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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Which SEC teams take biggest risk in non-conference?

The SEC has gotten a reputation for being the most chicken schedulers in the country.  People claim they will never leave home or play difficult non-conference games and hence why they often have so many bowl eligible teams.  So, just which programs in the SEC actually do schedule tough and which ones have earned the “chicken” moniker?  Well, below I have ranked the 12 teams (Mizzou and Texas A&M not included after just 1 year of evidence) by their non-conference games against other BCS and major programs over the past 7 seasons.  Things taken under consideration where total games, games played at true road sites, and games scheduled outside of natural rivalries.  These are my rankings, tell me where I am wrong:

1. GEORGIA
2013: at #8 Clemson, at Georgia Tech
2012: Georgia Tech
2011: #5 Boise State (neutral), at #25 Georgia Tech
2010: at Colorado, Georgia Tech
2009: at #9 Oklahoma State, Arizona State, at #7 Georgia Tech
2008: at Arizona State, #22 Georgia Tech
2007: Oklahoma State, at Georgia Tech
Why: UGA could just take the UK approach and say their natural rival (GaTech) is enough a challenge on the schedule and leave it at that.  But besides 2012, they have also scheduled another BCS opponent every year AND in 3 of the 6 years they have played a ranked BCS opponent.  While many argue that this kind of scheduling is suicide in the SEC, Georgia proves you can flourish.  The biggest cajones in the league.   

2. ALABAMA
2013: Virginia Tech (neutral)
2012: #8 Michigan (neutal)
2011: at Penn State
2010: #18 Penn State, at Duke
2009: #7 Virginia Tech (neutral)
2008: #9 Clemson (neutral)
2007: at Florida State
Why: There is no doubt that Alabama schedule a bunch of cream puffs in their non-conference.  But what elevates them to the top here is the fact that every year they schedule a STRONG BCS opponent.  They don’t just put Wake Forest or Kansas on the schedule.  They take on Top 10-15 opponents year in and year out.  In their case, it’s quality over quantity.  

3. LSU
2013: #20 TCU (neutral)
2012: Washington
2011: Oregon (neutral), at West Virginia
2010: #18 North Carolina (neutral), #22 West Virginia
2009: at Washington
2008: None
2007: #9 Virginia Tech
Why: Another team who has shown the ability to take risks, especially in early season games.  They also travel on the road cross-country to Washington, which has doomed many a team.  They also went to West Virginia when that program was rolling, as well at taking on Oregon and TCU in recent years.  Funny how they can keep an elite program while taking risks in the non-conference.  

4. FLORIDA
2013: at Miami (FL), #12 Florida St
2012: at #10 Florida State
2011: Florida State
2010: South Florida, at #22 Florida State
2009: Florida State
2008: Miami, at #20 Florida State
2007: Florida State
Why: Well, on the one hand they try to play all their rivals.  But the fact they have not scheduled a non-conference road game outside of the state since 1991 kinda makes you question their scheduling.  Even still, the non-conference teams in their state are tough, and they have kept the FSU series for many years now. 

5. AUBURN
2013: Washington St.
2012: #14 Clemson (neutral)
2011: at Clemson
2010: Clemson
2009: West Virginia
2008: at West Virginia
2007: Kansas State, South Florida
Why: I bet when they scheduled the games against Clemson and West Virginia, they thought they would be Top 20 teams, but those 2 programs have slumped.  Still, they travel on the road and have at least attempted to schedule tough games.

6. TENNESSEE
2013: at #3 Oregon
2012: NC State (neutral)
2011: Cincinnati
2010: #7 Oregon
2009: UCLA
2008: at UCLA
2007: at #12 California
Why: They schedule one tough non-conference game a year and are willing to travel west.  Although they have been beat in every game listed except NC State, so maybe they should reconsider their scheduling methods.  Even still, they schedule tougher than those below them.

7. SOUTH CAROLINA
2013: North Carolina, #8 Clemson
2012: at #12 Clemson
2011: Clemson
2010: at Clemson
2009: at NC State, #18 Clemson
2008: NC State, at Clemson
2007: at North Carolina, Clemson
Why: Have a yearly series with Clemson, which is an up and down program, plus they have schedule a couple of mid-level BCS games.  All in all, not very risky scheduling.

8. ARKANSAS
2013: at Rutgers
2012: Rutgers
2011: Texas A&M (neutral)
2010: Texas A&M (neutral)
2009: Texas A&M (neutral)
2008: at #7 Texas, #18 Tulsa
2007: None
Why: When Texas A&M was in the Big 12, they had a 10-year contract with the Aggies.  Obviously that contract went by the wayside when they joined the league.  Even still, the Razorbacks have included Rutgers, which is a decent opponent at best, as they try and rebuild that program.  

