published Thursday, December 29th, 2011

SEC Conference Schedule - The Winners and Losers

* Home games in all caps

Times Free Press staff writer David Paschall looks at who won and who lost Wednesday when the SEC released its 14-team conference schedule for the 2012 season:

ALABAMA

The Crimson Tide will play Michigan in Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 1 and at Arkansas on Sept. 15, and then it should be smooth sailing until the Nov. 3 matchup at LSU, which CBS already has selected in prime time. Alabama was originally scheduled to host Georgia in 2012, a team the Tide haven’t defeated in Tuscaloosa since 1994, but will instead face Missouri from the East in addition to Tennessee. It’s a good thing Nick Saban has the program on a roll; otherwise a home schedule filled with — in descending interest — Auburn, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky and Western Carolina would be a tough sell.

Sept. 15 at Arkansas

Sept. 29 OLE MISS

Oct. 13 at Missouri

Oct. 20 at Tennessee

Oct. 27 MISSISSIPPI STATE

Nov. 3 at LSU

Nov. 10 TEXAS A&M

Nov. 24 AUBURN

ARKANSAS

Three of four nonconference games are set with Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe and Tulsa, but Texas A&M used to be the biggest outside foe and now is a division rival. The Razorbacks and Aggies are two years into a 10-year deal to play at Cowboys Stadium, but nobody would be shocked if that game moved to the two campuses. Texas A&M is the home team in 2012. Even before the rescheduling, the Hogs tend to benefit in even-numbered years, when they get to host Alabama and LSU. They split those matchups in 2010, and their schedule for ’12 is about as favorable as they come for somebody in the West.

Sept. 15 ALABAMA

Sept. 29 vs. Texas A&M

Oct. 6 at Auburn

Oct. 13 KENTUCKY

Oct. 27 OLE MISS

Nov. 10 at South Carolina

Nov. 17 at Mississippi State

Nov. 23 LSU

AUBURN

The Tigers again will be shaped early with Clemson in Atlanta to open the season, a trip to Mississippi State to follow, and then LSU looming in week four. There have been times when losing a return trip to Florida for a trip to Vanderbilt instead would be the dream of all dreams, but the Gators and Commodores are each 6-6 this season. Auburn had not lost to the Commodores since 1955 until stumbling 14-13 in its last trip to Nashville in 2008. The Tigers will have some late-season spacing by closing with McNeese State, Georgia, Alabama A&M and Alabama, which has two daunting tests but is not exactly the “Amen Corner” former coach Pat Dye annually referenced.

Sept. 8 at Mississippi State

Sept. 22 LSU

Oct. 6 ARKANSAS

Oct. 13 at Ole Miss

Oct. 20 at Vanderbilt

Oct. 27 TEXAS A&M

Nov. 10 GEORGIA

Nov. 24 at Alabama

FLORIDA

Will Muschamp’s second season as coach will begin with Bowling Green followed by eight consecutive conference games, with an off week before an Oct. 6 visit from LSU. That is one oddity to Florida’s 2012 schedule, with another being that the Gators have to face South Carolina and Georgia on consecutive Saturdays in late October. The Gators will be the first SEC foe for Texas A&M, but their regular season has been set up to end with somewhat of a whimper. After concluding its league slate with South Carolina, Georgia and Missouri, the Gators will host Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State before traveling to Florida State.

Sept. 8 at Texas A&M

Sept. 15 at Tennessee

Sept. 22 KENTUCKY

Oct. 6 LSU

Oct. 13 at Vanderbilt

Oct. 20 SOUTH CAROLINA

Oct. 27 vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)

Nov. 3 MISSOURI

GEORGIA

The Bulldogs were the only SEC East team this year to avoid having to play Alabama, Arkansas and LSU from the West during the regular season, and they get to avoid that trio again next year. The addition of Missouri, where Georgia will visit Sept. 8, has resulted in the Bulldogs scratching a previously scheduled trip to Tuscaloosa. Ole Miss, a team the Bulldogs defeated 27-13 in Oxford last season, visits Athens. It is a schedule with one team — South Carolina — that will finish this season ranked, so things already are setting up well for an East title repeat. A mundane home slate consists of Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech.

