Grading SEC Slates: Part 2


Jeff Driskel and the Gators have a challenging October. (The Associated Press)

Published: Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 21, 2013 at 8:59 p.m.

When SEC teams get to the middle third of their schedules, it gets intense. The preliminaries are over and each Saturday is intense.

Today, we look at the middle thirds of each team in the SEC. Of course, we do it with a disclaimer. By the time we get to October, who knows how much things will have changed?

Nobody can predict injuries and nobody knew that both Auburn and Arkansas would be in a free fall by the time we got to October last year.

But based on the strengths of the teams in the SEC heading into the season, here are the middle thirds ranked in order:

1. Arkansas

Texas A&M, at Florida, South Carolina, at Alabama

Arkansas had a soft September, but it gets much more difficult for coach Bret Bielema in October. This will be the stretch that defines the season for the Razorbacks. If they go 0-4, nobody would be shocked. If they go 4-0 they may erect a statue of Bielema.

2. LSU.

At Georgia, at Mississippi State, Florida, at Ole Miss.

This part of the schedule is what has riled up coach Les Miles. He gets Georgia and Florida from the East. And three of the four games during this stretch are on the road. This is a true gauntlet for the Tigers.

3. Florida.

Arkansas, at LSU, at Missouri, Georgia in Jacksonville.

There are some wild cards here because we don't know if Arkansas will be any good and Missouri had a rough first season in the SEC. But with three straight games away from The Swamp, it's going to be tough for the Gators in October.

4. Missouri.

At Vanderbilt, at Georgia, Florida, South Carolina.

The Tigers could be a dangerous team this year, especially for the Gators and Gamecocks who have to go on the road. Vandy is not an easy win anymore.

5. Tennessee.

South Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, at Alabama.

The first game is a prep for what's to come for coach Butch Jones, three brutal games. At least the Bulldogs and Gamecocks have to go to Knoxville. They should soften up the Vols for the Tide.

6. South Carolina.

Kentucky, at Arkansas, at Tennessee, at Missouri.

There used to be a rule in the SEC that you couldn't play three straight road games in conference. That rule went bye-bye when the conference expanded to 14 teams. The only solace for Steve Spurrier is that his team is better than these road teams.

7. Ole Miss.

At Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU, Idaho.

Auburn is a big mystery team this year, but we know how tough A&M and LSU will be, even though they are home games. Thank goodness for Idaho.

8. Vanderbilt.

UAB, Missouri, Georgia, at Texas A&M.

The three straight home games will be crucial for the Commodores if they are going to back up last year's successful season under coach James Franklin. And imagine the culture shock for Vandy fans when they go to College Station.

9. Kentucky.

At South Carolina, Alabama, at Mississippi State, Alabama State.

Those three games in October (there is a bye week as well) could damper some of the enthusiasm in Lexington over coach Mark Stoops.

10. Georgia

At Tennessee, Missouri, at Vanderbilt, Florida in Jacksonville

This is what we're talking about. This schedule ranks 10th and yet they are all huge Eastern Division games for the Bulldogs.

11. Texas A&M.

At Arkansas, at Ole Miss, Auburn, Vanderbilt.

If A&M is a legitimate contender in the West this year, it should breeze through this part of the schedule.

12. Mississippi State.

LSU, Bowling Green, Kentucky, at South Carolina.

Two very tough games are the bookends to two games the Bulldogs have to win to be bowl eligible again this year.

13. Auburn.

Ole Miss, Western Carolina, at Texas A&M, Florida Atlantic.

The Tigers have two of their softies in the middle third which is unusual.

14. Alabama.

Georgia State, at Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee.

The three SEC teams went 3-21 in the league last year. Georgia State won one game in 2012.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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