The SEC is not known for playing the most difficult nonconference schedules. Georgia usually plays a respectable nonconference slate, but it does not pack the same punch when the Bulldogs play ACC cellar dweller Georgia Tech as it once used to.
Last year, Texas-Arkansas, Miami-Alabama, Clemson-Georgia, Pittsburgh-Tennessee, and Penn State-Auburn were among the conference’s most intriguing nonconference games. In 2022, there are several interesting matchups, including Alabama-Texas, Georgia-Oregon, Texas A&M-Miami, Florida-Utah and Auburn-Penn State.
Conference schedules are set years in advance. Programs have more control over their nonconference schedules, so it is interesting to see which ones aren’t afraid to schedule strong opponents.
Which SEC East teams have the toughest and easiest nonconference schedules in 2022?
7. (Hardest nonconference schedule) Florida Gators
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Florida has the SEC East’s toughest nonconference schedule thanks to its home game against reigning Pac-12 champion Utah. The Gators also host USF and Eastern Washington. Florida travels to Florida State in what is always a contested rivalry, but the Seminoles have struggled for several consecutive seasons (to the delight of Florida fans).
6. South Carolina Gamecocks
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Frank Beamer and South Carolina have one of the tougher nonconfernece schedules in the SEC East. The Gamecocks host Georgia State, Charlotte, and South Carolina State. Tennessee fans are fortunate to dodge Georgia State this year. South Carolina’s toughest game all year may be a late November trip to Clemson.
We consider the Gamecocks’ nonconference schedule slightly easier than Florida due to their easier games beyond Clemson. Florida still faces an almost equally tough opponent in Utah, but has to face more competitive foes than Georgia State, Charlotte and South Carolina State.
5. Georgia Bulldogs
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Georgia begins its national championship defense against Oregon in Atlanta. After the Ducks, none of the remaining nonconference foes, Samford, Kent State or Georgia Tech, is expected to play a close game against UGA.
The Dawgs deserve credit. They almost always schedule a pair of Power Five nonconference opponents (although Georgia Tech has not been good recently).
4. Tennessee Volunteers
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The Tennessee Volunteers would have a tougher nonconference schedule than Georgia if they played two Power Five programs. The Volunteers will face a challenge when they travel to the 2021 ACC champions, Pittsburgh, but should win their other nonconference games against Ball State, Akron and UT Martin. Tennessee is in position to be one of the top teams in the SEC East in 2022.
3. Vanderbilt Commodores
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Vanderbilt plays one of the toughest schedules in the country every year. This is partially because the Commodores don’t get to play themselves in SEC play.
Vanderbilt has an interesting nonconference slate in 2022. The Commodores travel across to country to face Hawaii. Vanderbilt hosts fellow private schools Elon and Wake Forest. Wake Forest is expected to be one of the best teams in the ACC this season. Additionally, the Commodores play on the road at Northern Illinois, who will likely be favored.
2. Missouri Tigers
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Missouri probably will not be favored when it hits the road to play Kansas State. The Tigers also host Louisiana Tech, Abilene Christian and New Mexico State. There are not many fun home nonconference games for Missouri fans in 2022.
1. (Easiest) Kentucky Wildcats
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Kentucky’s nonconference slate of Miami University, Youngstown State, Northern Illinois and Louisville ensures the Wildcats will only play four road games in 2022. Kentucky is expected to be one of the better teams in the SEC East and will be heavily favored in its nonconference games, including against in-state rival Louisville.
This nonconference schedule is very manageable. Northern Illinois is Kentucky’s second toughest nonconference game.