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SEC Best Non-Conference (NC) Games for the 2021 Season

The Web-address, listed below, will take you to the SEC’s 2021 schedule. A Red dot indicates a conference game, Yellow dot a Power 5 (P5) opponent, Green dot signifies a Group of 5 (G5) team, & a light Blue dot identifies a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) squad.

Alabama: The Tide is coming off another College Football Playoff, National Championship in 2020, beating Notre Dame, 31-14 & Ohio State 52-24. Since we entered the CFP Era, Bama has won 3 of the 7 championships, beating Clemson, 45-40; Georgia, 26-23, & OSU. Alabama has also played for the championship on two (2) other occasions! The Tide’s best NC game in 2021 is its opener vs Miami, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), in Atlanta. The last two (2) times these teams played, the winner won the National Championship, the Canes beat the Tide in the 1990 (1989 season) Sugar Bowl, 33-25 & in the 1993 Sugar Bowl (1992 season) the Tide rolled right thru the Hurricanes, 34-13! Bama’s other NC game are with, Mercer, Southern Conference (SoCon), Southern Miss, Conference USA (C-USA) & New Mexico State, Independent (IND)!

Texas A&M: The Aggies best NC game is against an old B-12 rival, Colorado, in Denver’s Empower Field @ Mile High Stadium! These teams have played nine (9) times as B-12 rivals, the Buffs lead the series, 6-3 & won the last game played in 2009, 35-34, when both teams were in the B-12. This game has a couple of 1st, it will their 1st meeting on a neutral field and their 1st meeting with A&M representing the SEC & Colorado flying P-12 flags! A&M also lines up against the following teams in NC games; Kent State, Mid-American Conference (MAC), New Mexico, Mountain West Conference (MWC), & Prairie View A&M, Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC)!

LSU: The Tigers are heading west to play their best NC game in 2021! LSU to the Rose Bowl, to take on the Bruins of UCLA. This is the 1st meeting of these two (2) storied programs. LSU has open their season 4 times vs the P-12 since 2004 and won all 4 games! The two (2) most recent, 2009, the Tigers beat Washington, 31-23, in Seattle and in 2011, they then took down Oregon, 40-27, @ Dallas’ AT&T Stadium! UCLA is 18-15-4 all-time vs current SEC teams! The last time the Bruins played an SEC team was in 2017 and were trailing Texas A&M 44-10 in the 3rd quarter and then, shockingly, scored 35 unanswered points to beat the Aggies, 45-44! UCLA has a ton of athleticism, the quickness, speed & finesse to play right with the Tigers! The question to be resolved is do they have physicality to hold up against LSU’s offense & defense fronts! The Tigers also take on, McNeese State, Southland Conference (SLC), Central Michigan (MAC), & Louisiana Monroe / ULM, Sun Belt Conference (SBC)

Ole Miss: I had to think about this one! The Rebels are taking on Louisville out of the ACC, a Power 5 (P5) opponent, so it seemed like the logical choice to identify the Cardinals as the Rebels best NC opponent! However, Mississippi also plays Liberty, who went 11-1 in 2020 and gave Coastal Carolina its only loss in 2020! Further, Liberty’s coach is Hugh Freeze, who also coached @ Ole Miss from 2012 thru 2016! What decided who is Ole Miss best NC opponent, for me, was Virginia Tech! The Hokies beat Louisville last year (2020), 42-35, while Liberty got by VT, 38-35! Hugh Freeze was/is also a factor in this choice, So … SCFP took a Group 5 (G5) program over a P5, as the Rebels best NC opponent in 2021! The Rebels also play, Austin Peay, Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) & Tulane (AAC), Willie Fritz’ team!

Auburn: This Tiger opponent was/is, a no brainer, as the Tigers biggest NC challenge in 2021. The War Eagle hits the airways and has a schedule stop in Happy Valley, to do some big game hunting in Pennsylvania! You got it! One of the best NC match-ups of the 2021 season, Auburn @ Penn State! This is the first time since 1931, that the Tigers line up against a B-10 team in the regular season! PSU has played the Tigers twice (2) before, Auburn won the Capital One Bowl, 13-9, in 2002 while the Nittany Lions took down the Tigers, 43-14, in the 1995 Outback Bowl! Auburn also plays NC games against, Akron (MAC), Alabama State (SWAC), & Georgia State (SBC)!

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs play host to NC State, who is their toughest NC opponent in 2021! These teams last met in 2015, MSU overpowered the Wolfpack, 51-28, in the Belk Bowl! These teams have met 6 times, the last 3 games have been in bowls. NC State is 1-7 in their last 8 vs the SEC, yet has split the last 6 games with MSU! NC State most recent win was in the 1995 Peach Bowl, 28-24. The last time the Wolf Pack was in Starkville, during the regular season, was in 1931! Been awhile! The Bulldogs NC play also includes, Louisiana Tech (C-USA), Georgia State (SBC), & Memphis (AAC).

