The SEC plays 8 conference games and 4 non-conference (NC) to reach their allowed number of 12 contests! The ACC also plays 8 games within their league, while the B-10, B-12 & P-12 play 9 conference games and 3 NC games. This is often a ‘bone of contention’ as the later 3 conference’s (B-10, B-12 & P-12) believe that the 9th game make their run to the College Football Playoff more challenging.
A couple thoughts on this claim. First and obviously, it depends on who you schedule in your NC tilts. If you schedule 2 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams as Florida has done (UT Martin 9/7 & Towson 7/28) then you have an advantage over, say, the B-10’s Ohio State, whose 9th conference game is @ Michigan. Keeping Florida front and center, their other 2 NC games are against Power Five (P5) opponents, Miami 8/24 and Florida State 11/30. The Gators do not play against a Group of 5 (G5) team in 2019, so Florida plays against 10 P5 opponents when U factor in their 8 SEC games. Most teams in the ACC & SEC play 1 P5, 2 G5’s & 1 FCS to fill up their NC schedules.
That said, let’s take a look see at the SEC’s NC schedule for th 2019 season! Be mindful that there are 14 teams in the SEC and each of them will play 4 NC games for a total of 56 (4 X 14 = 56) non-conference games.
SEC West Division
Alabama takes on 1 P5 opponent, Duke (ACC), @ a neutral site (Atlanta), 2 G5’s, New Mexico State (Independent/IND) & Southern Miss (C-USA), and 1 FCS team, Western Carolina (Southern Conference/SoCon) all 3 games are in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide rarely schedules home & home with Power 5 conferences, one exception was Penn State a few years ago. However, this is changing as they have scheduled both Notre Dame and Wisconsin to a home / home series!
LSU Plays 1 P5, Texas (B-12) in Austin (9/7), 2 G5’s, Georgia Southern (Sun Belt /SBC) & Utah State (Mountain West Conference/MWC) and 1 FCS opponent, Northwestern State (Southland Conference/SLC), all in Baton Rouge. The LSU/Texas game in week 2 has a Game Day presence written all over it!
Texas A&M challenges Clemson (ACC) in week 2, this game may have as much Game Day interest as the LSU/Texas game! The Aggies will line it up against 2 G5’s, Texas State (SBC) & UTSA (C-USA) and finish their NC schedule with 1 FCS opponent, Lamar (SLC), all three of these games are @ home. The three teams discussed here have the largest venues in the SEC, A&M 102,733, LSU 102,321, & Alabama 101,821!
Auburn, for the 2nd year in a row, will open with the P-12 favorite, last year it was Washington (21-16 Auburn win in Atlanta) this year it is Oregon ( in Arlington TX). True to form, the Tigers play 2 G5 teams, Tulame (C-USA) & Kent State (Mid-American Conference/MAC) and 1 FCS team, Samford (SoCon)
Mississippi State plays Kansas State (B-12) @ home in week three. The Bulldogs also play 2 G5’s, Louisiana (SBC ) @ a neutral site, New Orleans and Southern Miss (C-USA). Finally, they ‘lace em up’ vs Abilene Christian (SLC) in Starkville on 11/23 just prior to the EGG Bowl!
Ole Miss is set to host a P-12 team for the 1st time in their long history, Cal (P-12) comes to Oxford, MS. These teams played in 2017 in Berkeley, CA, the Golden Bears beat the Rebels, 27-16! Mississippi plays 2 G5’s, Memphis (AAC) on the road & New Mexico State (IND) at home. The Rebels will battle 1 FCS opponent, SE Louisiana (SLC) on 7/14 in Oxford.
Arkansas breaks the pattern of playing 1 P5, 2 G5’s, & 1 FCS, as the Razorbacks do not play a P5 team in 2019! Instead, they will play 3 G5’s and 1 FCS all @ Razorback Stadium. They open their 2019 campaign vs a FCS opponent, Portland State (B-SKY) and then play Colorado State (MWC), San Jose State (MWC), and Western Kentucky (C-USA). This is the 1st time since 2011 that the ‘Hogs’ are not playing a P5 team!
