Having completed minimalist schedules for the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and ACC, it’s time to turn to the last Power 5 conference: the SEC. The rules remain exceedingly simple. Every team gets two games, and only two games, in their schedule, one at home and one away (though I let them figure out which is which). The two games are selected based on my own internal combination of rivalry history, national interest, and chaotic potential.
There’s one advantage of the two game schedule I have yet to extol: strategic flexibility. In a traditional season, only so much tinkering can happen over the course of the year. You’ve got to keep some tactical consistency week to week. But if you’re only playing two games (presumably spaced apart a month, if not longer), well, now what you do in Game 1 doesn’t have to resemble what you do in Game 2 in the slightest. Start the year running the Air Raid. End it running the triple option. Make someone really, really mad in the process. That’s what SEC football’s for, after all.
Game 1: LSU
Game 2: Auburn
80% of any normal Alabama season is watching 11 dudes with sticks battle a mechwarrior. The game begins, and Crimson Leviathan makes the proceedings nasty, brutish, and short. (Ole Miss is the exception because they, like the Ewoks, are always too drunk to know they’re supposed to lose.)
This schedule skips the lackluster undercards and gets us straight to the main events. Face Edzilla, the perpetually shirtless and amazingly strong monster that roars unintelligibly as he tries to choke you out! Then enter the arena against Au.B.I.E. (Automatic Battle Infantry Eagle), another mech much like Crimson Leviathan, except its systems act erratically and it’s piloted by someone who washed out of mech pilot training on Day 4.
For any Alabama fans disappointed that the Tennessee game’s not here, I have a solution. Pick an activity that’s easy to accomplish but takes some time, like cleaning a bathroom. Finish that task, then go outside and have a cigar. You have now enjoyed the most productive Third Saturday in October in years.
Game 1: Texas A&M
Game 2: Arkansas State
Arkansas-Texas A&M is the exact same game every year, but still manages to be wildly entertaining. Even though the Razorbacks don’t usually win (they’re currently in the middle of an eight-game losing streak to the Aggies), it’s a day where they get to feel like things are starting to click, and better days are just around the corner.
These dreams usually come right back to Earth shortly thereafter. In this case, that will happen against Arkansas State, a team that’s played ten other SEC schools but never gotten a date with the Hogs. No longer will the trembling Razorbacks duck the Red Wolves!
This also allows us to sell House Divided Arkansas-Arkansas State deer stands.
Game 1: Georgia
Game 2: Alabama
Auburn, you get a chance to make sure Georgia and Alabama both finish without a winning record. This is what you were born to do.
Game 1: Georgia
Game 2: Florida State
Florida is in several ways the opposite of Alabama. The Gators crave the fluff in a full season, the relatively easy wins over mediocre SEC East teams and overmatched, well-paid non-conference opponents. These games are the cotton wool surrounding the anxiety-inducers. Georgia and Florida State are consistently the opponents that reveal whether Florida is Actually Good or just a Schedule Fraud.
There’s no time to coddle Florida fans with a two-game schedule. Face your fears instead of burying them in a home game against New Mexico State.
Game 1: Florida
Game 2: Auburn
Fate demands that Georgia suffer a singular agonizing loss no matter the length of their season, and given the absence of a conference championship or national playoff, it’ll have to be one of these games. Beat Auburn after losing to Florida, and Dawg fans will grumble about how the inferior, cheating Gators deprived them of an undefeated season and a claim to a national title. Beat Florida and then lose to Auburn, and, well, Georgia’s stumbled on the finish line again.
It’s not my fault. This is just how the world’s worked for the last forty years. Take it up with Nature.
Game 1: Louisville
Game 2: Tennessee
John Calipari is going to sing the national anthem at both of these games. The boos will echo for a week solid.
Game 1: Alabama
Game 2: Texas A&M
The Alabama game is on here because we want good, competitive, high-stakes football. The A&M game is on here because we want fights. This does, unfortunately, mean we won’t get to see America’s Heaviest Map, The Golden Boot, but maybe we can replace it with a giant gilded outline of Texas and Louisiana instead.
If you squint it’s like a melted Batman logo, which is only appropriate, because he wouldn’t last five minutes on the Gulf Coast in that suit.
Game 1: Southern Miss
Game 2: Mississippi State
Game 1: Southern Miss
Game 2: Ole Miss
Southern Miss has faced Mississippi State three times in recent seasons, but they haven’t gotten to play Ole Miss since 1984. The Golden Eagles won that last meeting, and are 5-2 in their last seven games against the Rebels. If the Egg Bowl is, as Steven Godfrey likes to say, a bucket of crabs, this is how we stuff it with even more crabs.
Throwing Southern Miss in the mix also raises the stakes for the Egg Bowl itself. If both teams have beaten the Golden Eagles, this becomes an undisputed state championship game. If one has lost, they’re fighting to avoid going winless in-state while the other is trying to finish undefeated. And if both have lost, this is the battle to avoid being Mississippi’s bronze medalist. May the best dog pee pantomimer win! (Well, they lose, but you get the idea.)
Game 1: South Carolina
Game 2: Kansas
The first was a huge showdown in 2013, where South Carolina derailed a potential Missouri spot in the national championship. The second was one of 2007’s greatest thrillers, which put the Tigers on the doorstep of playing for a title. Two different games, from two different times, with one common message: It is best not to think about anything Missouri has done on a football field in the last five years.
Game 1: Missouri
Game 2: Clemson
Con: South Carolina might go 0-2 with this schedule.
Pro: If I told Gamecock fans Will Muschamp would lead the team to a two-loss season, they’d be ecstatic. And that’s why you have to phrase your SEC Genie wishes extremely carefully. (The SEC Genie is just Verne Lundquist covered in blue body paint after a particularly interesting weekend in New Orleans.)
Game 1: Kentucky
Game 2: Vanderbilt
Good afternoon, Holly here. Kindly allow me to play human shield for Ryan for just a second: You might be wondering where Georgia, Florida, and Alabama are. The answer is “somewhere else, playing teams that might actually give them a game.” This is the grade of schedule Tennessee deserves at this point in time. When they’ve proven they’re capable of constructing respectable streaks over the Cats and Dores again, when the notion of closing out November with a couple of sailing division wins is no longer quite so startling, then we’ll put a longer leash on Smokey.
Game 1: Arkansas
Game 2: LSU
The aliens from Independence Day could come to Earth and threaten to destroy the human race if we did not meet their one demand: have Texas and Texas A&M play each other in football. The Aggies and Longhorns would still engage in a months-long game of “well, our schedule is very full and if it’s that important to them they’d propose it first,” before the aliens just gave up and obliterated everything.
Game 1: Wake Forest
Game 2: Tennessee
“The best Vanderbilt football schedule” is a bit like “the tastiest vending machine sandwich.” Anyone who has the necessary knowledge to discuss the subject in depth likely also has untreated listeria.