The grind of the SEC isn't easy on any team, which makes it even more remarkable that the conference has dominated college football for the past 15 years. Teams have to overcome numerous hurdles, potential upsets and Power Five juggernauts in the schedule that features eight conference games and at least one out-of-conference Power Five opponent.
This year is no exception.
The combination of a loaded SEC West and an SEC East that features defending national champion Georgia makes this year's path to glory incredibly difficult for talented and less-talented teams alike.
Which SEC teams have the hardest schedules? Which ones could breeze through the slate into bowl season? Here's our breakdown of each team's strength of schedule.
|Coach Bryan Harsin is on the hot seat after just one season on The Plains, and the schedule-makers didn't do him any favors if he intends to keep his job beyond the 2022 season. The Tigers have to play reigning national champion Georgia and national runner-up/SEC champion Alabama on the road, and have a very scary out-of-conference game in Week 3 vs. Penn State. Additionally, the Tigers don't get a bye week until Week 8 and have a sketchy road game at Ole Miss between the road trip to Georgia and the bye week. Simply put, if Harsin stays employed, it'll be one of the most miraculous coaching jobs in recent memory.|
|Poor Vanderbilt. The Commodores have Georgia on the road, draw Alabama as their rotating SEC opponent in Tuscaloosa and a very difficult out-of-conference matchup vs. Wake Forest on the docket. As if that wasn't enough, they have two out-of-conference games on the road (Hawaii in Week Zero and defending MAC champion Northern Illinois in Dekalb. If coach Clark Lea leads them to a bowl game this year -- or even four wins -- it'll be nothing short of a miracle.|
|It seems like Arkansas gets the short end of the scheduling stick every year, and the 2022 season will continue that trend. The Razorbacks open with Cincinnati, which is fresh off of a CFP appearance. The Bearcats lost a ton of production off of that team, but coach Luke Fickell has proven time and time again that he can trot out one of the best programs in the Group of Five. As if that wasn't enough, the Hogs will go to BYU on Oct. 15 in what will be a raucous atmosphere. The home schedule sets up nicely with Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss coming to Arkansas, but the neutral site game vs. Texas A&M seems to get wild on an annual basis.|
|Second-year coach Josh Heupel has one of the most dynamic offenses in the country, and he's going to need it quite often based on how his schedule is laid out. The Volunteers visit defending ACC champion Pittsburgh in Week 2, have a rotating SEC game in Death Valley against LSU, have to visit Georgia in November and have road games in three of their final four contests. They will be a trendy pick to threaten Georgia in the SEC East, but it won't be easy based on this slate of games.|
|Coach Mike Leach's squad will host Memphis in Week 1 and travel to Arizona the following Saturday. A game against lowly Arizona might not seem like much, but that's a pretty sketchy one-two punch right out of the gate. The Bulldogs draw Georgia as their rotating SEC East opponent and have to travel to Alabama in Week 8 prior to their only bye week of the season. Leach's air raid offense has the potential to spring numerous upsets, and there will be plenty of opportunities to do so in 2022.|
|Brian Kelly's first year as the coach of the Tigers won't exactly be a breeze. They open with Florida State in New Orleans in the opener, have road games vs. Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas, and get Tennessee at home as their rotating opponent in the SEC East. As if that wasn't enough, a tricky UAB game is sandwiched between the road games vs. the Razorbacks and Aggies. Anything more than seven wins would be a minor miracle in Year One.|
|First-year coach Billy Napier and the Gators will host what should be a Top 10 Utah team at home in the opener, which is immediately followed by a matchup vs. a dangerous Kentucky team in the Swamp. Simply put, they better be ready to go right out of the gate. They have road games at Tennessee and Texas A&M, and have the always-difficult matchup vs. defending national champion Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida. They'll close out the regular season on the road against intra-state rival Florida State. If there is a silver lining, it's that they get four SEC games at home instead of having three and counting the neutral site game vs. Georgia game as their fourth.|
|The Aggies get the always-dangerous Appalachian State Mountaineers in Week 2 and follow that up with a home matchup vs. a Miami team that should be one of the favorites in the ACC. The neutral site game vs. Arkansas takes the place of their fourth SEC home game, they travel to Alabama and get Florida out of the SEC East as their rotating opponent. They'll be picked as one of Alabama's biggest threats in the West, but it'll take a lot of work to live up to that promise.|
|Alabama's game at Texas in Week 2 is going to be a bit trickier than some imagine, and the Crimson Tide won't get a bye week until Oct. 29. They have road games at Tennessee and Ole Miss, which should test a Crimson Tide defense that is searching for a few answers (by Alabama standards) up front. The good news for coach Nick Saban is that Vanderbilt is his rotating opponent out of the SEC East and the rivalry game vs. Auburn will take place in Bryant-Denny Stadium instead of Jordan-Hare Stadium, a place that gives the Tide fits every other season.|
|Shane Beamer's Gamecocks draw Arkansas on the road as their rotating SEC West opponent in Week 2, which will immediately be followed by a home game vs. defending national champion Georgia. They have road games in three of their final four contests, culminating with a trip to the upstate to take on rival Clemson. The good news for Beamer is that the permanent cross-division rivalry vs. Texas A&M and late-season game vs. Tennessee will take place in Williams-Brice Stadium.|
|The Bulldogs will have a relatively easy path back to national contention as long as they can overcome Oregon in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in the opener. They get rival Auburn at home, Florida after the traditional bye week and draw Mississippi State on the road as their rotating SEC West opponent. Rival Georgia Tech is in chaos, which should make rivalry weekend a breeze for coach Kirby Smart as well. You have to dig really deep to find the one problem, which is the fact that the neutral-site game vs. Florida will count as one of Georgia's home games. That gives them a disproportionate amount of true conference road games.|
|The rivalry game vs. Louisville is at home, and is the only tricky out-of-conference game on the docket for the Wildcats. They get Georgia and South Carolina at home, and will wrap up the season with three straight home games. The road game vs. Florida in Week 2 and Ole Miss in Week 5 will be tough. But, if there's one thing we know about Mark Stoops' crew, it's that if his team doesn't beat you, it'll beat you up. That physicality gives them a puncher's chance against every opponent.|
|The Tigers will travel to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on a tricky Kansas State team as their Power Five out-of-conference matchup in Week 2, but draw Georgia at home, get a rebuilding Auburn team as their rotating opponent out of the SEC West and wrap up the season at home vs. rival Arkansas. The bye week falls in a perfect spot on Oct. 15, and they only have two road games after that.|
|The Rebels' Power Five opponent is lowly Georgia Tech in Week 3, they get Alabama and rival Mississippi State in the always-crazy Egg Bowl at home and the permanent cross-division rivalry with Vanderbilt always helps their strength of schedule. If there is a problem with this slate, it's that coach Lane Kiffin's crew won't get a bye week until Nov. 5 -- the latest bye week date in the conference. However, that means they'll have two weeks to prepare for the showdown with the Crimson Tide ... which is never a bad thing.|