The Texas A&M football team will face one of the toughest schedules in the country in 2012. In addition to its conference schedule, it is facing a team in non-conference play who will be a big test.
Most of the teams in the Southeastern Conference play weaker non-conference schedules to save their team for the gauntlet that is the SEC conference slate. Even with a non-conference schedule that is set up for easy wins, there are many landmines on the schedules of every SEC team.
The elite teams in the SEC are not immune to upset losses in 2012. Every team has weaknesses. and it is rare to find a team capable of giving 100 percent on every Saturday.
This is a look at every SEC team and the opponent most likely to upset them during the 2012 season.
To qualify as an upset loss, the team who wins the game must enter the game as an underdog. Vanderbilt beating Tennessee may be an upset in some fans' minds, but if Tyler Bray is out for Tennessee again, then the line will probably favor Vanderbilt, so it will not be considered an upset.
When Bill Byrne switched the McNeese State game at home for Louisiana Tech on the road, he created a big headache for new head coach Kevin Sumlin.
Louisiana Tech won eight games in 2011, including a bowl game. It came within one point of beating Sumlin's Houston team.
Tech returns All-WAC wide receiver Quinton Patton, who led the 79 receptions for 1202 yards and 11 touchdowns. Colby Cameron returns after splitting time at quarterback in 2011.
Tech's leading rusher, Lennon Creer, has moved onto the NFL, but sophomore running back Hunter Lee returns after rushing for 650 yards and five touchdowns.
Tech runs Sonny Dykes' spread offense and should be a formidable opponent on the road in the first game of the Sumlin era.
A&M will be trying to implement a new system on offense and defense on the road against a veteran team.
The Ags will be favored in a limited number of games in 2012 due to their tough schedule . They will be favored against Louisiana Tech, and the Bulldogs are the most likely team on the 2012 schedule to upset them.
Arkansas returns one of the most talented teams in the country in 2012. It will be favored in almost all of their games. It plays eight home games and should only be underdogs to Alabama and LSU, both of whom it faces at home.
It may be an underdog on the road at South Carolina later in the season.
The game on the Razorbacks' schedule that looks like a potential upset is against A&M at Kyle Field. It is Arkansas' first game on the road.
A&M is used to playing the Razorbacks, having faced them three years in a row. The Ags rushed for over 380 yards against Arkansas in 2011, so they know they can move the ball against the Hogs defense.
Arkansas will be favored to beat A&M on the road. It will be Arkansas' first visit to Kyle Field in 21 years. The Aggies and Hogs have been competing at a neutral site in Arlington, Tex. for the past three years. Kyle Field should be fired up for the the return of Arkansas.
If Bobby Petrino were still the Arkansas coach, then there would not be much question whether Arkansas can win this game. Without Petrino calling the offense, it is anyone's game, and the Ags have a great chance to steal a win at home.
Missouri returns a veteran team after James Franklin learned on the job under center in 2011. The Tigers went 8-5 in 2011. The Tigers should have a solid team as they enter the SEC in 2012.
The Tigers get a quick initiation into the league when Georgia visits Faurot Field in their second game of the season.
The team most likely to upset Missouri is a non-conference opponent. Mizzou faces Arizona State at home, then travels to Columbia to take on South Carolina to next week. It then travels to Orlando to face the University of Central Florida on the road.
UCF is the team most likely to upset Mizzou in 2012. The Knights were a very young team in 2011. It went 5-7 while being led on offense by underclassmen. UCF returns its leading passer, rusher and top three receivers.
It should be formidable on offense at home, and Missouri should be tired after facing ASU and South Carolina.
The Tigers are a very physical team, and Gary Pinkel takes pride in treating road trips like business trips. However, the game against UCF will be the Tigers' fifth straight game without a break. After facing Georgia and South Carolina, they will be primed for a letdown.
LSU returns the best team in the nation on paper. It should enter the season ranked either No.1 or No.2 in the nation. It went to the BCS game in 2011 and have more than enough talent on hand to return after the 2012 season.
LSU will be favored in every game it plays, with good reason. Its weakness in 2012 was its passing game, and with Zach Mettenberger at the helm, it should at least be serviceable through the air. They return four running backs who could start for any team in the nation.