Arkansas: This is another NC ‘No Brainer’, as the Hogs are hosting the Texas Longhorns, an old Southwest Conference foe! These teams last played in Fayetteville in 2004, Texas survived, 22-20. While their last meeting was in the 2014, Texas Bowl, the Razorbacks did that ‘Down Horns’ sign, whipping the Longhorns, 31-7! That said, Texas leads the series and then some, 56-22. A game in this series that I watched and remember as one of the greatest college football games that I have seen, was the 1969 battle, Texas 15 Arkansas 14! President Nixon went into the Texas locker room and declared them “National Champs”. The Horns went on to survive ND, 21-17, in the Cotton Bowl. Research why #2 Penn State declined a bid to play Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl. Interesting Read!! The Hogs also play Rice (C-USA), Georgia Southern (SBC), & Arkansas Pine Bluff (SWAC)

Georgia: UGA is playing in the best NC game of the 2021 and easily the best, no question! The Dawgs are taking on Clemson, in Charlotte’s, Bank of America Stadium! That said, Georgia has dominated this series, 42-18-4 and won the most recently played game, in 2014, 45-21! The Bulldogs have won 7 straight season openers, interestingly, their last loss was in 2013, 38-35, to Clemson! UGA has won 6 of the last 7 with Clemson. Both of these teams are ranked in the Top 5 in every preseason publication I have seen and on our site (SCFP) , we have Georgia #2 & Clemson #4! The last four ACC championships have been played in Charlette’s, Bank of America Stadium, all won by Clemson! An advantage? I think so… This is must see TV for any and all college FB fans! UGA also kicks it off NC with: UAB (C-USA), Charleston Southern, Big South Conference (BSC) & Georgia Tech (ACC)

Florida: The Gators annual battle with Florida State is the usual choice in identifying their toughest NC game! While Florida State has struggle lately (Offense line & QB issues) they are ranked, on SCFP, as the 17th best recruiting program in the country! The Fact that they have addressed the QB issue with two players, McKenzie Milton (UCF Transfer from the undefeated team) and Jordan Travis is a clear step back toward prominence. Their O-Line has all 5 starters back and if they stay healthy, will be improved! The Gators also play NC games against, Florida Atlantic / FAU (C-USA), South Florida / USF (AAC), & Samford (SoCon). Florida’s new coach, Danny Mullen, has won the ‘Sunshine Showdown’ or as others call it, the “Chomp (Gator bite) & Chop (Seminole Axe) Game, the 2 times he has led UF into the game”. While the home team is 3-6 in the last nine (9), the favorite has won five (5) straight!

Kentucky: The tuffest NC game the Wildcats will play in 2021 is against in state rival, Louisville (ACC)! the Cats lead the series, 17-15 and the teams have played every year from 1994 thru 2019 (Covid interrupted the series in 2020). The 2016 game was close, UK won a, 41-38, nail-biter @ Louisville’s, Cardinal Stadium, however, close affairs have not been the case since that game. In 2017, Louisville won, 44-17, @ Kentucky’s Kroger Field, in 2018, UK ran roughshod over L-Ville, 56-10, at Cardinal Stadium, & finally in 2019, UK blasted UL, 45-21, on their home turf, Kentucky’s, Kroger Field! UK also plays NC games with, ULM (SBC), Chattanooga (SoCon), & New Mexico State (IND)

Missouri: This is an unusual match-up between the SEC / ACC, who do play one another often, however, not with this game. The Tigers most challenging NC tilt is with Boston College, an ACC team, out of the northeast, that do not typically venture into SEC territory for NC games! In fact, reviewing the Game List on SCFP (2009 thru 2020), BC had not played an SEC team in those 12 years. The last time the Eagles took on an SEC team was in 2008, losing to Vanderbilt, 16-14, in the Music City Bowl. Missouri’s scheduling timing is not great, as this is the best BC team since 2007, when they won 11 games! Mizzou also plays NC games against, Central Michigan (MAC), SE Missouri State (OVC), & North Texas (C-USA).

South Carolina: Everyone in the country, even the most casual of college football enthusiasts, knows that ‘the game’ in South Carolina is the Gamecocks vs the Clemson Tigers! To say that this has been a series of streaks, would, at best, be understating the recent results of this in-state battle. In the last 11 games, Clemson has won 6 in a row (2014 thru 2019) and USC won the 1st 5 of those last 11 (2009 thru 2013). Clemson has a commanding lead in the all-time series, 71-42-4. The Gamecocks also play, Eastern Illinois (OVC), @ East Carolina (AAC), & Troy (SBC).

Tennessee: This is another, say what, game between the SEC / ACC, as the Vols take on an ACC team, from the northeast, Pitt, for their best NC game in 2021! TN has played Pitt twice (2) in their long history and both games were played in the 1980’s. A common thread that connects the universities is, Johnny Majors, who coached at both schools. The current coaches have a history, Josh Heupel, when @ UCF, beat Naduzzi’s Pitt Panthers, 45-14, in 2018, the next year (2019) Pitt made up for that 31 point loss by taking UCF down, 35-34! The Volunteers also battle 3 other NC opponents, U-Mass (IND), Western Michigan (MAC), & New Hampshire (CAA)!

Vanderbilt: This NC game should be referred to as the “High Quiz Bowl” as Vandy, takes on fellow scholars from the Pac-12, Stanford. This is the Commodores best NC of 2021. The game is the 1st meeting between these highly respected academic institutions of higher learning. In fact, this is the first time in Vanderbilt football history, that they are hosting a team from the P-12. The Cardinal are 4-2-1 vs current teams from the SEC and this Vandy road trip, constitutes their 1st appearance in an SEC arena. Stanford’s other games vs the SEC were played @ neutral sites! Vandy also has NC dates with, East Tennessee State (SoCon)), @ Colorado State (MWC), & U-Conn (IND)

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