The SEC is generally considered the best football conference. But their teams aren’t always known to have the toughest non-conference schedules.
Sure there are some cupcakes year in and year out, but there are also some great match-ups. And some of those are in-state rivalries.
Here is my pick for the Top 10 SEC non-conference games for the 2012 season:
1. Alabama vs. Michigan (at Arlington, TX), September 1
This is obviously the marquee non-conference game of the year for the SEC and possibly the Big Ten. Alabama has won two of the last three BCS National Championship Games and Michigan finished 11-2 last season. This will be the season opener for both schools and will likely be a prime time match-up of Top 10 teams.
2. South Carolina at Clemson, November 24
There’s no love lost in this in-state rivalry. South Carolina has had the upper hand lately, winning three in a row. And Clemson is coming off of an epic beat-down at the hands of West Virginia. South Carolina is projected as a Top 10 team while Clemson should start around 20th.
3. Auburn vs. Clemson (at Atlanta, GA), September 1
The second Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game (see no. 10) pits two schools that are rather familiar with each other. The two have played three times since 2007, with Clemson finally notching a win last year at home. Auburn is still trying to rebuild after their BCS title win in 2010.
4. Florida at Florida State, November 24
The Seminoles have put together a two game winning streak against the Gators after losing six in a row from 2004 to 2009. Florida State should start the season in or just outside the Top 10. Florida hopes to get back on the winning side of this series, but FSU is primed for a good year and the game is in Tallahassee.
5. Washington at LSU, September 8
Yahoo Sports has LSU ranked 1st and Washington ranked 25th in their preseason rankings. It will be a tough for the Huskies to pull off a win at Tiger Stadium.
6. Rutgers at Arkansas, September 22
The Bobby Petrino scandal puts every 2012 Arkansas game in the spotlight. Who will coach the Hogs in 2012? Rutgers will be visiting with new head coach Kyle Flood after Greg Schiano departed for Tampa Bay of the NFL.
7. Arizona State at Missouri, September 15
This could be a tough game for Missouri, who plays their first SEC game the week prior against Georgia. Emotions will be high for that game and Arizona State could catch the Tigers sleeping.
8. Georgia Tech at Georgia, November 24
Georgia has dominated Georgia Tech lately, winning 10 of the last 11 meetings. On paper, the 2012 edition of “Clean Old Fashioned Hate” should be no different.
9. Texas at Ole Miss, September 15
Texas visits Oxford for the first game of a 2012-13 home-and-home series. The two schools haven’t met since the 1966 Bluebonnet Bowl. The Longhorns should be ranked 15-20 when they take on the Rebels and new head coach Hugh Freeze.
10. Tennessee vs. NC State (at Atlanta, GA), August 31
The Volunteers and Wolfpack play in the first game of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game doubleheader on Friday night (Auburn faces Clemson on Saturday night). It will be only the second time these two have met and first time since 1939.
Other top 2012 SEC non-conference games:
Kentucky at Louisville (Sept. 2); East Carolina at South Carolina (Sept. 8); Vanderbilt at Northwestern (Sept. 8); Vanderbilt at Wake Forest (Nov. 24)