has 2 and ASU has 1. 3>2! Their two respective states, Louisiana and Arkansas, also needed another good football program and they are filling that void. USA is going to continue to eat up Troy’s recruits. USA really hurt Troy by going FBS. Geography is Troy’s problem. Alabama can’t support that many really good football programs. This year Troy has to play at UL, ASU, WKU and this is just conference games. More tough times for Troy. They will probably win 5 games and that is being generous.

Most @$&!?! non competitive games on the docket here than you will find on an Alabama chicken ranch.

Sorry to say I think the gators have the toughest schedule, App St is a FCS team. North Tx will probably be a 6-6 team, Georgia St might be a 8-5 team to end the season in a weak ACC, Clemson will probably be a 9-4 at best. Florida has a far tougher schedule with a underrated teams like Miami and Toledo. Florida St will most likely be in the Orange bowl. I am sorry I think Florida should be rated the 1 non-conf scheduled team in the SEC

Florida, South Carolina and Georgia are all doing it right. As for the others in the SEC having one good OOC game and 3 games against teams most people need to use google to find should be embarrassing,not to mention screwing your season ticket holders. I have reached the point of agreeing Bama is just embarrassing themselves and screwing their season ticket holders with 3 weak cupcakes. When was the last time Bama scheduled a home and home series with a good opponent?

Seeing TAMU OOC scheduling long term might even embarrass Baylor for weakest OOC scheduling and that takes serious planning to be that weak.

“When was the last time Bama schedule a home and home series with a good opponent?”

That would be Penn State in 2010-2011.

Alabama is also scheduling marquee opponents to open the season pretty much every year. Clemson, VT twice, Michigan…

Sometimes the hate is so strong it clouds your thought process.

Josh…Neutral site games are not home and home. Given that Bama’s schedule has had them missing UF, Georgia and USC….playing one neutral site game is not an excuse for not playing good OOC opponents home and home. An honest opinion based on facts is not hate.

Thanks for the read, Fox. I was debating for a long time about who’s was tougher. Ultimately I gave the nod to UGA simply because of the two road games. Florida has their toughest non-con game at home (FSU), and UGA has their two toughest on the road. That’s what decided it for me.

Georgia’s schedule is #1? At Clemson is legit, sure. But North Texas, who has been to one bowl in like the past 12 years, Appalachian State (who is not the same team they were 5 or so years ago), and Georgia Tech (who finished 7-7 last season) is enough to make this #1 over Toledo (9 wins last season) at Miami, and Florida State? South Carolina’s is probably tougher than that, also. Someone involved in running this site must be a huge Dwag homer.

Also for the record: no one here is a UGA homer. This is just one person’s opinion. Thanks for the read, Josh! I just put more stock into road games than other people, I suppose.

How in the world does this fool have UGA ahead of UF and USC? Lemme guess where this author is from …

I believe on another comment thread that it came out that a person who has a lot of pull on this website is a huge Dwag fan.

It didn’t “come out.” It’s posted on my bio on the about us page. And again, I didn’t influence the rankings.

And just to repeat, these are opinion based rankings. If you don’t agree, that’s fine. There’s no conspiracy. It’s also likely that those upset feel their team should be ranked higher.


First of all, please refrain from personal insults. Second, it doesn’t matter where he is from. Several other writers have Georgia first also. It’s completely a matter of opinion.

How in the world do you think that GA playing GT (which GA has beaten approx 5 straight and games were not even competitive, and approx 6 out of 7) and Clemson (which has not often won big games in the last 30 years, and has lost to their annual SEC rival, SC more times than not since the arrival of SOS) is more difficult than FLA playing FSU (which has been much more of an acknowledged top ten power than Clemson and is rising since Jumbo’s arrival) and Miami (which many believe are on the verge of returning to their top ten ways of the 80’s & 90″s).

I agree with you Dave regarding the Hurricanes, especially in a weak ACC. Unless, of course, the NCAA slaps them with some serious sanctions this year. Hopefully the ‘Canes forgoing a bowl game two years in a row will help their cause. Difficult to know at this point though.

It’s simple. Miami is a better team than GT but Clemson is better than FSU. UGA is ranked higher because of playing at Clemson while Florida plays FSU at home. And as for “Clemson not often winning big games in the past 30 years”, ask LSU in 2012. VT, Auburn, FSU in 2011, and FSU and Tennessee in 2003. Oh and Ask Nebraska about 1981.

We can’t assume that UM is simply going to magically go back to their prime. I’m judging off of last season. Clemson was very, very good and beat LSU. Thanks for the read!

So you say Auburn has a easy game in Washington State; and then, while ranking the Pac-12 schedules, you say Wazzu has an easy game with Auburn. Ok, maybe I missed the nuance. But it’s sounding like the two teams are playing each other at the right time to make a competitive game.

Simply saying that neither team was impressive – in any sense – last year. This isn’t previewing indivual games. It’s simply looking at schedules. If you’re either team, you can be confident going into that game with the other teams struggles. That’s all I meant. Thanks for the read!

Not sure I agree with the order of #1/2. While Clemson is good, I don’t believe they are extremely far ahead of FSU. App State/Ga Southern is a wash. I’m not confident in Ga Tech this year, and think Miami might have a better season. Toledo is heads and shoulders above North Texas.

Sad that every SEC team is playing an FCS opponent as hope that strength of schedule component helps change that to get some better non conference games.

Some teams like a Bama or UGA do it to help out local instate schools to generate revenue for them. Others like UT or UK, who could end up with 5 FBS wins, would need that FCS opponent W to push them into a bowl game.

UGA and South Carolina both play Clemson. North Carolina>Ga Tech, and Central Florida is better than any other non-conference game on UGA’s schedule. USC has the tougher schedule although they are both pretty tough.

North Carolina is better than Georgia Tech? GT has beaten N Carolina 9 out of the past 11 seasons, and N Carolina hasn’t sniffed the ACC Championship for 15 years.

You missed his point. Tom Brady plays for New England which plays at Gillette Stadium. He means Brady won’t be on the field for the home team in this game (UMass).

1. Florida has toughest schedule.
2. South Carolina second
3. Georgia third

It should also be noted that, in conference, neither Alabama nor Tex A&M play any of the top three (Fla, Ga, and SC, in alphabetical order to avoid offense) in the SEC East. Not to overstate the obvious, but that also means that none of the three top teams in the SEC East have to play the top two teams in the SEC West.

A fourteen team conference means that each team misses five of the teams in the opposite division. That fact alone cries out for tougher non conference scheduling. Not to mention a nine game conference schedule.

Ya’ll should live out here on the West coast with me. All I hear about is the “Great PAC 12” and how weak the SEC schedules are. My buddy’s son is a Oregon Duck and he believes that they have been robbed every year. First off, when was the last time a PAC 12(10) won a Nat’l championship? And the SEC can afford to play a few “tune up” games because if you play Tennessee, UGA, ‘Bama, MSU, Mizzu, and the like year after year you deserve a break. Throw in some non conference teams like F$U, Miami, GT, Clemson….. Oregon plays Nichols State for their opener! I hope Tennessee stomps the Ducks at home this year, I would laugh my A$$ off over that. Go SEC!

I just feel like this is based more on what teams accomplished last year rather than how they’re projected to do this year. i think projections of teams that went through coaching changes is where this jumps out to me the most. other than that, good read.

who is it that piays 5 of the top ten teams in the countrt/add vandy miss st and Missouri/do not forget western ky and ky??? who does Alabama play??

Why do teams in a conference with fourteen members play four OOC games and only seven conference opponents? And every team plays at least two teams from non AQ conferences, and most teams play at least three such opponents. I see three teams with what might be considered challenging OOC schedules. The remaining 11 (!) are practically guaranteed three wins – halfway to bowl eligibility. Coincidence that the SEC has dominated the BCS era? I don’t think so.

funny looking back.. yea UGA had THE toughest OOC schedule.. and took some hard hits with injuries early in the year… how about the TOP DE in the Nation? proving he is scared to get injured after all that smack talk!!!