SEC Football: Power Ranking the 5 Toughest In-Conference Schedules

T.J. Mcaloon@@tjmcaloonContributorSeptember 10, 2013

SEC Football: Power Ranking the 5 Toughest In-Conference Schedules

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    Every year, the SEC boasts one of the toughest conferences to play in. The five teams on this list have a brutal mixture of difficult games from both their division and the conference's other division. 

    The SEC is the only conference that can brag about two things: having the only back-to-back national champion and having produced the past seven champions. 

    Because of the strength of their schedules, a one- or two-loss school normally leapfrogs a school from the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 or Pac-12. Every week it seems as if these five schools are playing in a high-profiled contest between two ranked teams.

    One of these schools, if it is lucky and can go undefeated, is usually guaranteed a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. 

5. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Alabama may not have the same number of ranked opponents on its schedule compared to other teams on this list or in its conference this year.

    However, the Tide have the distinction of being the team that every program circles on its schedule as a big game. They will get the treatment that every game they play is the national title game for that school. If a team can beat Alabama, it will go down as that university's biggest win of its season.

    The Tide do, however, have to go on the road to College Station, Texas to play the only team to beat them last year, Texas A&M. 

    On paper, this is their toughest road game in 2013.

    Plus, Alabama fans may overlook the season's final contest at Auburn. The Tigers are better than the squad that went into Alabama last year. They could pose a threat to what should be a Crimson Tide team looking to finish off the regular season 12-0. 

4. Auburn Tigers

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    Auburn has the look of a team that will run the ball a lot. Through two games, the Tigers are averaging 298 yards per game, good enough to rank them 15th in the NCAA. 

    If they can continue to focus on the run, it should help them when they begin a brutal SEC schedule. 

    Their road games are a murderers' row of conference opponents from the SEC West division. In the span of four weeks, the Tigers have to travel to LSU and Texas A&M.

    While their road schedule is tough, their home slate of games doesn't get any easier.

    Auburn will host Ole Miss the week before it travels to LSU. Then the Tigers have the difficult task of playing Georgia and Alabama in consecutive weeks to close the season. If they haven't achieved bowl eligibility by those games, then they may not reach the six-win mark. 

3. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Tennessee, like Auburn, is trying to get back to the top of its division and into a bowl game. However, unlike the Tigers, the Volunteers have a stretch in the middle of their schedule that is a nightmare.

    In the span of seven weeks they have to play four ranked opponents: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.

    If they can somehow come out of this 1-3, or 2-2, they then finish their season with a road game at Missouri and home games against Auburn and Vanderbilt. 

    Tennessee has looked good, starting the season 2-0. However, with this brutal slate of games, the Volunteers will be lucky to hit six wins. 

2. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Arkansas has the second-toughest SEC schedule in 2013 with a perfect storm of home and away games against the East and West divisions of the conference.

    For four consecutive weeks the Razorbacks have to play ranked teams: Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama.

    Then, after that brutal group of games, Arkansas hosts Auburn, goes on the road to Ole Miss, comes back home to play Mississippi State and finishes off its season on the road against LSU.

    If head coach Bret Bielema can get this team to six wins and into a bowl game, he should be nominated for Coach of the Year in the SEC. 

1. LSU Tigers

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    LSU has the toughest schedule in the SEC this season for a couple of reasons. 

    For starters, the Tigers have to be perfect to win their division. If they aren't perfect, then they have to hope that they beat Alabama on the road, where the Tide have lost only three times over their past six seasons. 

    Aside from Alabama, the Tigers have a brutal conference road schedule as they head to Georgia, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Then, if LSU does get past Alabama and takes control of the West division, the following week it takes on Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies.

    Last season, Manziel and the Aggies upset Alabama on the road after the Tide survived a brutal game against LSU.

    If the Tigers can get past this terrifying schedule, they will be playing in the BCS National Championship Game.