Sept. 8 at Missouri

Sept. 22 VANDERBILT

Sept. 29 TENNESSEE

Oct. 6 at South Carolina

Oct. 20 at Kentucky

Oct. 27 vs. Florida (Jacksonville)

Nov. 3 OLE MISS

Nov. 10 at Auburn

KENTUCKY

Yes, you’re reading this correctly. The Wildcats have to play seven consecutive conference games without an off week, and they have to play Florida and South Carolina back to back in September and Arkansas and Georgia back to back in October. The Gators may have been the worst of those four teams this season, but they have defeated Kentucky 25 times in a row. The only silver lining for the Wildcats on the 2012 schedule is that they should be well-prepared in their task to knock off Tennessee for a second straight year. Kentucky gets its lone open date and hosts Samford in its two Saturdays leading up to the trip to Neyland Stadium.

Sept. 22 at Florida

Sept. 29 SOUTH CAROLINA

Oct. 6 MISSISSIPPI STATE

Oct. 13 at Arkansas

Oct. 20 GEORGIA

Oct. 27 at Missouri

Nov. 3 VANDERBILT

Nov. 24 at Tennessee

LSU

The Tigers are getting all four of their nonconference games out of the way in September, hosting North Texas, Washington, Idaho and Towson in addition to their Sept. 22 trip to Auburn. That leaves the back end — arguably the favorite expression of coach Les Miles — loaded with conference contests. Unlike Alabama, LSU will have the luxury of an open date before next season’s clash. The toughest stretch should be traveling to Florida, hosting South Carolina and traveling to Texas A&M in consecutive weeks in October before the bye, but it’s a much easier schedule overall than the one the Tigers mastered this season.

Sept. 22 at Auburn

Oct. 6 at Florida

Oct. 13 SOUTH CAROLINA

Oct. 20 at Texas A&M

Nov. 3 ALABAMA

Nov. 10 MISSISSIPPI STATE

Nov. 17 OLE MISS

Nov. 23 at Arkansas

OLE MISS

It appears the SEC has given the Rebels little chance at home and no chance on the road. Ole Miss must travel to four teams currently in the top 20 — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU — so home dates with Texas A&M, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State have to look attractive by comparison. All eight league opponents for Ole Miss next season are currently prepping for bowl games. The Rebels will get a double dose of Lone Star competition, hosting not only Texas A&M but Texas. The Longhorns visit Oxford on Sept. 15, before the league fun begins for a program looking to bounce back from a 2-10 debacle.

Sept. 29 at Alabama

Oct. 6 TEXAS A&M

Oct. 13 AUBURN

Oct. 27 at Arkansas

Nov. 3 at Georgia

Nov. 10 VANDERBILT

Nov. 17 at LSU

Nov. 24 MISSISSIPPI STATE

MISSISSIPPI STATE

The Bulldogs are 3-0 in Egg Bowls under Dan Mullen and 0-12 against the rest of the SEC West, but they have a chance to alter that in 2012 by hosting Auburn and Texas A&M. Mississippi State got a relatively easy combination in the East with Kentucky and Tennessee, two teams that went a combined 10-14 this season, and the only teams appearing notably better are the trio of Alabama, Arkansas and LSU. The fact Mississippi State went 2-6 in the conference this season was among the bigger disappointments in the league, but next year’s schedule is set up to where 4-4 is very possible. Incidentally, MSU is having to play in Lexington two consecutive seasons.

Sept. 8 AUBURN

Oct. 6 at Kentucky

Oct. 13 TENNESSEE

Oct. 27 at Alabama

Nov. 3 TEXAS A&M

Nov. 10 at LSU

Nov. 17 ARKANSAS

Nov. 24 at Ole Miss

MISSOURI

The league gave Missouri two very entertaining home matchups with Georgia and Alabama, and the Tigers also are hosting two new foes that have struggled historically, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Missouri has Arizona State sandwiched between Georgia and South Carolina, and back-to-back trips to Florida and Tennessee in early November would have been brutal if the Tigers had joined the league in the 1990s. Four of their first five SEC games are at home, and they end the season be playing at fellow newcomer Texas A&M, their permanent foe from the SEC West.