The West Division of the SEC will play 28 NC games in 2019. This coming year the West will play 6 P5 opponents, 15 G5 teams, and 7 FCS squads. For those of you who do not understand the practical difference between the FBS & the FCS, it is about the number of scholarships the schools can award. FBS must give 85 full scholarships, while the FCS cannot give more than 63 full rides. The West is playing more FCS schools (7) than P5’s opponents (6). Given the physical nature of this division, hands down college football’s best, so while these FCS opponents are an understandable break from the pounding one receives in the SEC’s West Division, it does not change the fact that these games are little more than scrimmages!
SEC EAST Division
Georgia immediately breaks the 1,2,1 pattern established by their conference neighbors to the West. The Dawgs play 2 P5’s, in state rival, Georgia Tech away (Atlanta) and Notre Dame (SCFP considers ND & BYU as the equivalent of P5 programs and counts them as such) @ home in Athens. The Bulldogs will als line it up against 1 G5, Arkansas State (SBC) and 1 FCS team, Murray State, out of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC).
Florida as mentioned plays 2 P5 opponents and 2 FCS Universities. Somewhat unusual behavior as only one of these wins can count toward the 6 needed to establish bowl eligibility. The Gators did the same thing in 2018, however, that was do to the fact that when they scheduled Idaho, the Vandals were part of FBS and members of the Sun Belt Conference. Between the time of the actual scheduling of the game and the date the game was to be played, Idaho left the FBS and returned to the FCS and Big Sky Conference. For whatever reason, Florida determined to honor the contract rather then try (or were unable to schedule a FBS opponent) to reschedule a game with a FBS school.
Missouri returns to the typical pattern of 1 P5 (West Virginia/B-12), 2 G5’s (Wyoming /MWC & Troy/FBC), & 1 FCS opponent (SE Missouri/OVC).
South Carolina is the 3rd team in the East Division to take on 2 P5’s in 2019. The Gamecocks battle neighbors to the north, North Carolina (ACC) and welcome Clemson to Williams-Brice Stadium. Muschamp’s team will also kick it off @ home vs a G5 team, Appalachian State (SBC) and a FCS opponent from the Big South (BSC), Charleston Southern.
Tennessee plays 1 P5, BYU (IND), 2 G5’s, Georgia State (SBC) & UAB (C-USA), and 1 FCS, Chattanooga (SoCon). All 4 of their NC games will be played on their home field @ Neyland Stadium.
Kentucky will get after in-state rival, Louisville, a P5 from the ACC on 11/30, rivalry weekend across college football. The Cat’s play 2 G5 teams from the MAC, Toledo & Eastern Michigan, and 1 FCS team, UT Martin (OVC). All 4 of these games are in Lexington.
Vanderbilt heads north to take on the B-10, Purdue, in West Lafayette in week two! They will get after 2 G5, UNLV (MWC) and Northern Illinois (MAC), as well as 1 FCS opponent, East Tennessee (SoCon)
The East Division plays 28 NC games. Four of the teams play one P5 University and three of the teams in the East, play 2 P5’s for a total of 10 games vs Power Five opponents. They take on 8 FCS teams (Florida has 2) and line it up against 10 Group of 5 clubs!
The SEC as a conference plays 56 NC games, 16 of their games are against P5 Conferences, (ACC 8 games, B-12 3 games, P-12 & IND 2 games apiece, & 1 tilt vs the B-10) This accounts for 29% of their NC games 16/56!, The Mighty SEC lines up 15 times against the 63 scholarship programs of the FCS or 27% of the NC Schedule. The Majority of their NC contest are vs the G5 conferences, as they play these conferences 25 times or 45% of their non-conference games.