9.VANDERBILT
2012: Wake Forest
2011: UCONN, at Wake Forest
2010: Northwestern, at UCONN, Wake Forest
2009: #11 Georgia Tech
2008: Duke, at Wake Forest
2007: Wake Forest
Why: Vandy schedules a ton of BCS games, but they are all against mediocre programs.  I kinda wish UK would schedule this way because despite the fact that Wake Forest and UCONN don’t get your loins excited, they are still better than Miami (OH) and Samford.   

10. OLE MISS
2103: at #15 Texas
2012: #14 Texas
2011: BYU
2010: None
2009: None
2008: at #20 Wake Forest
2007: Missouri
Why: Before beginning a series with Texas, the Rebels had some pretty awful scheduling tactics.  Maybe the Longhorn series will improve that, but overall, still a pretty weak record of scheduling games.  

11. KENTUCKY
2013: Louisville
2012: at #25 Louisville
2011: Louisville
2010: at Louisville
2009: Louisville
2008: at Louisville
2007: #9 Louisville
Why: Sigh.  It would be nice to at least see Kentucky try and take a risk ONCE.  But, they have stuck with this method and it has, in theory, helped them get to a bowl.  Still, it shows a program that doesn’t think it can play with the big boys if it won’t even try and play the big boys.

12. MISSISSIPPI STATE
2013: #14 Oklahoma St (neutral)
2012: None
2011: None
2010: None
2009: #25 Georgia Tech
2008: at Georgia Tech
2007: at West Virginia
Why: Weak, weak, weak.  Dan Mullen took his scheduling methods from Florida and brought them to Starkville.  Actually fairly stunning they are playing Oklahoma State considering they hadn’t left the state in the non-conference since Dan Mullen took over.  At least Kentucky takes on a decent/good Louisville squad every year.  

Article written by Bryan the Intern

25 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Which SEC teams take biggest risk in non-conference?



  1. Wildcarfan79
    9:08 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    BTI, they schedule weak in non conference because they play the big dogs during the conference! Duh! Ya gotta hope for a gimme game every now and then.



  2. Rockfield, KY
    9:17 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Isn’t Louisville ranked in the top 10 this year?



  3. Al/in/Indy
    9:20 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Seriously? Damn BTI, we couldn’t even play a St.X and expect to win under Joker. But….mark my words, when we do start to get better under Stoops Uvel will cancel the series.



  4. Bsb Coach
    9:21 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Not that it matters, but how is Florida not #1 or at worst #2 on this list?



  5. Rockfield, KY
    9:21 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    I like how Vandy schedules the other private schools. We should have a football game each year with UNC, Duke, Kansas, or UCLA. I acually wouldn’t mind if it was NC State, just because I’d like to do the roadtrip there.



  6. asdf
    9:22 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida all suffer in this kind of comparison because we all have rivals that are outside the SEC. Florida has two of them. That takes away that extra game of flexibility that teams like Georgia have used to their benefit.



  7. btowncatfan
    9:25 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    3 of UK’s non-conference opponents played in bowls last season.



  8. Do whut?
    9:34 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    So Auburn gets credit for scheduling Clemson but South Carolina doesn’t? South Carolina’s listed schedule is clearly stronger than Auburn’s. Kind of inconsistent don’t you think?



  9. Mc
    9:43 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    “play difficult non-conference games and hence why they often have so many bowl eligible teams”…until they look at the schedule of the team they root for and realize it’s weaker.

    I don’t see anything wrong with scheduling one BCS level opponent out of conference, a few cupcakes, and then play in the most difficult conference in the country. Keep in mind, the SEC has a championship game as well whereas several of these conferences are just now playing them.

    When people make comments like the one you made, I always ask them who they root for. Then I look at that team’s schedule, and what do you know…several cupcakes, possibly 1 solid match-up, and then a worse conference schedule.



  10. cracka
    9:43 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    how about clemson, they’re showing up on uga, bama, auburn and s. carolina’s lists … they trying to join the conference?



  11. Jarrod T
    9:46 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Until we don’t have to worry about losing to WKU, I think the SEC provides more than enough quality competition.



  12. Do whut?
    9:50 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    You’re also giving Arkansas way too much credit for scheduling A & M. Apparently you think 11-2 with Manziel was the norm rather than an aberration. I assure you it’s the latter as the previous ten seasons the Aggies check in with a less than stellar 66-60 record. In fact, it could be argued that scheduling the Aggies over that decade deserves no more credit than the Cats should receive for booking the Cards. Did you research this article at all or just do it by “feel”?



