Ranking the SEC football 2024 strength of schedule: How tough is Kentucky’s 2024 slate?

The Kentucky Wildcats never have an easy time navigating the SEC schedule, but this season with Texas and Oklahoma arriving on the scene, it's getting more and more difficult to be a contender for the conference title.
Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops
Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC is never an easy conference to navigate, even in down years, but with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma, two perennial contenders, the toughest conference in college football just added even more firepower. Teams in the conference didn’t even get one season to enjoy the departure of Nick Saban before the Longhorns and Sooners joined the gauntlet. 

With Saban gone, Kirby Smart emerges as the top dog in the SEC, and with his roster this year, everybody else could be fighting for second place. The crazy thing is that second place, along with third and fourth likely guarantees a spot in the 12-team expanded College Football Playoff. 

This season Kentucky won’t be expecting a playoff birth, but with Mark Stoops still in Lexington, the Wildcats are going to be competitive. Here’s how their schedule stacks up against the rest of the SEC. 

Here are the SEC schedules ranked by difficulty heading into the 2024 season factoring in player and coach movement, not strictly based on last year's results.

. . . . Last Year: 11-2. 531. mizzou. Head Coach: Eli Drinkwitz. . 16

Missouri 2024 schedule: vs. Murray State, vs. Buffalo, vs. Boston College, vs. Vanderbilt, at Texas A&M, at UMass, vs. Auburn, at Alabama, vs. Oklahoma, at South Carolina, at Mississippi State, vs. Arkansas

Missouri gets to avoid Georgia and Texas, potentially the two top contenders for the SEC title. With this easy of a schedule and no tests in non-conference play, Missouri should have a real shot at the College Football Playoff after winning the Cotton Bowl last season. 

Last Year: 11-2. 532. . . 15. Ole Miss. . Head Coach: Lane Kiffin. .

Ole Miss 2024 schedule: vs. Furman, vs. Middle Tennessee, at Wake Forest, vs. Georgia Southern, vs. Kentucky, at South Carolina, at LSU, vs. Oklahoma, at Arkansas, vs. Georgia, at Florida, vs. Mississippi State

Lane Kiffin’s roster is loaded after an impressive performance in the transfer portal. Ole Miss did lose Quinshon Judkins to Ohio State, but otherwise, the Rebels have an elite offense built around Jaxson Dart who could be a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate. Ole Miss could get to its matchup with Georgia undefeated, which would all but lock up a spot in the 12-team playoff regardless of the outcome. 

. Head Coach: Josh Heupel. . 14. Last Year: 9-4. . Tennessee. 534. .

Tennessee 2024 schedule: vs. Chattanooga, vs. NC State, vs. Kent State, at Oklahoma, at Arkansas, vs. Florida, vs. Alabama, vs. Kentucky, vs. Mississippi State, at Georgia, vs. UTEP, at Vanderbilt

Tennessee’s season will ultimately come down to how Nico Iamaleava performs and the true sophomore will have a smooth onboarding process before heading to Norman for a matchup with Oklahoma in the fourth game of the season. A split with Alabama and Georgia is likely best best-case scenario, but as far as an SEC schedule goes, the Vols got off easy. 

. . 13. . . Head Coach: Hugh Freeze. 525. Auburn. . Last Year: 6-7

Auburn 2024 schedule: vs. Alabama A&M, vs. California, vs. New Mexico, vs. Arkansas, vs. Oklahoma, at Georgia, at Missouri, at Kentucky, vs. Vanderbilt, vs. ULM, vs. Texas A&M, at Alabama

Of course, the Iron Bowl is looming at the end of the year and a three-game road trip to Athens, Columbia, and Lexington will be brutal for a young Auburn team, but Hugh Freeze has a light non-conference schedule and could become a contender in the conference this season. With Nick Saban finally gone, this is a big chance for the Tigers to take down the Tide. 

. . . . Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian. Last Year: 12-2. Texas. . 12. 467

Texas 2024 schedule: vs. Colorado State, at Michigan, vs. UTSA, vs. ULM, vs. Mississippi State, vs. Oklahoma, vs. Georgia, at Vanderbilt, vs. Florida, at Arkansas, vs. Kentucky, at Texas A&M

By no means is Texas’s schedule easy for 2024. The Longhorns have an early season trip to Ann Arbor to face the depleted defending champs, then Georgia one week after the Red River Rivalry, but if the Longhorns can get through that stretch relatively unscathed then Texas won’t just be back, they’ll be back-to-back in the CFP. Steve Sarkisian will just need to have his team ready to navigate an SEC schedule.

Texas A&M. . . 11. . 535. . . Head Coach: Mike Elko. Last Year: 7-6

Texas A&M 2024 schedule: vs. Notre Dame, vs. McNeese, at Florida, vs. Bowling Green, vs. Arkansas, vs. Missouri, at Mississippi State, vs. LSU, at South Carolina, vs. New Mexico State, at Auburn, vs. Texas

Mike Elko’s tenure will kick off in primetime on ABC against Notre Dame. That won’t be easy, but the Aggies will have plenty of time to regroup afterward with McNeese, Florida, Bowling Green, and Arkansas before a big-time matchup with Missouri. Texas A&M is challenging itself in the non-conference, a rarity for SEC teams, but its conference slate is a bit easier, until a rekindling of a bitter rivalry with Texas. 

529. . . Last Year: 10-3. . 10. lsu. . Head Coach: Brian Kelly.

LSU 2024 schedule: vs. USC, vs. Nicholls, at South Carolina, vs. UCLA, vs. South Alabama, vs. Ole Miss, at Arkansas, at Texas A&M, vs. Alabama, at Florida, vs. Vanderbilt, vs. Oklahoma

With Texas now in the SEC, LSU is in an interesting spot where their biggest rivals all have a more bitter rivalry in the conference. Texas A&M fit into LSU’s late-season rivalry spot for years, but now Texas fills that role for the Aggies, Alabama has the Iron Bowl, and LSU is left with Oklahoma in the final week of the season. 

. . . South Carolina. Head Coach: Shane Beamer. Last Year: 5-7. . 9. 533.

South Carolina 2024 schedule: vs. Old Dominion, at Kentucky, vs. LSU, vs. Akron, vs. Ole Miss, at Alabama, at Oklahoma, vs. Texas A&M, at Vanderbilt, vs. Missouri, vs. Wofford, at Clemson

The Gamecocks are looking to take a step forward under Shane Beamer, but with Spencer Rattler in the NFL and a mid-season gauntlet featuring Ole Miss, Bama, Oklahoma, and A&M, it won’t be easy for South Carolina to contend in the conference. South Carolina has scheduled enough cupcakes to likely get to bowl eligibility, but with Clemson occupying a non-conference slot, that’s far from a guarantee. 

Kentucky. . Head Coach: Mark Stoops. . . . . Last Year: 7-6. 8. 528

Kentucky 2024 schedule: vs. Southern Miss, vs. South Carolina, vs. Georgia, vs. Ohio, at Ole Miss, vs. Vanderbilt, at Florida, vs. Auburn, at Tennessee, vs. Murray State, at Texas, vs. Louisville

The Wildcats need to figure out who is starting at quarterback and Mark Stoops will only have one game to wage a quarterback battle between Brock Vandagriff and Gavin Wimsatt if he chooses to. Kentucky quickly jumps into SEC play and by September 14th the team better be sharp for a visit from Georgia. The nice thing about Kentucky’s schedule is that non-conference games are interspersed in ideal slots, breaking up games against Georgia and Ole Miss, and later Tennessee and Texas. 

Last Year: 13-1. . . . . 527. uga. 7. Head Coach: Kirby Smart.

Georgia 2024 schedule: vs. Clemson, vs. Tennessee Tech, at Kentucky, at Alabama, vs. Auburn, vs. Mississippi State, at Texas, vs. Florida, at Ole Miss, vs. Tennessee, vs. UMass, vs. Georgia Tech

Georgia isn’t afraid to test itself with matchups like Clemson and Georgia Tech out of SEC play which only bolster the Bulldogs’ case for the No. 1 overall seed in the College Football Playoff this season. Georgia and Ohio State are the rightful title favorites heading into the season, so despite a tough schedule, Kirby Smart’s team is expected to win every game. 

Head Coach: Jeff Lebby. 6. . 530. Mississippi State. Last Year: 5-7. . . .

Mississippi State 2024 schedule: vs. Eastern Kentucky, at Arizona State, vs. Toledo, vs. Florida, at Texas, at Georgia, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Arkansas, vs. UMass, at Tennessee, vs. Missouri, at Ole Miss 

The Egg Bowl will be tougher than ever for Mississippi State. Ole Miss is coming off one of its best seasons in program history and Lane Kiffin made the roster better in the offseason. Jeff Lebby will not have an easy time competing with his biggest rival in his first year at the helm.

. . . . . 5. 524. Last Year: 4-8. Arkansas. Head Coach: Sam Pittman

Arkansas 2024 schedule: vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, at Oklahoma State, vs. UAB, at Auburn, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Tennessee, vs. LSU, at Mississippi State, vs. Ole Miss, vs. Texas, vs. Louisiana Tech, at Missouri

Sam Pittman could be entering his final year at Arkansas if 2024 goes anything like 2023. The schedule that the Razorbacks have drawn in the SEC certainly won’t help his job security. There aren’t many games on the schedule where Arkansas will be favored, even without Georgia or Alabama looming. 

Head Coach: Clark Lea. 4. Last Year: 2-10. . 537. . Vandy. . .

Vanderbilt 2024 schedule: vs. Virginia Tech, vs. Alcorn State, at Georgia State, at Missouri, vs. Alabama, at Kentucky, vs. Ball State, vs. Texas, at Auburn, vs. South Carolina, at LSU, vs. Tennessee

Like Sam Pittman, Clark Lea may not see the end of the 2024 season with a difficult schedule and struggles in the past two seasons. The Commodores are likely to finish last in the SEC again and if there isn’t progress, the program could cut bait with its head coach. Closing the conference schedule with LSU and Tennessee means that Vandy needs to get off to a hot start. 

Alabama. . . Head Coach: Kalen DeBoer. Last Year: 12-2. 523. 3. . .

Alabama 2024 schedule: vs. Western Kentucky, vs. South Florida, at Wisconsin, vs. Georgia, at Vanderbilt, vs. South Carolina, at Tennessee, vs. Missouri, at LSU, vs. Mercer, at Oklahoma, vs. Auburn

There is no tougher task in sports than being the guy who follows a legend. That’s Kalen DeBoer’s objective in his first season replacing Nick Saban and with an SEC schedule that begins with a visit from Georgia and includes trips to Knoxville and Baton Rouge he could struggle to keep Alabama atop the conference. 

Oklahoma. . . Head Coach: Brent Venables. Last Year: 10-3. 464. . 2. .

Oklahoma 2024 schedule: vs. Temple, vs. Houston, vs. Tulane, vs. Tennessee, at Auburn, vs. Texas, vs. South Carolina, at Ole Miss, vs. Maine, at Missouri, vs. Alabama, at LSU

Welcome to the SEC Oklahoma, there are no easy games on your conference schedule anymore. Any team that doesn’t draw Vanderbilt or Mississippi State this year has an absolutely brutal slate of conference games. The program was smart to soften its non-conference competition to avoid a five or six-loss season, but Brent Venables still can’t waltz into his new conference expecting to win 10 games with a first-time starting quarterback in Jackson Arnold. 

. Last Year: 5-7. . 526. Flroida. Head Coach: Billy Napier. 1. . .

Florida 2024 schedule: vs. Miami, vs. Samford, vs. Texas A&M, at Mississippi State, vs. UCF, at Tennessee, vs. Kentucky, vs. Georgia, at Texas, vs. LSU, vs. Ole Miss, at Florida State

It’s essentially universally recognized that Florida has the toughest schedule in the entire country. Not only do the Gators have to deal with Georgia, Texas, LSU, and Ole Miss in four consecutive games, but in a make-or-break season for Billy Napier, his schedule is bookended by matchups with Miami and Florida State. Even the UCF non-conference matchup isn’t an easy one. 

Florida will play seven teams this year that have legitimate CFP aspirations and regardless of the state of the program in Year 3 of the Napier era, the Gators will be lucky to win six games.

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