The SEC catches a lot of heat for some of its non-conference football games and rightfully so. Coastal Carolina, Mercer, Wofford, Charleston Southern and Eastern Kentucky all make appearances on SEC schedules, not to mention a newly-revived UAB program.
But there are enough special non-conference games to distract the SEC detractors.
Here are the 10 best non-conference games for the league:
1. Florida State-Alabama
The two powerhouses knock heads Sept. 2 to open the season in the new stadium in Atlanta. The overreaction concerning the loser of this game with be deafening, but it’s going to feel like a national semifinal.
2. Auburn at Clemson
The two teams play in the second week of the season (Sept. 9) when we find out if Auburn is for real. And if Clemson still has the ability to bring its own guts.
Sept. 2 in Jerry World is the place to be for all Gators and Wolverines. If Florida is going to have a special season, this is a must-win game.
4. FSU at Florida
This one isn’t until Nov. 25 and there’s no telling where these teams will be by then. But no matter the circumstances, this is an important game for Jim McElwain.
5. Georgia at Notre Dame
This is more about history on Sept. 9 than it is about shaping the national landscape. But think about what it would mean if the Irish got the win.
6. Texas A&M at UCLA
The hot seat special to open the season. Both coaches have a lot of people wondering who will survive and it starts with this game.
7. LSU at BYU
This is an under-the-radar game on the opening Saturday that could have startling consequences.
8. Louisville at Kentucky
It’s the last game of the regular season that provided a magical finish last year. This could be bigger than usual for both teams.
9. Georgia at Georgia Tech
They call it “old-fashioned hate” so even if the two teams are battling for minor bowls it’s big.
10. South Carolina-N.C. State
This one (in Charlotte) is another under-the-radar opener that should have a lot to say about where these two teams are going.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.