- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Crossover conference games received a lot of attention at the 2012 SEC spring meetings. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and LSU's Les Miles made it clear that they'd like to see those games count for less in divisional standings and there was also discussion of how to organize these games now that the league has expanded to 14 teams.
SEC teams are set to play a 6-1-1 model this year and beyond when it comes to conference games, meaning teams will have a permanent crossover and one rotator each year.
We're taking a page out of ACC blogger Heather Dinich's book by ranking the crossover matchups for each team in each division. Each team has only two crossovers with an eight-game conference schedule, but that won't stop us from ranking the schedules.
Here's how we ranked the Eastern Division's 2012 crossover schedules, starting with the most difficult:
1. South Carolina (at LSU, Arkansas): South Carolina yet again doesn't catch much of a break when it comes to playing its western counterparts. LSU should yet again be competing for a national championship, and any game in Death Valley is going to be tough. Arkansas might be without Bobby Petrino at the helm, but this team is still pretty strong and could still contend in the West. Plus, the Gamecocks haven't had much success against the Razorbacks recently.
2. Florida (at Texas A&M, LSU): Will Muschamp said earlier this spring that College Station, Texas, mimicked an SEC town very well on game day and the Gators will have to go there for the Aggies' first-ever SEC game -- with a duo of young QBs too. Electric won't begin to describe the atmosphere there during the second week of the season. LSU is in the Swamp, but that doesn't make the Tigers any less threatening.
3. Tennessee (at Mississippi State, Alabama): The Bulldogs are looking to make up for a disappointing 2011. Trips to Starkville are always tough and the Bulldogs could be hitting their stride during the midpoint of the season. Alabama might be at home this season, but it's still coming off that national title victory and will still be competing for a Western Division in 2012. Plus, both these games come after a trip to Georgia.
4. Missouri (Alabama, at Texas A&M): Missouri's welcome to the SEC comes with a visit from the defending national champions. Sure it's a home game, but it's still Alabama. These Tigers aren't strangers to College Station, but that doesn't mean it'll be a walk in the park inside one of the most exciting venues in college football.
5. Kentucky (Mississippi State, at Arkansas): Kentucky has developed a little rivalry with Mississippi State, so there's some excitement that builds around this game each year on both sides. And the Bulldogs will be looking to make a better run in the league in 2012. Arkansas should have one of the top offenses in the league, while Kentucky has quite a few holes to fill on defense.
6. Georgia (Ole Miss, at Auburn): Georgia took some criticism for its crossover schedule last year, and for the second straight year the Bulldogs don't face any of the Big Three out West. Ole Miss is coming off of a two-win season, making that a less-than-intimidating home game on paper. Auburn is still young, but the Tigers are also more experienced, so that trip to Auburn could be tricky.
7. Vanderbilt (Auburn, at Ole Miss): Like Georgia, the Commodores won't see any members of the Big Three during the regular season. Having Auburn at home benefits Vanderbilt much more than having to travel to play the Tigers. Ole Miss hasn't had much of a home field advantage in Oxford recently, and the Commodores have won two straight against the Rebels in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.