- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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We'll be taking a closer look in the coming weeks at every SEC school's 2013 schedule with our annual schedule analysis.
In just about every schedule in this league, there’s an ominous three-game stretch somewhere along the way.
Who faces the most difficult three-game stretch next season in the SEC?
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. Arkansas: at Florida, Oct. 5; South Carolina, Oct. 12; at Alabama, Oct. 19
The skinny: All three opponents will start the season in the top 10 nationally, and two of the games are on the road. Not only that, but if you expanded it to four games, it's a stretch that starts with a home game against Texas A&M on Sept. 28. That's four games in four weeks against teams that all could be in the national championship equation.
2. Mississippi State: at South Carolina, Nov. 2; at Texas A&M, Nov. 9; Alabama, Nov. 16
The skinny: The only saving grace is that Mississippi State will have a little extra time to prepare for South Carolina after playing a Thursday night game the previous week at home against Kentucky. Otherwise, it's a grueling stretch. The Bulldogs' "reward" after facing the Gamecocks and Aggies in back-to-back weeks on the road is a home game with the Crimson Tide.
3. Ole Miss: at Alabama, Sept. 28; at Auburn, Oct. 5; Texas A&M, Oct. 12
The skinny: Any time you have to face Alabama and Texas A&M in a span of three weeks, it's going to test your manhood. Back-to-back trips to Bryant-Denny Stadium and Jordan-Hare Stadium are never a lot of fun, and then the Aggies come to Oxford on the back end of that stretch. The good news for the Rebels is that Texas A&M's visit is the first of six straight home dates.
4. LSU: at Georgia, Sept. 28; at Mississippi State, Oct. 5; Florida, Oct. 12
The skinny: We'll know what the Tigers are made of by the middle of October. They open the season against TCU at Cowboys Stadium. Traveling to Athens and Starkville in successive weeks won't be any picnic, and then Florida comes to town to complete a stretch that could make or break LSU's season.
5. Florida: Georgia (in Jacksonville), Nov. 2; Vanderbilt, Nov. 9; at South Carolina, Nov. 16
The skinny: It's a stretch that includes two tough games away from home against a pair of preseason top 10 teams, and the days of Vanderbilt being a pushover are long gone. The East race could easily come down to that showdown in Columbia, where the Gamecocks are 25-3 over the past four seasons.
4dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
5dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf