I’ve been doing this for the last several years — breaking down who caught lucky breaks from the league, and who was set up for success well before the first snap of the season.
Last year, we accused the SEC of trying to schedule the top of the East into relevance, and in UGA’s case, once again letting them skate by.
One thing immediately jumps out at you: the SEC East once again gets to absolutely skate by facing rested opponents.
Two of the seven teams face no one coming off of a rested week. And the teams that figure to be in the top four of the division face a total of three opponents coming off of bye weeks. But even that doesn’t count. Of those three, two are against one another on a neutral field. And the only team that faces two rested opponents, USC, gets to stay at home both times. That means there is just one team total in the SEC East that plays an opponent coming off a true rest week: Tennessee, and even they are at home.
If Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, or Tennessee slip up, it won’t be because the SEC did them no favors. To the contrary, Birmingham went out of their way to give the Top Four of the Sisters of the Poor some beat-up opponents.
Let this sink in: Alabama alone will play more rested opponents, and more road opponents with an extra week to prepare, than the entire SEC East combined.
Speaking of ‘Bama, as usual, the SEC West draws the tougher end of the stick here, especially the state of Alabama. The Crimson Tide face two opponents coming off a rest week, and they’re both road trips; though one is mitigated somewhat by the annual mutual-bye with LSU.
Poor Auburn, in the midst of steep rebuilding year, actually has it worse: they hit the road twice to face rested opponents. And, unlike Alabama, they don’t get the benefit of a mutual bye. An already bad team is being thrown behind the eight-ball by the league (Thanks, Greg! #FAU).
...I’m going to give ‘Barn the slight nod for SEC Bye Week Screwjob for 2022, by just a whisker.
How did that work out?
Pretty great, if you were Tennessee or Georgia — both were practically scheduled into a New Year Six bowl by Valentine’s Day. But, as expected, it was pretty shitty if you are Alabama or Auburn: 9 combined losses, and Auburn’s multiple close ones were to be expected against so many rested teams too. The SEC got Brian Harsin fired every bit as much as his pp and Yella’ Wood did.
People too often look at the depth chart, or the names and locations on the schedules. Far less often do they look at what’s under the hood of the schedule. We do. And, we’re here to tell you who the league has screwed this year, and who they have given a tissue-soft caress to. Will the usual suspects (namely Georgia, Texas A&M) get some Uncle Sugar? Let’s find out.
2023 SEC Schedule Degree of Difficulty
Number of Opponents Coming off Bye Weeks
Opponent / Home or Away
Consecutive Road Trips / Teams
Alabama: 1 (LSU, Home), 1 (at MSU, at Texas A&M)
Arkansas: 1 (Mississippi State, Home), 1 (at Alabama, at Ole Miss)
Auburn: 1 (Ole Miss, Home), 1 (at Vandy, at Arkansas)
LSU: 1 (Alabama, Away), 1 (at Missouri, at Ole Miss)
Miss. State: 0, 0
Ole Miss: 1 (Vanderbilt, Home), 0
Texas A&M: 1 (Tennessee, Away), 0
Florida: 3 (vs. UGA, Home vs Arkansas, Away at USCe), 0
Georgia: 2 (vs. UF, Home vs. Mizzou), 0
Kentucky: 0, 0
Missouri: 0, 0
South Carolina: 1 (Texas A&M, Away), 1 (at A&M, at Missouri)
Tennessee: 2 (at Kentucky, Home vs. Vandy), 1 (at Alabama, at Kentucky)
Vanderbilt: 0, 0
- The SEC was again generous to the East with respect to road trips. Only two of the East hit the road for B2B contests. And none of those are named “Georgia or Florida.” Contrast that with the SEC West, where four teams in the division must hit the road two weeks in a row. And, as last year, once again Texas A&M caught another break.
- However, the league giveth, and the league taketh away. After years of being handed nougaty scheduling goodness, the Top Three in the East find themselves facing multiple opponents coming off of rest. Tennessee, UGA, and Florida all play at least two well-rested opponents. Granted UF/UGA is a double-bye, but Georgia’s schedule is by far the most difficult for them from a structural POV that they’ve had in years. Ignore that it is one that Alabama or LSU fans would sort of expect to face on a yearly basis, when you’ve been accustomed to getting a scheduling silver spoon from the League, then this will surely feel like an injustice.
- The SEC West usually takes it on the chin from Bammerham, with Alabama, Auburn, LSU traditionally vying for the crown of “who did the SEC screw over the hardest.” But alas and alack, no such complaints are to be had this year. If you’re a fan of the traditional Western division powers, you’ll likely be pretty pleased: Sankey did you a reasonable solid. So, no whining Alabama, Auburn, LSU — it’s a fairly kind schedule.
- Shout-out to some special scheduling dickery: 1. Ole Miss gets a week’s rest before heading to...Auburn. I’m sure that was completely coincidental and not at all calculated to give Lane Kiffin an extra week to work on Hugh Freeze, a man that the SEC did not want back on the sidelines 2. South Carolina has perhaps the worst combination of B2B roadies: at A&M, at Mizzou — that is a long, long way from Columbia, SC: the two most remote teams in the league, in two weeks. And those were already losable games in a vacuum. 3. See below re: Kentucky vs. Tennessee.
- Alabama has just one B2B trip this year, but it’s road swing through Ag School Hell: Mississippi State, College Station. God save our Flagship souls. What? Was Auburn not available?
- One day the SEC is actually going to give Texas A&M a structurally-tough schedule. This is not that year. Nor was last year. Nor the year before. Nor...
- If you’re the road-weary and road-awful Vols, you’re probably gonna’ be salty. The combination of road games and byes means that every one of these “tough” games lands against one of UT’s core rivals: Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Alabama. And the UK game is a quadruple-whammy — a rivalry game, on the road, where the ‘Cats are coming off a week’s rest, but UT is not. Oh, hell yeah, take those points no matter what the spread is. Tennessee is 100% losing that game.
If you have been historically been at the bottom of the barrel in the SEC, you have zero reason to complain. Vandy, Kentucky, State, Mizzou play no back-to-back road games and have no opponents with a week’s rest. Zero complaints from these quarters ought be allowed if the knuckleheads screw it up.
But, the biggest loser of all is one of the teams the league usually protects (alongside UGA and Texas A&M). And there’s not even a question as to who has it roughest this year...
After being gifted a very cozy schedule in 2023, the Florida Gators receive no such favors this year.
With a bullet, they are the team facing the most rested foes coming off a bye. It’s softened somewhat by a combination of home/away/neutral. And there is a double-bye with Georgia before the WLOCP. But that’s still almost half the conference schedule. The other two rested teams are part of the SEC’s dangerous middle class too: South Carolina and Arkansas. That extra week may loom large especially in Week 7: It will be UF’s seventh straight game, on the road in Brice Williams Stadium, facing a rested Gamecocks squad. Don’t call that an upset when it almost-certainly happens.
Buckle up, Gainesville — you’re in for a long year. Good thing Florida Man is so notoriously patient and reasonable. This season could get Napier fired, and no I’m not kidding.
Worst B2B road games:
This poll is closed
Tennessee (at Alabama, at Kentucky)
USCe (at Mizzou, at Texas A&M)
Arkansas (at Ole Miss, at Alabama)
Alabama (at MSU, at Texas A&M)