The SEC West out of conference schedules involve very minimal amount of travelling for the seven teams in the division. Only Arkansas and Mississippi State play true road games in 2016 with Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU playing neutral site games against power five opponents.
So how strong is the out of conference schedule for the teams in the West in 2016?
2016 SEC West Out of Conference Schedules
Alabama Crimson Tide: USC (at AT&T Stadium, Texas), Western Kentucky (home), Kent State (home) and Chattanooga (home).
A neutral site game against USC is arguably the most anticipated game of the season’s opening weekend. Alabama will be favored but USC are always dangerous given the talent they have especially on offense, where they also return ten starters. Western Kentucky is one of the strongest mid-major programs. They are the defending Conference USA Champions and have two straights seasons ending in bowl victories. But they are unlikely to trouble the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Kent State and Chattanooga should be simple cupcake wins.
Arkansas Razorbacks: Louisiana Tech (home), TCU (away), Texas State (home) and Alcorn State (home)
The Razorbacks are one of the few teams without a marquee out of conference game to start the season. But a visit to Fort Worth to play TCU will be a highly anticipated game against a strong opponent. Louisiana Tech, a team that took Kansas State to triple-overtime last year, is a game that Arkansas can’t sleep on given their loss to Toledo early in 2015. Neither Texas State nor Alcorn State should pose a serious threat to the Razorbacks.
Auburn Tigers: Clemson (home), Arkansas State (home), Louisiana-Monroe (home) and Alabama A&M (home)
Season opening games don’t come much tougher than playing the only team to go 12-0 during the regular season last year. The Clemson Tigers come to the Plains expecting to make another national championship run. Clemson returns the best quarterback in the country in DeShaun Watson to test an Auburn defense that gave up over 27 points in the 2015 regular season. Elsewhere Arkansas State (9-4 in 2015, with loses to USC and Missouri) is a respectable group of five team capable of giving Auburn trouble if they aren’t fully prepared. Louisiana-Monroe is coming off a two-win season and Alabama A&M is an FCS team, so Auburn is expected to take care of business in those two contests.
LSU Tigers: Wisconsin (at Lambeau Field, Wisconsin), Jacksonville State (home), Southern Miss (home) and South Alabama (home).
A historic game at Lambeau Field should see a lot of Tigers fans in attendance despite the 1,119 mile drive. Wisconsin had a solid year in 2015 and managed to hang around with Alabama in their season opener. With College GameDay broadcasting from Lambeau Field, the nation will be watching these two programs kick off their 2016 campaigns. Southern Miss is coming off a nine win season and returns star quarterback Nick Mullens (63.5% and 4476 yards in 2015), who could test the Tiger defense. The other two games should be manageable at home although FCS Jacksonville State took Auburn to overtime last year.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: South Alabama (home), UMass (away), BYU (away) and Samford (home).
Mississippi State is the only division team with two out of conference road games. Technically no power five opponents on the schedule but BYU are generally included in that group as an independent. A trip to Provo during the season will be tough. Massachusetts joins the FBS Independents this year as well, but won’t be the same test as BYU. The Bulldogs trip to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough certainly qualifies as one of the stranger out of conference games in 2016. South Alabama and Samford should be routine victories.
Ole Miss Rebels: Florida State (Citrus Bowl, Florida), Wofford (home), Memphis (home) and Georgia Southern (home)
Ole Miss starts a critical season at a neutral site against Florida State. Orlando, however, won’t be very neutral as it is much closer to Tallahassee than it is to Oxford. After last year the Rebels can’t be too careful against Memphis, even with Paxton Lynch or Justin Fuente at the helm. Georgia Southern are a potentially dangerous group of five team after going 9-4 in 2015 and making their first bowl game since joining the FBS last year and dominating the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Wofford shouldn’t present a challenge to Ole Miss.
Texas A&M Aggies: UCLA (home), Prairie View A&M (home), New Mexico State (home) and UTSA (home).
The Aggies have a familiar feel to their non-conference games. They start the season with a PAC-12 opponent followed by home games against small local schools. UCLA are likely to be a stronger opponent behind Josh Rosen at quarterback than Arizona State turned out to be in 2015. UTSA and New Mexico State both only won three games last year. Prairie View A&M is an FCS school that will get a nice pay-out from the 30-mile trip to College Station.