Sept. 8 GEORGIA

Sept. 22 at South Carolina

Oct. 6 VANDERBILT

Oct. 13 ALABAMA

Oct. 27 KENTUCKY

Nov. 3 at Florida

Nov. 10 at Tennessee

Nov. 24 at Texas A&M

SOUTH CAROLINA

The Gamecocks won at Mississippi State last season but did not get a return trip from the Bulldogs, and they will instead have to face LSU in Baton Rouge. Someone had to draw LSU, didn’t they? South Carolina was scheduled to visit Baton Rouge this year, but fellow East rival Georgia was supposed to play at Alabama. Speaking of Georgia-South Carolina, the Gamecocks have played the Bulldogs on the first or second weekend every year since joining the SEC in 1992, but that game has been shuffled to the first Saturday in October. That could be the league’s second most important matchup next season, right behind LSU-Alabama.

Aug. 30 at Vanderbilt

Sept. 22 MISSOURI

Sept. 29 at Kentucky

Oct. 6 GEORGIA

Oct. 13 at LSU

Oct. 20 at Florida

Oct. 27 TENNESSEE

Nov. 10 ARKANSAS

TENNESSEE

The Volunteers open with North Carolina State in Atlanta and Georgia State in Knoxville before beginning SEC play with a visit from the Gators. They host Akron on Sept. 22 and then visit Georgia, so the first half of their schedule is spaced out well. How Tennessee performs at Mississippi State, a game the Vols were scheduled to play under the 12-team format, could be key to the season, and at least the Vols do not have to face Arkansas, which applied a 49-7 shellacking this season. Still, next season’s league schedule contains six teams prepping for bowls, two (Missouri and N.C. State) that already have won bowls and a Kentucky team seeking two straight in the series.

Sept. 15 FLORIDA

Sept. 29 at Georgia

Oct. 13 at Mississippi State

Oct. 20 ALABAMA

Oct. 27 at South Carolina

Nov. 10 MISSOURI

Nov. 17 at Vanderbilt

Nov. 24 KENTUCKY

TEXAS A&M

The Aggies have sandwiched games with McNeese State and SMU around the Florida contest on Sept. 8, so they could get out of the gate quickly. Of course, they were in the top 10 early this season before stumbling to a 6-6 record. Clearly the toughest stretch is facing LSU and then traveling to Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama without a break. That could add up to another late-season skid, but the aspect to track in the next few weeks or months will be how Texas A&M and Arkansas decide to move forward with their rivalry that has resided the past two years in Dallas but now could switch to campus venues.

Sept. 8 FLORIDA

Sept. 29 vs. Arkansas

Oct. 6 at Ole Miss

Oct. 20 LSU

Oct. 27 at Auburn

Nov. 3 at Mississippi State

Nov. 10 at Alabama

Nov. 24 MISSOURI

VANDERBILT

The Commodores wanted to host South Carolina on the opening Thursday night of the season and got their wish, as that game will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2. Should Vanderbilt maintain its level of play under James Franklin, is there anybody on this schedule other than possibly Georgia that looks notably better? The Commodores could catch Florida and Auburn in down cycles at hiome, and late-season trips to Kentucky and Ole Miss could each wind up successful. Vanderbilt’s second game of the year is at Northwestern, and the Commodores again will close their regular season with Wake Forest, so those two games also will help decide whether consecutive bowls will be on order.

Aug. 30 SOUTH CAROLINA

Sept. 22 at Georgia

Oct. 6 at Missouri

Oct. 13 FLORIDA

Oct. 20 AUBURN

Nov. 3 at Kentucky

Nov. 10 at Ole Miss

Nov. 17 TENNESSEE

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Detlev said...

Richt lucks out again. Beat Carolina(no given as the game is in Columbia) and Richt "backs" into the SEC East again. Weak schedules are great. But, then it's Bama or LSU in the SECCG and another national TV embarrassment for Richt, which is getting to be a habit. Then another non-BCS bowl against another also ran. However, McGarity will be so ecstatic about the job Richt & Co. have done that another contract extension will be forthcomming on top of the 2011 extension. Such is the state of UGA football.

December 29, 2011 at 1:15 p.m.
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