Ranking the Top 5 SEC Non-Conference Games for 2014
However, some teams add to the difficulty of their schedule by playing programs outside of the conference that are traditional powers in the college football world. And then there are others that stick to the directional state schools.
There's no perfect formula for crafting a non-conference schedule, but it's certainly been a hot debate during this off-season.
Starting in 2016, teams within the conference must schedule at least one team from a power conference. That means no more four-game non-conference schedules consisting only of teams that are considered the worst of the worst in the FBS.
But that's still a few years away, so let's stick to this year's schedule for now. Which SEC teams will be playing a marquee non-conference game next season?
Let's run through the top five non-conference games for the 2014 regular season.
5. Georgia vs. Clemson (August 30, 5:30 PM ET on ESPN)
We'll lump South Carolina's game against Clemson in here as well since it's a similar opponent, but since Georgia opens up the against the Tigers in Athens, it will be more intriguing to see how the Bulldogs start off the new season. Considering that Mark Richt's team has national championship aspirations, it can't afford to drop the opener against Clemson and then have to travel to play a challenging road game against the Gamecocks. And since I predicted that the Bulldogs will go undefeated, winning game one would be ideal.
4. Auburn at Kansas State (September 18, 7:30 PM ET on ESPN)
Will Kansas State be the best team in the Big 12? Not quite. However, this is a dangerous game for the defending SEC champions. Bill Snyder's teams have always played well in Manhattan, regardless of how good they are overall. The Thursday night kickoff also brings about a bit of pressure since this will be the only show in town. If Auburn wants to make a march towards the playoff, it better not overlook this one.
3. LSU vs. Wisconsin (August 30, 9 PM ET on ESPN)
This game will be played in Houston, so that certainly brings about an interesting dynamic to kick off the season. We've discussed how LSU will enter the 2014 season as a bit of an underdog in the SEC West, a position that the team certainly isn't accustomed to under Les Miles. It will be interesting to see how the offense performs against the Badgers since the Tigers lost a ton of production from a year ago.
2. Tennessee at Oklahoma (September 13, 8 PM ET on ABC)
Give Butch Jones and Tennessee a lot of credit for putting this game on the schedule. Oklahoma will enter the season as one of the favorites to win the national championship while the Vols will be looking to finally make it back to a bowl game. It's hard to see Tennessee winning this game since it likely won't yet be playing its best football that early in the season. But don't be surprised if the Sooners get much more than they want from a young and hungry Vols squad.
1. Florida at Florida State (November 29, TBA)
Yes, we all know that this game is played year in and year out. But unless Will Muschamp and Florida massively underachieve once again, there should once again be a lot of intrigue surrounding this in-state rivalry game. The Seminoles will likely be competing for another national championship and how this game plays out will depend on how far the Gators have progressed since last season's debacle.
What do you think is the best non-conference game in the SEC this season? Let us know your top choices by commenting below! For more college football talk, follow FanIQ College Football or myself on Twitter!