Now that the SEC released their 2024 schedule (well, at least the opponents for every team and game locations) we can begin the 15 month process of anticipating, debating, and pontificating on the schedules. Who got the short end of the stick? What games are we looking forward to the most? What games did we want that we did not get? Well, let’s look at answering one of those questions. Even though this is a tough process to do a full season in advance, why not let’s go ahead and look at who will have the toughest SEC football schedule in 2024.
In the SEC (especially with Oklahoma and Texas being added in), everyone has a tough schedule. There aren’t really any walks in the park when it comes to SEC football play. So, just because a schedule is not included does not mean I think it is easy. However, a couple of schedules do stick out from the rest as being the most difficult.
Also, even though we do not know *when* these games will take place (which factors heavily into a schedule’s difficulty), we can at least rank the toughest schedules in terms of opponents (and whether those games are home or away).
Also of note, I did not factor in non-conference opponents for this ranking. This is just a ranking looking at the eight conference games for every team as released by the SEC on Wednesday night (even though I did mention a few marque non-conference games).
Here are the six toughest SEC football schedules for 2024:
Ranking the 6 toughest SEC football 2024 conference schedules
Georgia’s schedule is headlined by what will be arguably the premier college football game of the 2024 season against Alabama, plus some tough rivalry games staying on the schedule (Auburn and Florida). Also staying on the schedule is the powerhouse offense of Tennessee. I haven’t even mentioned that on the schedule is a big road trip to Austin for what will be a highly anticipated matchup of two huge brands as the Dawgs take on Texas (who could be led by Arch Manning in 2024). Georgia’s schedule is rounded out by games against Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Mississippi State (who all went to bowl games in 2022). Georgia’s schedule is headlined by Alabama, includes games against Tennessee, Auburn, Florida, and Texas, and it doesn’t really include any cakewalks. That gives it a spot in our top six for sure. Georgia will also only get three true SEC football home games in 2024 with the neutral site Florida game in Jacksonville being a Georgia home game. It was not taken into consideration here, but Georgia will also play Clemson in non-conference action. It wouldn’t surprise me if Georgia’s preseason schedule has three or four top 10 teams on it.
Alabama’s schedule is headlined by the previously mentioned highly captivating game against the two-time defending National Champion Georgia Bulldogs. While that game is at home, it will likely be one of the toughest games of the season for both teams (there’s a good chance it will be a top five matchup both preseason, and at the time of the game). Alabama will also be hosting the Iron Bowl in 2024, which is almost always a tough game. Alabama also has to make a couple of very difficult road trips in 2024. Road trips to Death Valley (LSU) and Neyland Stadium (Tennessee) are two of the most difficult places to play in the country, and traveling to Oklahoma won’t be easy either. Alabama will also host the up-start South Carolina Gamecocks.
The SEC is not giving Oklahoma any breaks in the Sooners first year in the SEC in 2024. For starters, Oklahoma must play both Alabama and Tennessee. While those games are at home, they will be very tough ones at that. Oklahoma also has to make a couple extremely difficult road trips. LSU and Auburn are two of the toughest environments to play at in the country. There’s also obviously the huge rivalry game against Texas that will be sticking around in both team’s first season in the SEC (and presumably from then on as well). Ole Miss and South Carolina could also be sneaky difficult games, depending on how Lane Kiffin and Shane Beamer continue to build those two programs respectively. Oklahoma will also only get three true home SEC games in 2024 due to one of their home games being the Texas game being played at the Texas State Fair in Dallas.
Auburn gets the dubious distinction of being the only team in the SEC having to play in both Tuscaloosa and Athens in 2024 (and one of just two teams having to play both Alabama and Georgia). With one of the distinctions in the 2024 schedules being that none of the matchups in 2024 will be at the same place that they were in 2023 (outside of neutral site rivalries), that means that at least for 2024, Auburn will stay on the rotation of playing both of those games on the road every other year. Outside of those two, games against Texas A&M, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kentucky will all also likely be difficult affairs. While Auburn does have some very winnable games on their schedule, those two at the top, plus a couple other difficult games catapult this schedule into the top three.
Who is the other team who has to play both Alabama and Georgia? It’s the Vols. That automatically makes this one of the toughest schedules in the SEC (and the nation). However, the difficulty does not stop there. Tennessee also draws some other difficult games against Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi State, and Kentucky. Even though a large part of determining the difficulty of the schedule will depend on whether Sam Pittman keeps Arkansas moving up, how quickly Brent Venables and Billy Napier can get Oklahoma and Florida respectively turned around, and where Kentucky is that season. I believe that at least a couple of those teams will be very strong in 2023 and/or 2024, making this a likely very tough schedule (outside of the two games against Alabama and Georgia).
The (used to be) World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Georgia headlines Florida’s 2024 schedule, but the difficulty does not stop there. Florida will also take tough road trips to Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi State (all three being very tough places to play). The Gators will also host a tough group of opponents heading into Gainesville. 2022 SEC-runner up’ LSU will play at Florida, and the Gators will also host Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Kentucky. Seven of Florida’s 2024 SEC opponents made bowl games in 2022, and the only one who didn’t is Texas A&M (who signed the No. 1 recruiting class before 2022, and many expect to take a big step forward in 2023 and 2024). A schedule being that deep, and being headlined by Georgia puts Florida at the top as having the most difficult 2024 SEC football schedule in my opinion. Also, while it wasn’t taken into consideration in these rankings, I couldn’t go without mentioning Florida playing three Power 5 non-conference opponents (all in-state) in Miami (FL), Florida State, and UCF. Talk about a brutally tough 2024 schedule.