Was it a big deal that Georgia played both Clemson and Georgia Tech out of conference in 2014 while Missouri’s only Power-Five foe was Indiana?
And what about Ole Miss, with Boise State as its stiffest non-SEC opponent vs. LSU, who opened up last season vs. Wisconsin?
If nothing else these examples remind us, once again, that all non-conference schedules are not created equal. It’s something that could be the difference maker in a team going 12-1 vs. 11-2, a swing that could cost a program a place in the CFB Playoff.
With this is in mind, here’s a sweeping look at the SEC non-league schedules for 2015.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: at Southern Miss, FCS Northwestern State, Troy, Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs are one of only four SEC teams that won’t face a Power-Five team outside of conference play in 2015. MSU’s only non-league opponent with a winning record from last season is Louisiana Tech, which finished 9-5.
The last time Mississippi State scheduled a Power-Five, non-SEC team in the regular-season was in 2013, when it opened up with a loss to No. 13 Oklahoma State in Houston.
13. Ole Miss
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: FCS UT-Martin, Fresno State, New Mexico State, at Memphis
The only winning team the Rebels will face out of SEC-play in 2015 is Memphis, also their only non-conference road game. Don’t feel too bad though, Memphis’ Liberty Bowl stadium is a mere 83 miles from the Ole Miss campus.
The Rebels’ last regular-season, non-SEC game vs. a Power-Five team also came in 2013 when it travelled to Austin and beat Texas 44-23.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: UL Lafayette, FCS Eastern Kentucky, Charlotte, Louisville
Kentucky faces an FCS opponent and a team that transitions to the FBS in 2015, Charlotte. What its schedule does have going for it, other than flash and obvious appeal, is that it features three teams that finished last season with winning records: ULL (9-4), EKU (9-4) and Louisville (9-4).
The last time the Wildcats played a Power-Five team out of conference in the regular season other than Louisville was in 2005, when it lost 38-14 to Indiana in Bloomington.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: Western Kentucky, FCS Austin Peay, at Middle Tennessee, at Houston
The third of the four SEC teams without a Power-Five opponent out of conference, Vanderbilt’s 2015 non-league slate is actually an improvement over 2014 when the Commodores squared off with Temple, UMass, FCS Charleston Southern and Old Dominion.
Vandy is another program that hasn’t played a Power-Five team out of conference since 2013, taking on Wake Forest in the finale. It is also the only SEC program with two road games out of conference in 2015.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: FCS McNeese State, at Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, Western Kentucky
In what may become a significant factor in this season’s CFB Playoff race, LSU has its easiest non-conference slate since 2008, when it squared off with FCS Appalachian State, North Texas, Tulane and Troy.
The Tigers’ stiffest test will be the Saturday, Sept. 26 road trip to face Syracuse, a team they’ve never met in the regular season.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: UTEP, Toledo (in Little Rock), Texas Tech, FCS UT-Martin
Even though UTEP (7-6) and Toledo (9-4) both finished 2014 above .500, only one of the two teams has ever beaten an SEC squad. That came in the 1967 Sun Bowl when the Miners beat Ole Miss 14-7.
That leaves Texas Tech, a team that finished last season 4-8 and hasn’t won vs. the SEC since 2003 when it rolled in to Oxford and nipped Ole Miss 49-45.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: FCS Southeast Missouri State, at Arkansas State, UConn, BYU (in Kansas City)
The only winning teams from 2014 on Mizzou’s 2015 non-SEC slate are Arkansas State (7-6) and BYU (8-5). Even though the Cougars aren’t technically a Power-Five team they offer stiffer opposition that the bottom teams in any of the major conferences.
That said, the Tigers are a combined 5-0 all-time vs. FCS Southeast Missouri State and Arkansas State, have never faced UConn and are 0-1 vs. BYU. So, Missouri’s only loss to any of these teams came 32-years ago in a three-point defeat to the No. 9 Cougars in the 1983 Holiday Bowl.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: Louisville (in Atlanta), FCS Jacksonville State, San Jose State, Idaho
If it weren’t for its opener vs. a Louisville team that finished last season 9-4, Auburn would be playing its non-league slate against two FBS opponents that combined for four wins in 2014.
That leaves FCS Jacksonville State, which went 10-2 last season including winning its conference championship and making it to the second round of the FCS playoffs.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: Wisconsin (in Arlington, Tex.), Middle Tennessee, ULMMonroe and FCS Charleston Southern
With Wisconsin replacing West Virginia in the opener, Alabama’s 2015 non-SEC slate is technically one notch more difficult than last season’s was.
Though the balance of the Tide’s non-conference schedule leaves a lot to be desired, you have to give Alabama credit for consistently scheduling a big-name, Power-Five in the first two weeks of each season. The last time it didn’t happen was in 2007, when the first two games were vs. FCS Western Carolina and Vandy. That led to a Week 5 showdown with Florida State, meaning the non-SEC headliner was just delayed rather than avoided.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: UL Monroe, FCS Southern, Georgia Southern, at Georgia Tech
What gives Georgia’s schedule an edge over Alabama’s is it plays its Power-Five opponent in a true road game and its remaining foes are just a hair more difficult.
Both teams play ULM, so that leaves Georgia Southern, a team that went 9-3 last season and FCS Southern, a squad that finished 9-4. That beats Middle Tennessee’s 6-6 finish and FCS Charleston’s 8-4 mark. It also doesn’t hurt that Georgia Tech finished at No. 8 in the final AP vs. Wisconsin’s No. 13.
After playing both Clemson and the Yellow Jackets each of the last two seasons, 2015 is the first year that the Bulldogs won’t play two Power-Fives outside of SEC play since 2012, when they played Buffalo, FAU, then FCS Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. Is it any coincidence that Georgia finished that season 12-2, ranked No. 5 in the final AP?
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: Bowling Green (in Nashville), Oklahoma, FCS Western Carolina, North Texas
After traveling to Norman last season, a place where only one non-conference opponent has won in the last nine years, the Volunteers will get Oklahoma at home in Knoxville.
The Sooners haven’t lost a regular-season, non-Big 12 game since 2012. That combined with the clash Bowling Green, a team that beat Indiana last season and came within one point of knocking off Mississippi State in 2013, gives Tennessee a respectable non-SEC slate.
3. Texas A&M
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: Arizona State (in Houston), Ball State, Nevada, FCS Western Carolina
Texas A&M’s opener vs. Arizona State marks the first time it’s faced a Power-Five team out of conference since its final season in the Big 12, when it squared off with Arkansas in Arlington, Texas.
Along with Arizona State (10-3), both Nevada (7-6) and FCS Western Carolina (7-5) finished 2014 with winning records.
Though Nevada isn’t exactly UCLA, keep in mind that the Wolf Pack bested both Washington State and BYU last season and lost 35-28 to Arizona, a team that finished 10-4.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: New Mexico State, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida State
While it’s no surprise that the Gators will be squaring off with Florida State, a team they’ve been playing every year since 1958, it’s still arguably the toughest non-SEC game in the bunch.
The Seminoles finished last season tied for No. 5 in the final AP poll, higher than any other non-conference opponent an SEC team will play this year.
Add in East Carolina, a team that beat No. 17 Virginia Tech and North Carolina in 2014 (and almost knocked off the very same Gators in the Birmingham Bowl) and you could make a case for Florida having the toughest non-power opponent as well.
2015 Non-Conference Opponents: North Carolina (in Charlotte), UCF, FCS Citadel, Clemson
Not only is South Carolina the only SEC team in 2015 to play more than one Power-Five opponent in non-conference play, it also has UCF, a team that is 31-9 since 2012. It’s the same program that upset No. 6 Baylor 52-42 in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl.
Throw in North Carolina and Clemson from the ACC and it’s the Gamecocks that will face the toughest non-conference line-up in the SEC.
Amy Daughters is a contributor to FBSchedules.com.