Study of how UT’s future football non-conference schedules compares to rest of the SEC

ATHENS, GA – SEPTEMBER 29, 2018 – Defensive lineman Darrell Taylor #19 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Tennessee Volunteers at Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA. Photo By Maury Neipris/Tennessee Athletics

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Major college football non-conference scheduling in the future is changing, especially in the SEC.

The high-profile home-and-home series announcements are popping-up frequently these days.

SEC teams (for the most part) have long operated with the four-game non-conference scheduling philosophy of one Power 5 opponent, two Group 5 opponents and one FCS opponent. That model has been beneficial for the SEC in getting into the College Football Playoff.

Which teams have enhanced their future non-conference football schedules? The list below will show that the power programs, Georgia and Alabama especially, are taking on more challenges outside of the tough 8-game conference schedule.

Georgia will play three Power 5 non-conference opponents in 2028 (at Texas/vs. FSU/vs. GT) and 2029 (vs. Texas/at Clemson/at GT) in addition to their 8 SEC games. That’s challenging, and opposite of the narrative of “SEC teams never play anybody outside the league.” Alabama has shifted away from neutral site games to home-and-home games against big-time name programs. Some other league teams are starting to schedule more home-and-home series against Power 5 programs.

So why the change?

Kirby Smart told Tony Barnhart of the SEC Network, “This is the future.”

I believe what that means is that this model of tougher non-conference opponents is planning and preparation for an expanded 8-team college football playoff that they anticipate will eventually happen. Two losses while playing a gauntlet schedule should still get you into the expanded playoff. You can accomplish that while providing your fan base with much more appealing games they’ll pay top dollar to see face their team.

Which SEC teams have not adjusted yet? Which schools look like they schedule to be try to be bowl eligible? I took a harder look to try to get some answers.

Below is a summary of future non-conference schedules for all 14 SEC teams. Those are broken down into three categories…Power 5 (includes Notre Dame,) Group 5 (includes rest of the independents) and FCS. This is a list of different opponents. There are single games, home-and-home series and annual games.

The point is to highlight the scheduling differences, the frequency of tough or easy games and the variety of opponents for fans to experience. You can look through the schedules, compare them and determine who you think has the easiest future non-conference schedules and who has the most challenging schedules. Order listed is based on different Power Five conference opponents scheduled in the future.

My source for the schedules is FBSchedules.com, which is a fantastic website that also gives us the annual helmet schedules for college football.

Vince’s View On Future SEC Football Schedules
Georgia
8 Power Five – Notre Dame (2019) Georgia Tech (annual to 2037) Virginia (2020) Oregon (2022) Oklahoma (2023/2031) Clemson (2024/2029/2030/2032/2033) UCLA (2025/2026) FSU (2027/2028)
5 Group of Five – Arkansas St, ULM, San Jose St, UAB, Kent St
2 FCS – Murray St & ETSU
15 Different Teams Scheduled (53% Power Five)
42 Total Games Set
33 Power Five Games Scheduled

Alabama
7 Power Five – Duke (2019) USC (2020) Miami (2021) Texas (2022/2023) West Virginia (2026/2027) Notre Dame (2028/2029) Oklahoma (2032/2033)
8 Group of Five – New Mexico St, Southern Miss, Georgia St, Kent St, Utah St, ULM, Central Michigan & Western Kentucky
3 FCS – Western Carolina, UT Martin & Mercer
18 Different Teams Scheduled (39% Power Five)
25 Total Games Set
11 Power Five Games Scheduled

Mississippi State
6 Power Five – Kansas St (2019) NC State (2020/2021) Arizona (2022/2023) Arizona St (2024/2025) Minnesota (2026/2027) Texas Tech (2028/2029)
8 Group of Five – Louisiana Lafayette, Southern Miss, New Mexico, Tulane, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, UMass & Troy
7 FCS – Abilene Christian, Alabama A&M, Eastern Illinois, Northwestern St, SE Louisiana, Eastern Kentucky & Alcorn St
21 Different Teams Scheduled (29% Power Five)
31 Total Games Set
11 Power Five Games Scheduled

Auburn
6 Power Five – Oregon (2019) North Carolina (2020) Penn St (2021/2022) Cal (2023/2034) Baylor (2025/2026) UCLA (2027/2028)
7 Group of Five – Tulane, Kent St, Southern Miss, UMass, Akron, Georgia St & Western Kentucky
4 FCS – Samford, Alabama A&M, Alabama St & Mercer
17 Different Teams Scheduled (35% Power Five)
22 Games Set
10 Power Five Games Scheduled

Missouri
5 Power Five – West Virginia (2019) Boston College (2021/2024) Kansas St (2022/2023) Colorado (2025/2030) Illinois (2026/2027/2028/2029)
13 Group of Five – Wyoming, Troy, Eastern Michigan, BYU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Central Michigan, North Texas, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico St, Memphis, Buffalo, UMass & Miami (OH)
4 FCS – SE Missouri, Central Arkansas, South Dakota & North Dakota
22 Different Teams Scheduled (22% Power Five)
33 Total Games Set
11 Power Five Games Scheduled

