What looks like a killer schedule right now may not look as menacing five or six weeks into the season. The opposite of that is true, too. Did anybody have Texas A&M pegged as a top-10 team this time a year ago?
The truth is that it's easier to evaluate schedules at the end of the season than it is at the beginning. But as we get ready for kickoff in the SEC next week, it's worth examining who has the toughest road to hoe based on the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll.
Our number today: 5.
Tennessee and Kentucky are the only two teams in the country this season that play five top-10 teams in the AP preseason poll. The Vols play four of the top-6 teams -- No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon, No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina. They also face No. 10 Florida. The Wildcats face No. 1 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 South Carolina, No. 9 Louisville and No. 10 Florida. Tennessee gets the unenviable task of having to play Alabama, Florida and Oregon all on the road. The Vols are zero for their last 15 against top-10 opponents. Their last win came in 2006 when they beat No. 10 Georgia 51-33 on the road. The Wildcats last won against a top-10 foe in 2010 when they knocked off No. 10 South Carolina 31-28 at home. And you want the irony of all ironies? The two teams that have won just four SEC games between them over the last two years -- Kentucky and Tennessee -- have to face more preseason top-10 teams than anybody else in the league. Not only that, but Alabama and Texas A&M are the only two teams in the SEC that don’t have to play at least two top-10 teams this season. They face each other on Sept. 14, and that’s it. They both obviously have to play LSU, and the Tigers could easily be a top-10 team when those games are played. But LSU enters the season ranked No. 12 in the AP poll. The team with the most brutal stretch of games is Arkansas, and it’s really not even close. The Hogs are the only team in the country that has to face four preseason top-10 teams in four consecutive weeks. They play Texas A&M at home on Sept. 28, Florida on the road on Oct. 5, South Carolina at home on Oct. 12 and Alabama on the road on Oct. 19. Georgia gets the nod for having the toughest schedule to open the season. The Bulldogs play at No. 8 Clemson in the Aug. 31 opener, then face No. 6 South Carolina at home the next week and take on No. 12 LSU at home to close the first month on Sept. 28.