  13. BA
    9:54 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Loserville is our biggest out of conference game because we play “big boys” all year. Pretty sad that Uk is their biggest game period.



  14. Kevin C.
    9:55 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    BTI, the thing you don’t get (well, there’s a lot you don’t get, actually) , is that for a program like UK Football, they don’t have the LUXURY of taking “risks”, because every year, their regular schedule is like running a gauntlet. This is the SEC…and UK football is cannon fodder every single year for the “big boys”…and they don’t have a choice in the matter.



  15. Joe
    9:57 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    BTI, the last time UK had a winning record in the SEC was a mere 36 years ago. Until that streak ends, it’s football suicide to deviate from the UL and Cupcakes plan.



  16. J in Orlando
    9:58 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Fans/coaches of non-sec teams criticize sec scheduling to pump their own teams…take this year, at the end of the day 5 of the top 8-9 teams are SEC teams, but they will almost all play each other and losses will be taken. Take a team like UL…they are not winning more than 2 sec games with UKs schedule this year, but their fans will nonetheless complain that the SEC gets preferential treatment when it comes to rankings and bowls.



  17. Cincy Cayt
    9:58 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Maybe the reason four (five if you count the Hogs) SEC cellar dwellers are at the bottom of this list is because they don’t get to play themselves thus automatically having a “harder” in-conf schedule? Might not be the sole reason, but UGA faces us, Vandy, and now Mizzou each season so maybe the guaranteed games against UF, UT, SC, and Auburn (their west rival) aren’t enough to make them feel secure with their SOS? Especially since Auburn and UT are hit-or-miss…



  18. CATandMONKEY
    10:07 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    When the Cats can safely remain in the top half of the SEC, they should take on a top twenty team out of conference. If the SEC schedule expands- as it likely will, we will probably keep only one high quality OOC game.



  19. Brent
    10:08 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Makes perfect sense for one of the non-elites in the SEC to UPGRADE their schedule.

    Good God. What an idiotic take regarding UK.



  20. goUKats
    10:22 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    You tend to forget that in the past UK has been one of the worst teams in the SEC.Heck,many of those years they would have been hard pressed to beat in state schools Cumberland,Union,or Georgetown.Last years team was a prime example.Hopefully the tide has turned,we will have to wait and see.



  21. NL
    10:35 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    Florida should be one or two. They have two tough games against rivals. Rival games can always go either way so I’d say that is pretty risky



  22. cracka
    11:06 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    some of the arguments in here are that our conference schedule is the friggin sec and it’s “a gauntlet” and yada yada … yeah, we all know that … that argument is null and void in this debate, folks, we’re being compared with the OTHER SEC teams that all play sec conference schedules

    maybe if we didn’t play cupcake, cupcake, cupcake, lsu – maybe lsu wouldn’t seem like friggin superheroes



  23. Come on man
    11:50 am August 13, 2013 Permalink

    22 you seem to be missing the elephant in the room… We aren’t bama or LSU or Florida. What gets accomplished by going 0-12 for the season? Who are we going to recruit then? Give stoops a couple years to start being competitive in SEC play then we can take on some better non-conference programs. No since in going to the other side of the country to get smacked around when we get enough of that around here…



  24. Blueneck
    1:37 pm August 13, 2013 Permalink

    BTI seems to think Bama, UGA, LSU, and UF got good once they started scheduling tough instead of thinking they schedule tough because they are good. If you are UGA and you know you will probably go 6-2 in the SEC you take a couple and at worst you finish 9-3. Why would you do that if you are going to go 2-6 in the SEC? Even Cal eased up on the schedule this past year knowing the talent would be less.

    The biggest reason, which BTI fails to mention, is MONEY. If you want to play another BCS team you will have to do a home and home with them. UK already loses a home game every other year to UL. They can’t afford another and they can’t raise ticket prices enough to cover it. There are several million at stake for each home game. UL cries that non of the big boys will play them, but SEC teams have offered if they will go to the SEC schools place with no game in Louisville in return. The Tards of course won’t go for that. If you are UGA and are gonna sell out your tickets regardless you can take that chance.



  25. Brian
    5:23 pm August 13, 2013 Permalink

    UK doesn’t claim to be a big dog. We play one of the toughest schedules in the country every year just by being in the SEC. Every win is crucial to our future success. If you can’t understand why we take it easy in the ooc portion of our schedule than you have no business writing for a UK sports site. It’s blatantly obvious. I think you have been spending too much time talking to ignorant Louisville fans if you’re calling SEC teams chicken schedulers. If other conferences were half as strong as the SEC they wouldn’t schedule their ooc games the way they do either. At the end of the year look at every team’s strength of schedule. The SEC teams will all be near the top. Your argument is awful.