Two sets of facts will spin very different SEC football stories

SEC Football can have more tough schedules than any other conference and also play many bad college football teams.
Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun / USA TODAY

SEC football teams have long been challenged for playing too many cupcake teams. It will happen again this season because most (not all) SEC football teams have multiple out-of-conference cupcake games.

Using the preseason, ESPN FPI rankings of the 134 FBS teams, SEC teams will play 27 games against teams ranked from No. 84 to No. 134. In addition, SEC teams will have 15 games against lower-division teams.

The Florida Gators are the only SEC team with only one such game on their 2024 schedule. Ten SEC football teams have three games against either a lower division opponent or an FBS team with an FPI ranking of No. 84 to No. 134. Those ten programs are Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. All 42 of the SEC's mismatch games are listed below.

Another SEC football story of little interest to college football fans outside the SEC is 2024 Strength of Schedule (SOS). The ESPN FPI is again the source for comparison.

SEC football teams have toughest schedules

  • Based on ESPN's preseason analytics, 15 of college football's 25 most difficult schedules belong to SEC teams. More striking is that nine of the 10 toughest schedules are those of SEC teams. The one SEC program outside the SOS top 25 is Missouri at No. 29.
  • From the ESPN FPI - FBS team's SOS - No. 1, Florida; No. 2, Mississippi State; No. 3, Georgia; No. 4, Kentucky; No. 5, Auburn; No. 6, Alabama; No. 7, Oklahoma; No. 8, Tennessee; No. 9, Georgia Tech and No. 10, Texas. Other SEC teams in the SOS top 25 are No. 14, Vanderbilt; No. 17, South Carolina; No. 20, Texas A&M; No. 21, Arkansas; No. 22 Ole Miss and No. 23, LSU.

SEC football fans can rightly crow about how difficult life is in the SEC. Something else matters more. It is the easier paths to a CFB Playoff berth for some non-SEC, projected Playoff contenders. The SOS for the Oregon Ducks is No. 30; Penn State is No. 33; Miami, No. 53 and Notre Dame is No. 55. A personal opinion is that among those four teams, only Oregon is a true contender, but there is no doubt that Miami and Notre Dame will have an easier path to the Playoffs than any SEC team.

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