Vanderbilt
5 Power Five – Purdue (2019/2029) Kansas St (2020) Stanford (2021/2024/2025/2027) Wake Forest (2022/2023) NC State (2026/2028)
6 Group of Five – Northern Illinois, UNLV, Colorado St, Louisiana Tech, Hawaii & Georgia St
2 FCS – ETSU & Mercer
13 Different Teams Scheduled (38% Power Five)
28 Total Games Set
11 Power Five Games Scheduled

LSU
5 Power Five – Texas (2019/2020) UCLA (2021/2024) Clemson (2025/2026) Oklahoma (2027/2028) Arizona St (2029/2030)
9 Group of Five – Georgia Southern, Utah St, UTSA, Rice, Central Michigan, ULM, New Mexico, Army & South Alabama
3 FCS – Northwestern St, Nicholls St & McNeese St
17 Different Teams Scheduled (29% Power Five)
23 Total Games Set
10 Power Five Games Scheduled

Ole Miss
5 Power Five – Cal (2019) Baylor (2020) Louisville (2021) Georgia Tech (2022/2023) Wake Forest (2024/2025)
7 Group of Five – Memphis, New Mexico St, Middle Tennessee, Georgia Southern, Tulane, Liberty & Troy
8 FCS – SE Louisiana, SE Missouri, Austin Peay, Central Arkansas, Mercer, Furman, The Citadel & Eastern Kentucky
20 Different Teams Scheduled (25% Power Five)
25 Total Games Set
7 Power Five Games Scheduled

Texas A&M
5 Power Five – Clemson (2019) Colorado (2020/2021) Miami (2022/2023) Notre Dame (2024/2025) Arizona St (2026/2027)
7 Group of Five – Texas St, UTSA, North Texas, Fresno St, Kent St, New Mexico & Appalachian St
2 FCS – Lamar & Abilene Christian
14 Different Teams Scheduled (36% Power Five)
19 Total Games Set
9 Power Five Games Scheduled

Florida
4 Power Five – Miami (2019) FSU (annual to 2037) Colorado (2028/2029) Texas (2030/2031)
4 Group of Five – South Alabama, New Mexico St, USF & Charlotte
4 FCS – UT Martin, Towson, Eastern Washington & Samford
12 Different Teams Scheduled (33% Power Five)
34 Total Games Set
24 Power Five Games Scheduled

South Carolina
2 Power Five – North Carolina (2019/2023) Clemson (annual to 2037)
7 Group of Five – Appalachian St, East Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Troy, Georgia St, Charlotte & Akron
1 FCS – Charleston Southern
10 Different Teams Scheduled (20% Power Five)
33 Total Games Set
21 Power Five Games Scheduled

Arkansas
3 Power Five – Notre Dame (2020/2025) Texas (2021) Oklahoma St (2024/2027)
7 Group of Five – Colorado St, San Jose St, Western Kentucky, Kent St, Georgia Southern, BYU & Liberty
4 FCS – Portland St, Missouri St, Arkansas-Pine Bluff & Western Carolina
14 Different Teams Scheduled (21% Power Five)
18 Total Games Set
5 Power Five Games Scheduled

Tennessee
3 Power Five – Oklahoma (2020/2024) Pitt (2021/2022) Nebraska (2026/2027)
9 Group of Five – Georgia St, BYU, UAB, Charlotte, Troy, Bowling Green, South Alabama, Ball St & Army
2 FCS – Chattanooga, Furman
14 Different Teams Scheduled (21% Power Five)
18 Total Games Set
6 Power Five Games Scheduled

Kentucky
1 Power Five – Louisville (annual to 2022)
9 Group of Five – Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Kent St, ULM, New Mexico St, Miami (OH,) Ball St, Akron & Ohio
6 FCS – UT Martin, Eastern Illinois, Chattanooga, Youngstown St, Eastern Kentucky & Murray St
16 Different Teams Scheduled (6% Power Five)
24 Total Games Set
4 Power Five Games Scheduled

Summary: Tennessee’s future schedule needs to be beefed-up for the fans and for business. Early-season high-profile games can bring you gate revenue, even if the team isn’t competing for championships. UT should operate with higher standards than the schedule reflects.

Tennessee is tied with Arkansas with the fewest future non-conference games scheduled. UT also has the second fewest Power 5 opponents and total games vs. Power 5 opponents.

Georgia has five more Power 5 non-conference opponents scheduled than Tennessee. The Bulldogs have 24 more games booked than the Vols at this point.

With scheduling of Power 5 opponents needing to be done so far in advance, UT can ill afford to wait until it returns to prominence. If UT schedules eight years in advance after starting to win again, who’s to say UT will still be winning then? Or, what if UT does put it together competing for a college football playoff position one year in the future, but it’s playing three or four weak non-conference opponents while it’s SEC opponents aren’t as good as expected? Will UT miss out on a playoff opportunity?

I’d like to see UT schedule like it expects to be good. The trend is going towards a tougher schedule in the SEC, even with a challenging conference slate. If for no other reason, do it because fans want better games.


Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net.

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