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Top Ten 2019 SEC Non-Conference Games

By Dave Holcomb
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Here are the Top 10 non-conference games involving SEC teams in 2019.

The SEC non-conference slate presents some of the best rivalry games around the country. But in 2019, several unusual home-and-home series matchups will highlight the SEC’s non-conference schedule.

Of the ten games on our list, more than half of them are either on the first (technically second) or last Saturday of the season. In other words, get the DVR ready.

Here are the Top 10 non-conference games involving SEC teams in 2019:

10. Kansas State at Mississippi State, Sept. 14

The Bulldogs and Wildcats met last season for the first time in more than 40 years. Mississippi State cruised to a 31-10 victory in Manhattan.

That was Bulldogs coach Joe Moorhead’s first win against a Power 5 team at Mississippi State. Kansas State new coach Chris Klieman will be searching for his first Power 5 win after facing Nicholls State and Bowling Green the first two weeks of this season.

9. Ole Miss at Memphis, Aug. 31

This is a classic rivalry that we unfortunately don’t get to see much anymore. From 1949-95, these two programs played every year except three.

Ole Miss and Memphis continued to play regularly in the late 1990’s and 2000’s, but they’ve squared off just three times this decade. Ole Miss is 2-1 in those games, but both Rebels wins were vacated.

Just about 80 miles separate these two schools. This should be an underrated fun one on the first full Saturday of the season.

8. Alabama vs. Duke, Aug. 31

This contest means a lot more to the ACC, which is why it’s ranked higher on the Top ACC non-conference games than on this list. But in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this should be entertaining at least for awhile.

Alabama played in the first-ever game at Mercedes-Benz (not counting NFL preseason) against Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff two years ago. In the process of embarrassing the Seminoles, the Crimson Tide changed the course of history at Florida State by injuring quarterback Deondre Francois.

Last season, Alabama absolutely crushed Louisville on opening weekend. Maybe it would have happened anyway, but that helped throw the Cardinals football program into an early tailspin.

How will the course of history be altered as a result of this one?

7. Clemson at South Carolina, Nov. 29

A few years ago, it would have been hard leaving this matchup out of the Top 5, but Clemson is currently on a five-game winning streak in this rivalry. Interestingly, South Carolina won the five previous matchups, meaning the two programs have split their last 10 games. Still, the Tigers’ recent dominance has lowered the importance of this rivalry nationally.

South Carolina would love nothing more than to remind the country that rivalries always mean something. It’s quite possible that the Gamecocks will once again have a shot to spoil Clemson’s playoff hopes with a win on the final weekend.

6. South Carolina vs. North Carolina, Aug. 31

South Carolina slips onto our list a second time, which is hard to do. Only two SEC programs are on this list twice.

For the second time in five years, North Carolina and South Carolina will square off at Bank of America Stadium in the Belk College Kickoff Game in Charlotte.

The Gamecocks won that last matchup, but the Tar Heels went off to win their next 11 games following that defeat. South Carolina can start the Mack Brown era in Chapel Hill with a loss by capturing a win in their first game.

5. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 29

This is another classic SEC-ACC rivalry matchup. Similar to Clemson-South Carolina, the ACC has dominated it recently with Florida State having won seven of the last nine contests in the rivalry.

But that may be changing. Florida won last season, 41-14, in a matchup that featured two first-year head coaches (Dan Mullen and Willie Taggart).

Both programs hope to still be in the playoff race on the final weekend of the season, but even if they aren’t, this game will be extremely important. The Gators proving they are now the top program in Florida will be huge for recruiting, and they can do that with wins against both Florida State and Miami this season.

4. Auburn vs. Oregon, Aug. 31

For the second straight year, Auburn will play in a very interesting neutral site contest on opening weekend. Once again, they won’t travel far, playing in the southeast (sort of -- Dallas) against a Pac-12 opponent.

Last year, Auburn beat Washington at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, 21-16, in a matchup featuring two Top 10 teams. Unfortunately, Auburn didn’t remain in the Top 10 past the first week of October.

Both Auburn and Oregon have outside hopes of making noise in the College Football Playoff race during 2019. At the very least, the two programs expect to be involved in their division races. This game won’t have an impact on the latter, but the winner could enter primitive playoff discussions if they also have a strong first month.

3. Florida vs. Miami, Aug. 24

As previously mentioned, Florida also plays Miami in a battle for state supremacy this season. This is another matchup college football fans wish they could watch every year, but unfortunately, Florida doesn’t usually have an interest in playing Florida State and Miami each season.

These two programs last played in 2013, when the Hurricanes won, 21-16. Miami has won five of the last six contests in this matchup.

This would be high on the list anyway, but the importance of this game rises because of its date. Florida and Miami will meet during Week 0 when there is just one other game scheduled. With not much else to discuss, that means sports radio will likely take the result and completely blow it out of proportion for both sides.

2. Texas A&M at Clemson, Sept. 7

In a normal year, this contest would be No. 1. That’s where it ranked on the ACC Top 10 non-conference games of 2019.

The Aggies and Tigers met last season, playing a highly-entertaining game at College Station. Trevor Lawrence had yet to become Clemson’s starting quarterback, but Texas A&M played well and was just a made two-point conversion away from forcing overtime.

The rematch could be even better. If the Aggies truly want to take a step forward this season and became a playoff contender, competing and even possibly upsetting Clemson would be a huge step.

Of course, the Jimbo Fisher-Dabo Swinney chess match makes this game a can’t-miss contest as well. Fisher is 4-5 all-time against Swinney.

1. Notre Dame at Georgia, Sept. 21

While the runner-up of the list should be an outstanding game, Notre Dame-Georgia is clearly the top non-conference matchup involving an SEC team this fall.

Of all the games on this list, this is the only one featuring a playoff team from both 2017 and 2018. Both programs expect to be in the playoffs again this winter.

It’s possible that each will make the College Football Playoffs, especially if this is a close one or if Georgia loses and then runs the table in the SEC. Either way, the winner will have a huge signature win in the eyes of the committee come playoff time.

Without a doubt, this contest has the biggest playoff implications of any non-conference game in the SEC and maybe throughout the entire country during 2019.