LSU returns key members of a suffocating defense, including Tyrann Mathieu. They will be favored in every game on their schedule.
On paper, the Tigers should not lose to anyone they face. The only team that may surprise them is Washington, but they get the Huskies in Death Valley.
Washington returns quarterback Keith Price, who is a dynamic playmaker who can elude the pass-rush and make big plays while on the run. He may be able to frustrate the LSU defense. Steve Sarkisian is a great coach, and he has pulled off big upsets before, beating USC in his inaugural year at Washington.
Other than Washington, the only team that should give LSU problems is Alabama, but that game will likely be a pick 'em. The Washington Huskies are the team most likely to upset the Tigers in 2012.
Ole Miss was only 2-10 in 2011 so it will be hard to find too many games it will be the favorite in in 2012. On the bright side, they hired a great coach in Hugh Freeze, and he should have the program turned around in short order.
The Rebels should be favored at home to beat Vanderbilt. Vandy returns a lot of talent from its bowl team in 2011. The 'Dores also catch Ole Miss between games against Georgia and LSU.
It is a good time to catch Ole Miss. The Rebels do not have a huge home field advantage as it is. Vandy has the best chance of upsetting the Rebels in 2012.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs take on the Troy Trojans in their third game of the season on the road in Troy, AL.
The Trojans are coming off a 3-9 season, and no one is expecting much from them. They had a young team in 2011 and return a lot of veterans.
Troy has plenty of athletes like DE Jonathan Massaquoi, who had 10 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2011.
They will be a tough opponent on the road and are the best bet to upset the Bulldogs in 2012.
The Auburn Tigers face the Clemson Tigers in the Georgia Dome to start the season. The SEC has a winning streak against their ACC counterpart in this kickoff to the college football season, and Auburn should be favored.
Clemson has a great chance to upset Auburn in this game. Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington and Sammy Watkins return to lead the explosive Clemson offense.
Auburn has been carried the past two years by an explosive offense led by offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. In 2012, Malzahn and Auburn's leading rusher, Michael Dyer, will be at Arkansas State. It remains to be seen how effective the Auburn offense can be without Malzahn at the controls.
Clemson should be able to score enough to outscore Auburn and pull the upset to open the season.
Alabama is reloading after multiple members of its national championship team moved on to the NFL. The Tide should be just as tough in 2012 as they were in 2011 and may be a little better on offense where they return quarterback AJ McCarron.
The Tide should be favored in every game, save their game at LSU. They should enter the season ranked in the top three in the nation. Nick Saban has the program rolling.
The one team besides LSU that can beat the Tide in 2012 would be Tennessee. The Vols have been held back the past two years by injuries to their quarterback, Tyler Bray.
Tennessee gets Alabama in Knoxville, and if Bray is healthy, the Vols should give the Tide a huge test in a rivalry game for both schools.
Florida is entering its second season under head coach Will Muschamp. The Gators were 7-6 under Muschamp in his first season in Gainesville.
The Gators struggled to score points on offense. Charlie Weis was brought in to be the offensive coordinator, but instead of installing a West Coast offense, he reverted back to the spread option offense that was favored by Urban Meyer.
The Gators had one of the top 10 defenses in the country and should be very tough on that side of the ball in 2012.
UF lost their quarterback, Jeff Brantley, and running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to graduation. It will have a new backfield in 2012.
The Gators have to travel to Kyle Field for their second game of the season when they take on Texas A&M.
The Aggies are not expected to fare well in their first season in the SEC. Florida will be favored in this game. A&M returns of lot of skill position talent and should be able to score enough points to upset the Gators.
Texas A&M is the team the most likely to upset UF in 2012.
The Tennessee Volunteers went 5-7 in 2011. It was the second year in a row that the Vols struggled with injuries at quarterback. When healthy, Tyler Bray is among the best quarterbacks in the nation.
The problem for Tennessee is that Bray cannot stay healthy. If Bray is able to play an entire season, then the Vols could win eight or nine games. If he gets injured again, then another losing season is likely, and Tennessee will fire head coach Derek Dooley.
The Vols' schedule is top heavy, with six of their first eight games against bowl teams. They end the season with Troy, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. If they can make it through the first eight games intact, they will have a shot at a good season.
