Who Has the Most Simple Non-Conference Schedule in the SEC?

Cupcakes and the SEC. While delicious, especially the German chocolate variety, that conversation is usually reserved for one of the last weeks in November before rivalry week. Historically, SEC teams play FCS opponents that week, much to the chagrin fans, media personalities, and other conferences. However, now just two Saturdays stand in the way between us and college football. Whether our favorite teams are serving cupcakes or Tomahawk steaks, we’re all anxious to put realignment behind us and prepare for the season. Last Word on College Football has everything you need to prepare for Saturday. Each week we’ll preview the top matchups in the SEC. To get you started, we’ll get started by looking at who has the SEC’s easiest non-conference schedule.

To develop our list, we used each team’s overall strength of schedule rankings and scored its non-conference schedule using the following data points.

FCS Opponent0
Group of 5 Opponent 
(Sun Belt, American Athletic Conference, Confernce USA, Mid-American Confernce, and Moutain West)
Group of 5 Top 25 finish in 20223
Power 5 Opponent 
(Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12)
Power 5 Top 25 finisher in 20225

SEC’s Easiest Non-conference Schedule

5:  Texas A&M Aggies

Non-conference opponents: New Mexico, Miami (FL.), ULM, and Abilene Christian
Overall strength of schedule: 22

Bobby Petrino and Jimbo Fisher get three non-conference games to see if they can work together and get the Aggie offense fixed and primed to compete in 2024. While we learned in 2023 that no game is given, see the Appalachian State game. Texas A&M should be in good shape with most of its non-conference schedule. Their game in Coral Gables is a great helmet game and should be a great matchup. Many of us thought the same thing last year and were left with a game lacking luster. Both teams will have the game circled on their schedules, but Fisher’s hire of Petrino gives the Aggies the nudge.

4:  Mississippi State Bulldogs

Non-conference opponents: Southeastern Lousiana, Arizona, Western Michigan, and Southern Miss
Overall strength of schedule: 22

Zach Arnett begins his tenure with a manageable non-conference schedule in Starkville. Arnett has big shoes to fill with the unexpected passing last season of Mike Leach. Leach was quirky and one of the best soundbites a reporter could ask for. He was also a helluva football coach and had Mississippi State clanging their cowbells for 2024. Arnett has changed directions and will not continue with the Air Raid, but has Will Rogers back leading the offense. Jedd Fisch has breathed new life into Arizona making Week 2 a difficult match for the Bulldogs. Southern Miss also may pose problems for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs hold a 15-14-1 slight advantage over the Golden Eagles who continue to show steady improvement under Will Hall.

3:  Auburn Tigers

Non-conference opponents: UMass, California (A), Samford, New Mexico State
Overall strength of schedule: 22

The Hugh Freeze era should get off to a hot start on the Plains. Freeze has his quarterback in Michigan State transfer Payton Thorne and a non-conference schedule that should allow his offense to put up plenty of points. UMass is one of the bottom-feeders of the FBS and has a 1-11 record in three of the last four years. They were 0-4 in the other season, 2020. A road game at Cal would be intriguing, but with the Pac-12 down to four and Justin Wilcox on the hot seat, the Golden Bears will likely be no match against the Tigers. The first three games enable Freeze to see what he has before playing Texas A&M and Georgia back-to-back to close out September.

2:  Arkansas Razorbacks

Non-conference opponents: Western Carolina, Kent State, BYU, and FIU
Overall strength of schedule: 22

Woo, pig, and not in a good way. Had BYU not joined the Big 12 this season, Arkansas would’ve been the only SEC not to play a Power 5 non-conference opponent. Kent State lost its head coach (to Coach Prime) and had to replace 20 of 22 starters from a team that went just 5-7 in 2022. FIU won just four games in 2022.  These numbers bode well for Arkansas’s Sam Pittman who is looking to bounce back after taking a step back and finishing 7-6 in 2022.

1:  Georgia Bulldogs

Non-conference opponents: UT-Martin, Ball State, UAB, and Georgia Tech
Overall strength of schedule: 22

While they haven’t won anything yet, Georiga earns the title of the SEC’s easiest non-conference schedule. Georgia was supposed to play in Norman on September 9th, but the SEC directed them to cancel their home-and-home series with Oklahoma. This was a missed opportunity for the fans. Sure, Georgia wouldn’t be getting a home game in return, but you couldn’t have gone to Oklahoma or played a neutral site one-off game at Jerry’s World in Dallas? The game may not have been as thrilling as the 2018 Rose Bowl, but it would have drawn many eyes. Instead, Georgia fans are stuck with a non-conference schedule that lacks punch or much interest. UAB will be under first-year coach Trent Dilfer, and Georgia Tech will be finding its way with Brent Key being promoted to full-time head coach. We can all look ahead to 2024 when Georgia opens up with Clemson at Mercedes-Benz.

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