Change can be good, but change can also be scary. If you haven’t seen the news surrounding the Southeastern Conference (SEC), and their conference scheduling format, then you’re in …
Change can be good, but change can also be scary.
If you haven’t seen the news surrounding the Southeastern Conference (SEC), and their conference scheduling format, then you’re in for a surprise.
Conference realignment has been a huge topic of discussion in college sports, more specifically college football, over the last year, and the SEC has been at the forefront of those conversations with Texas University and Oklahoma University set to join the conference in 2024.
Questions of where they will fit in and how conference scheduling will play out came with the additions.
Will there still be an East and West? Will there be a pod system?
Well, the SEC recently answered those questions by announcing that there will be no divisions within the conference, and that each team will play an eight-game conference schedule with the top two records being awarded a chance in the SEC Championship game.
Not long after, they released the 2024 conference schedules which outlined each teams’ conference opponents and which were home or away games.
Some teams received a similar schedule to what they were used to, but some got the bad end of the deal and will have a treacherous time navigating through the year.
One reason for that is some teams already have a tough non-conference schedule ahead of them, but hey, it just means more right?
So let’s take a look at who the change is good for and who it is scary for.
The Vols are at the top of my list for the winners because their 2024 schedule consists of SEC teams that would normally be on their schedule anyway like Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, and Vanderbilt with Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi State being the other three.
The Crimson Tide, Gators, and Wildcats will all be traveling to Knoxville which is a huge positive for Vol fans while Georgia and Oklahoma will be away games.
On their non-conference slate, Tennessee will play Chattanooga, NC State, Kent State, and UTEP, all of which aren’t world-beaters by any means.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama slides into the second spot of the winners because, well, it’s Alabama.
Putting all of the Tide’s previous success over the last decade or so aside, their 2024 schedule is set up for them to do what they normally do – win.
Auburn, LSU, and Tennessee stay on their schedule with the Vols being the only road game out of that group.
Newcomers to their regular season include Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Vanderbilt.
Obviously Georgia is no team to mess with as of late, but along with South Carolina and Missouri, it will be a home game for the Tide which is enormous for them.
The easiest part of their 2024 slate, per usual, is their non-conference games which include Western Kentucky, South Florida, Wisconsin, and Mercer.
One would think they would have no issue at the start of the season before they prepare to tackle a slightly tougher conference schedule than the normal.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Since Shane Beamer was hired after the 2020 season, it has been an upward trend for the Gamecocks in all aspects of college football.
He, along with his staff, secured the 16th ranked recruiting class in 2023 according to 247Sports after an 8-5 season where they defeated Tennessee and Clemson in back-to-back weeks to end their College Football Playoff hopes.
For the 2024 season, South Carolina has a beefier SEC schedule, but not one to be afraid of.
On their home field, they will face LSU, Ole Miss, Missouri, and Texas A&M while their away slate consists of Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Vanderbilt.
The big hitters on that list are LSU and Oklahoma, but the others still have a lot to prove before they can make teams nervous.
South Carolina will still play in-state rival Clemson, but the rest of their non-conference schedule consists of Old Dominion, Akron, and Wofford.
If Beamer can keep the Gamecocks on track, they’re set up to have a successful 2024 season.
The Florida Gator faithful should be very nervous for the 2024 season because in my opinion they got the worst end of the deal schedule wise.
In non-conference play, the Gators matchup against Miami, UCF, Georgia, and Florida State.
UCF aside, all of those games have the potential to be top-25 matchups when the season rolls around.
Oh, and on top of that, they have to play LSU, Texas A&M, at Tennessee, and at Texas.
By the time the 2024 season starts, Florida could very well have the toughest schedule in all of college football, and the worst part is they still have a lot to prove under head coach Billy Napier.
And if there isn’t much improvement in the upcoming season, Napier will have his work cut out for him.
Those poor, poor Commodores.
Many people in the state of Tennessee would probably say that Vanderbilt loses every year before the season even starts.
Those people are probably Vol fans, but they aren’t usually wrong about Vanderbily being a lower-tier SEC program when it comes to football.
Personally, I quietly root for Vanderbilt when they aren’t playing my Auburn Tigers because the Commodores never have many glaring issues that come out of their program, and their colors are pretty cool.
But the on-field performance doesn’t alway match that, and it’s going to be even tougher for them in 2024.
Vandy opens the season against Virginia Tech which should be a fairly decent game to watch, and then they welcome SMU to Nashville two weeks later.
Sure they aren’t powerhouse non-conference opponents, but they’re good matchups for Vandy.
When they get to SEC play, it gets a whole lot tougher.
Vandy travels to Auburn, LSU, Kentucky, and Missouri while Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas will all travel to Nashville.
How they received that draw is beyond me, but it’s sure to leave the Commodores bruised and battered.
Finally a non-SEC school makes this list in some capacity.
The Sooners don’t have a super tough non-conference schedule ahead of them in 2024 with Temple and Tulane both traveling to Norman to start the year, but their SEC schedule is loaded up with the big boys.
Trips to Auburn, LSU, Missouri, and Ole Miss await them with Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee all making the trip to Oklahoma while the Sooner’s usual rivalry matchup with Texas will be held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.
Sure Oklahoma was considered one of the big boys in the Big12, and that’s the main reason they’re moving conferences, but the SEC has proven time and time again that it really does mean more on their side.
Will Oklahoma compete right out of the gate?
Probably not, but they’ve proven over the last decade that they can put strong teams together and win games.
Along with Texas, it will be interesting to see how well they can compete in the SEC.
Did your favorite team not make the list?
Consider that a good thing because the teams not on this list are ones I see with the least amount of change to their year-to-year schedule.
Hopefully your team will do better if they haven’t been great, and if they have been, hopefully they can keep the train rolling.
We still have one more year of college football before we get to experience the expanded SEC, but if you’re like me then you’re chomping at the bit in anticipation.