Missouri plays well on the road and will be looking to make a name for itself in its first season in the SEC East Division. The Tigers return dynamic quarterback James Franklin.
Mizzou has smaller running backs, but it is a very physical team with a tough offensive line. They have a solid defense under Dave Steckel. Missouri is the team most likely to upset Tennessee in 2012.
Georgia is coming off an SEC East title and appearance in the SEC championship game. Its schedule is set up for another championship run as it avoids LSU and Alabama again. Georgia will play eight home games in addition to its neutral site game against Florida.
The Bulldogs should be favored in most of their games. The one game that stands out as a possible upset on their schedule is Georgia Tech.
Paul Johnson has that program really rolling. The Yellow Jackets averaged over 300 yards rushing per game in 2011 and return their quarterback and leading rusher, Tevin Washington. They are a formidable opponent for anyone.
The fact that it is a rivalry game at the end of the year and right before the conference title game makes it all the more dangerous for Georgia.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is only 1-3 versus Georgia, but his Jackets tend to play the Bulldogs tough. After another tough SEC season, the Bulldogs could be primed for a letdown before the SEC title game.
Steve Spurrier has turned around the South Carolina program. He has formed it into a consistent top-25 team, which is unheard of in the history of the school. Moreover, he is doing it with dominating defense, which is shocking for those who remember his offenses at Florida and Duke.
Spurrier has his next great defensive player already on campus is rising sophomore Jadeveon Clowney. He justified his No. 1 national ranking coming out of high school with 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks as a true freshman. It will come as a surprise to many if Clowney does not collect double digit sacks this year.
If Marcus Lattimore recovers from a knee injury, then South Carolina should fight it out with Georgia for the SEC East crown.
The game on the schedule that jumps out as a possible upset is its second game of the season against East Carolina.
South Carolina's first game on the road against Vanderbilt will be tough, but the Gamecocks are a veteran team who is used to playing tough road games.
East Carolina will travel to Columbia and bring a high octane passing offense that will test South Carolina's corner's in the second game of the season. The Pirates were 5-7 in 2011 and return quarterback Dominique Davis, who passed for over 3,200 yards. They also return leading receiver Justin Hardy, who averaged slightly more than 10 yards per catch on his 64 receptions.
South Carolina has to find a way to replace departed corner Stephon Gilmore, and the Pirates may be able to take advantage early in the year.
Kentucky finished 2011 with a 5-7 record because it had one of the worst offenses in the country. The anemic Wildcat attack averaged just below 260 yards and 16 points per game.
If Kentucky's offense does not improve in 2012, expect Joker Phillips to be looking for a new job after the season.
The Wildcats take on another 5-7 team at home in their second game of the season when the Kent State Golden Flashes visit Lexington. The Wildcats should be favored in this game, but the Golden Flashes will likely pull the upset.
Kentucky is opening the season against a Louisville team that is better than it is right now. They will return home at 0-1 to face a MAC team that returns a senior quarterback in Spencer Keith.
Kent State won four of its last five games and enters 2012 with a lot of momentum. MAC teams have fared well against their BCS conference brethren as of late, and quite frankly, with Kentucky's offense, anyone is a threat to beat it on any given Saturday.
Kent State is the most likely team to upset Kentucky in 2012.
Vanderbilt is coming off a 6-7 2011 campaign in which it qualified for a bowl game.
The 'Dores are primed for a great 2012 with their leading passer, rusher and receiver returning from their 2011 squad. Much like Georgia, Vanderbilt also does not have to face Alabama or LSU in its conference schedule, so that will help them in its quest to qualify for a bowl again.
Vanderbilt opens with a tough home game against South Carolina and then has to travel on the road to play Northwestern.
Northwestern will be led by Kain Colter at quarterback, who is a dynamic playmaker with tremendous speed. Most of the nation does not know about Colter, but he will make a name for himself in 2012. He was among the Wildcats' leaders in rushing, passing and receiving in 2011.
He should give Northwestern its best playmaker on offense since Darnell Autry was roaming the backfield in Evanston.
With their spread option offense, Northwestern should have enough firepower to upset Vanderbilt at home and give the Big Ten a rare win against an SEC school.