Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Monday, May 14, 2012
SEC's top nonconference games in 2012

By Chris Low

The 2012 nonconference slate involving SEC teams isn't as attractive as a year ago.

There just aren't as many marquee matchups with schools from other BCS conferences. That's something that will change if strength of schedule is given more weight in the selection process for the teams participating in the proposed national playoff.

Here's a look at our top five nonconference games involving SEC teams for the 2012 season:

1. Alabama vs. Michigan, in Arlington, Texas, Sept. 1: Nick Saban likes the idea of playing a big-name opponent at a neutral site. The Crimson Tide get the Wolverines in Cowboys Stadium to open the season in what will likely be a matchup of preseason top-10 teams. Alabama will be somewhere in the top 5 after winning its second national championship in three seasons a year ago, and Michigan appears to be on the move after Brady Hoke led the Wolverines to 11 wins, including a victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, in his debut season a year ago.

2. South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 24: The Gamecocks have won three in a row over the Tigers, the first time that's happened since 1968-70, and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has made sure everybody is well aware of the Gamecocks' current winning streak in a rivalry that has historically been dominated by the Tigers. The game is in Death Valley this season, and the last thing Dabo Swinney and Co. want to endure is another loss to South Carolina. The Gamecocks haven't won four in a row in this series since 1951-54.

3. Auburn vs. Clemson, in Atlanta, Sept. 1: The second part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game weekend, the Auburn-Clemson tilt will mark the third straight year that these two teams have met. Auburn has a new offensive coordinator and new defensive coordinator, and Clemson has a new defensive coordinator. The winner of this game the last two years has gone on to play in a BCS bowl. The game will be played on Saturday in the Georgia Dome. NC State and Tennessee will meet the day before in the Georgia Dome.

4. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 24: Yes, these two teams play every year. But, yes, it's still one of the best rivalries in college football, especially now that Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles back in the national spotlight. It's a big second season for Florida coach Will Muschamp, and one of the things he's going to be judged on is how he does against Florida's two biggest rivals. The Gators lost to both Georgia and Florida State a year ago, which hadn't happened since 1989. Look for this rivalry to get really spicy again.

5. Washington at LSU, Sept. 8: LSU has scaled back this season after facing Oregon at a neutral site and West Virginia on the road a year ago. The Huskies venture into Tiger Stadium the second week of the season, which should give us some early answers about this LSU defense. Can the Tigers be even better on that side of the ball than they were last season? Washington quarterback Keith Price will put them to the test. He threw 31 touchdown passes last season as a sophomore and completed 67 percent of his passes.

A few others to watch: