- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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We’ve dissected the 2011 schedules for all 12 SEC teams, and in just about every schedule, there’s an ominous three-game stretch somewhere along the way.
You know, the kind of stretch you look at in May and immediately start sweating profusely.
Who faces the most difficult three-game stretch next season?
We’ve selected the top five, and for clarification, it has to be three games in three successive weeks without a bye.
So here goes:
1. Florida: Alabama on Oct. 1, at LSU on Oct. 8 and at Auburn on Oct. 15
The skinny: Back-to-back games against Alabama and LSU are daunting enough, but what makes this the toughest three-game stretch in the league is having to go on the road the final two games against LSU and Auburn. Good thing the warmup's a home date with the Crimson Tide, huh?
2. Tennessee: LSU on Oct. 15, at Alabama on Oct. 22 and South Carolina on Oct. 29
The skinny: Had two of these games not been at home, Tennessee might have challenged Florida for the toughest three-game stretch. October could be a nightmare for the Vols, who face Georgia at home on Oct. 8 before diving into three more SEC head-knockers.
3. Auburn: at Arkansas on Oct. 8, Florida on Oct. 15 and at LSU on Oct. 22
The skinny: Just a grueling gauntlet of games for the defending national champions. And if you want to stretch it out to four games, Auburn kicks it off with South Carolina in Columbia on Oct. 1. That’s three killer road SEC games in four weeks.
4. Arkansas: at Alabama on Sept. 24, Texas A&M in Arlington Texas on Oct. 1 and Auburn on Oct. 8
The skinny: We’ll find out pretty quickly if the Hogs are indeed a serious player in the national championship race. Alabama’s a top 5 team, and Texas A&M may be Oklahoma’s stiffest competition in the Big 12. Both games are away from home, too.
5. Kentucky: Florida on Sept. 24, at LSU on Oct. 1 and at South Carolina on Oct. 8.
The skinny: The Wildcats had better figure out a way to beat Florida at home, because back-to-back road trips to LSU and South Carolina will make for a rugged start to the month of October.
38mSam Khan Jr.
1dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough