Last week we highlighted the ACC teams that gained and lost the most with a revised schedule, this week we switch gears to the SEC.
The good news is the SEC’s revisions are much more straightforward than the ACC’s approach. Instead of making individual, inconsistent changes to each team’s slate, the SEC has simply added two additional cross-division opponents unilaterally. This makes gauging the impact on difficulty a much simpler process.
Though each program is affected by the additions in some way, what follows are the extremes by division. It’s key to remember that this is a discussion about how much each team’s SEC slate changes in difficulty with the additions. This as opposed to which school has the overall hardest or easiest SEC lineup.
As a note, we’ve utilized Phil Steele’s 2020 national Power Rankings to gauge the difficulty of each individual opponent.
Biggest Winner: LSU
Original cross-division schedule: at Florida, South Carolina
Additions: Missouri, at Vanderbilt
LSU’s permanent cross-division rival is Florida, which means it’s automatically playing at a disadvantage vs. fellow SEC West members such as Alabama, which has Tennessee annually. For 2020, the Tigers drew South Carolina as its rotating opponent from across the league, who Phil Steele has at No. 45 in his Power Poll.
From a difficulty standpoint, the Tigers absolutely won the lottery with their two additions, also the two lowest ranked teams in the SEC East. Steele has Missouri at No. 78 nationally and Vanderbilt at No. 113.
LSU has only played Missouri once in SEC action, a 42-7 win in Baton Rouge in 2016. The pair’s only other meeting came in the 1978 Liberty Bowl, a 20-15 win for Mizzou. LSU has won eight straight games over Vanderbilt, last falling in 1990.
Biggest Loser: TEXAS A&M
Original cross-division schedule: at South Carolina, Vanderbilt
Additions: Florida, at Tennessee
Texas A&M has the benefit of South Carolina as its permanent dance partner from the East. In 2020, it doubled up on a good thing by drawing Vanderbilt as its rotating foe. It amounted to A&M owning the easiest cross-division slate among SEC West members.
While the Aggies avoid top-ranked Georgia in the revision sweepstakes, they draw the next two best teams. Steele has Florida at No. 13 and Tennessee at a robust No. 20. Keep in mind that not only are the Vols fresh off their best season since 2016, they return 17 starters this year – the twelfth most nationally and the second most in the SEC.
Texas A&M has squared off with Florida twice in SEC play – suffering a 20-17 loss at home in 2012 and scoring a 19-17 win in Gainesville in 2017. It’s played the Volunteers once in SEC action – a 45-38 home win in 2016.
Biggest Winner: GEORGIA
Original cross-division schedule: Auburn, at Alabama
Additions: Mississippi State, at Arkansas
Honestly, Georgia may be the SEC program that needed the biggest break in the schedule revisions. Prior to the add-ons, the Bulldogs had the most difficult cross-division schedule in the entire conference, pairing their annual date with permanent rival Auburn (No. 19 per Steele) with a roadie to non-other than Alabama (No. 3).
It makes the addition of the two lowest ranked clubs in the West – Steele has Mississippi State at No. 66 and Arkansas at No. 96 – a welcome sight for a Georgia team with a real shot of winning it all. Could the revised schedule make the difference?
Georgia has won 11 of its last 12 meetings with Mississippi State. It’s also won nine-straight home games over MSU, the last loss in Athens coming in 1956. As for Arkansas, it’s won seven of its last eight games vs. the Hogs and are a perfect 4-0 in Fayetteville.
Biggest Loser: MISSOURI
Original cross-division schedule: Arkansas, at Mississippi State
Additions: Alabama, at LSU
In a tale of fortunes being completely reversed, Missouri went from – in the olden pre-pandemic days – having the absolute easiest cross-division slate in the entire SEC in 2020 to adding two of the last three CFP national champions to its schedule. Yikes!
The Tigers’ permanent cross-division rival is Arkansas, which has won eight total games over the last three seasons. Add in Mississippi State as the rotating foe and things were looking beyond favorable. That is, until the brain trust at the SEC added in the programs that Steele has at No. 3 and No. 6 in the nation respectively – Alabama and LSU.
Missouri is 0-3 vs. Alabama in SEC play and was outscored by the Tide by at least 29 points in all three losses. It’s only met LSU once in SEC action, a 42-7 road loss in 2016.
So Arkansas picks up Florida and Georgia, the top 2 in the East, and already had Tennessee (East #3)on the schedule, and they’re not the biggest loser in the West? Did I miss something?