It might be a tad early to make predictions, but it is not too early to look at the 2015 non-conference schedules of the SEC. The SEC has mandated that each member school add a Power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Notre Dame, BYU) opponent to their schedule starting in 2016. Some teams already have a jump on that concept while others will have to be dragged along kicking and screaming.
2015 non-conference opponents: Wisconsin (at Arlington, TX), Middle Tennessee, Louisiana-Monroe, Charleston Southern.
Power 5: Some observers out there thought Nick Saban was nuts for scheduling a neutral site game with #9 Clemson to start the 2008 season. Yet, it has now become en vogue among the Power 5 elite. Alabama continues that neo-traditional non-conference opener against a strong Wisconsin team in JerryWorld.
FCS: Charleston Southern
The rest: The other three games are layups that proceed games against likely ranked SEC foes: MTSU/Ole Miss; ULM/at UGA; CSU/at Auburn.
2015 non-conference opponents: Texas-El Paso, Toledo (at Little Rock, AR), Texas Tech, Tennessee-Martin.
Power 5: The highlight game is Texas Tech (4-8 in 2014).
The rest: A pretty easy non-con for the Hogs with the first three coming in the first three games (Is it coincidence that all Arky's non-con opponent schools start with the letter "T"?) The poor Arkansas students are stuck with another meh game played in Little Rock - a good three-hour drive from the Fayetteville campus.
2015 non-conference opponents: Louisville (at Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA), Jacksonville State, San Jose State, Idaho.
Power 5: The Tigers versus the Cardinals should be an interesting game but the 'Ville has lost a little sheen with only 9 returning starters from a 9-4 (5-3 ACC) team.
The rest: SJSU (3-9) and Idaho (1-10) combined for 4 wins in 2014. The Vandals will be praying for lightning.
2015 non-conference opponents: New Mexico State, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida State.
Power 5: There is no stopping the annual showdown with FSU. Despite losing some talent (Winston, Darby, Goldman, O'Leary, 4 OL, etc.), the 'Noles are still a formidable team.
The rest: East Carolina (8-5) is no pushover. It will be a rematch of the Birmingham Bowl. NMSU and FAU are soft.
2015 non-conference opponents: Louisiana-Monroe, Southern, Georgia Southern, at Georgia Tech.
Power 5: You never know what kind of season the Yellow Jackets will have or what kind of team will show up for the annual Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate game. They finished last season with wins over Clemson, UGA, and scared the bejeezus out of FSU.
The rest: GSU's triple option tends to give defenses fits. Monroe is hapless.
2015 non-conference opponents: UL Lafayette, Eastern Kentucky, Charlotte, Louisville.
Power 5: The measuring stick for UK football right now is "can you beat those guys from upstate"? For now, Louisville still owns the state when it comes to the brown oblong ball.
The rest: ULL has gone 9–4 four straight seasons with New Orleans Bowl wins in four straight Decembers. Charlotte is in their first year in FBS. Will the 'Cats go .500 in non-con?
2015 non-conference opponents: McNeese State, at Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, Western Kentucky.
Power 5: If the Tigers are a borderline playoff team in 2015, this schedule might hurt them. I am not sure how Les Miles was convinced to take his team to Syracuse but, still, the Orange are less than impressive.
The rest: EMU finished 2-10 in each of the last three seasons. WKU went 8-5 last year including an insane win in the inaugural Bahamas Bowl.
2015 non-conference opponents: at Southern Miss, Northwestern State, Troy, Louisiana Tech.
Power 5: NONE! Same as last season. I guess Dan Mullen did not get the memo. SMH.
FCS: Northwestern State
The rest: LaTech is coming off a 9-5 year. Troy was 3-9. At the least the USM game is on the road.
2015 non-conference opponents: Southeast Missouri State, at Arkansas State, UConn, BYU (Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO).
Power 5: A game against BYU in Arrowhead Stadium is a masterstroke for Missouri to expand their fan base.
FCS: SE Mo St.
The rest: Not sure why Mizzou agreed to travel to Arky State. The Tigers tend to be slow in finalizing their schedule (bad habits leftover from the Big XII no doubt). Maybe they were desperate? UConn (2-10) is a doormat.
2015 non-conference opponents: Tennessee-Martin, Fresno State, New Mexico State, at Memphis.
Power 5: NONE! #WAOM!
The rest: Memphis is fertile recruiting land for Ole Miss but this could be a trap game. The Tigers are much improved and could catch the Rebs looking ahead to Texas A&M the following Saturday. Fresno and NMSU will not give anyone in Oxford any sleepless nights.
2015 non-conference opponents: North Carolina (at Charlotte, NC), Central Florida, Citadel, Clemson.
Power 5: Bad news, SC. You are stuck playing Clemson in perpetuity. UNC seems like another natural rival.
The rest: The inclusion of UCF makes this one of the tougher non-conference schedules.
2015 non-conference opponents: Arizona State (at Houston, TX), Ball State, Nevada, Western Carolina.
Power 5: Arizona State (10-3) could be a tough draw for the Aggies.
The rest: Neither Ball State nor Nevada should not be underestimated. However, an upset would not be likely.
2015 non-conference opponents: Bowling Green (at LP Field, Nashville TN), Oklahoma, Western Carolina, North Texas.
Power 5: The Vols showed some moxy in Norman last season but lost 34-10. They'd like to return the favor.
The rest: I guess the Vols would like to expand their reach into Nashville but Bowling Green? North Texas... bleh.
2015 non-conference opponents: Austin Peay, at Houston, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky.
Power 5: NONE.
FCS: Austin Peed (1-11)
The rest: Whatevs, Vandy.
GAMES OF INTEREST IN THE NEAR FUTURE
- ALABAMA vs. Southern Cal (at Arlington, TX) 2016
- AUBURN, home-and-home with Clemson 2016-2017
- ARKANSAS, home-and-home with TCU 2016-2017
- FLORIDA vs. Michigan (at Arlington, TX) 2017
- GEORGIA, home-and-home with Notre Dame 2017 and 2019
LSU vs. Wisconsin (at Green Bay, WI) 2016; Miami, FL (at Arlington, TX) 2018
- OLE MISS vs. Florida State (at Orlando, FL) 2016
- TEXAS A&M, home-and-home with UCLA 2016-2017