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Top 25 toughest schedules (cont.)

Posted: Thursday June 21, 2007 12:52PM; Updated: Thursday June 21, 2007 4:04PM
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By Steve Megargee, Special to SI.com, Rivals.com

6. Tennessee

Tennessee schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 at California
Sept. 8 Southern Miss.
Sept. 15 at Florida
Sept. 22 Arkansas State
Oct. 6 Georgia
Oct. 13 at Miss. State
Oct. 20 at Alabama
Oct. 27 South Carolina
Nov. 3 La.-Lafayette
Nov. 10 Arkansas
Nov. 17 Vanderbilt
Nov. 24 at Kentucky

Combined record of Division I-A opponents: 92-63 (.594)
Bowl teams: Eight
Home games: Seven
Division I-AA opponents: None
AP Top 25 teams: Four (two at home)

Why they're No. 6: Tennessee's difficult season opener at California and its relatively tough matchup with Southern Mississippi compensate for the cakewalks against Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette that make up the rest of the Vols' nonconference schedule. Tennessee avoids Auburn and Louisiana State from the SEC West, but a trip to Alabama and a home game with Arkansas still offer quite a challenge. And this is an odd year, which means Tennessee must go to Gainesville for its annual showdown with Florida.

7. Florida

Florida schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 W. Kentucky
Sept. 8 Troy
Sept. 15 Tennessee
Sept. 22 at Ole Miss
Sept. 29 Auburn
Oct. 6 at LSU
Oct. 20 at Kentucky
Oct. 27 vs. Georgia
Nov. 3 Vanderbilt
Nov. 10 at South Carolina
Nov. 17 Florida Atlantic
Nov. 24 Florida State

Combined record of Division I-A opponents: 84-56 (.600)
Bowl teams: Eight
Home games: Seven (not including Georgia at Jacksonville)
Division I-AA opponents: One
AP Top 25 teams: Four (two at home, one at neutral site)

Why they're No. 7: Remember that brutal midseason stretch last year when the Gators faced Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana State, Auburn and Georgia in consecutive weeks? Florida doesn't have to worry about Alabama again, but the Gators will face Auburn, LSU, Kentucky and Georgia in a four-week span. Florida's traditionally tough SEC schedule and its season-ending showdown with Florida State compensate for the Gators' nonconference games with Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic. Don't mark that Troy game down as an obvious blowout just yet. The Trojans gave Florida State and Georgia Tech all they could handle last year.

8. USC

USC schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Idaho
Sept. 15 at Nebraska
Sept. 22 Washington State
Sept. 29 at Washington
Oct. 6 Stanford
Oct. 13 Arizona
Oct. 20 at Notre Dame
Oct. 27 at Oregon
Nov. 3 Oregon State
Nov. 10 at Cal
Nov. 22 at Arizona State
Dec. 1 UCLA

Combined record of Division I-A opponents: 82-71 (.536)
Bowl teams: Seven
Home games: Six
Division I-AA opponents: None
AP Top 25 teams: Three (one at home)

Why they're No. 8: The consensus preseason national title favorite will have to earn its way to the championship game. USC will host Oregon State and UCLA, but the rest of its toughest games are on the road. The Trojans have nonconference visits to Nebraska and Notre Dame, along with conference road tests at Oregon and California. Each of USC's final six opponents played in bowl games last season.

9. Stanford

Stanford schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 UCLA
Sept. 15 San Jose State
Sept. 22 Oregon
Sept. 29 Arizona State
Oct. 6 at USC
Oct. 13 TCU
Oct. 20 at Arizona
Oct. 27 at Oregon State
Nov. 3 Washington
Nov. 10 at Washington State
Nov. 24 Notre Dame
Dec. 1 California

Combined record of Division I-A opponents: 99-55 (.643)
Bowl teams: Nine
Home games: Eight
Division I-AA opponents: None
AP Top 25 teams: Five (three at home)

Why they're No. 9: Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh won't get a chance to ease into his new job. Washington -- the lone team to lose to Stanford last year -- is the Cardinal's only opponent that had a losing record in 2006. Stanford faces four teams (USC, TCU, Notre Dame and California) that won at least 10 games last season. The only reason Stanford doesn't rank higher on this list is because most of the Cardinal's toughest games are at home. Then again, unless Stanford shows tremendous improvement this season, it really won't matter where Stanford plays.

10. Mississippi State

Mississippi State schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 30 LSU
Sept. 8 at Tulane
Sept. 15 at Auburn
Sept. 22 Gardner-Webb
Sept. 29 at South Carolina
Oct. 6 Ala.-Birmingham
Oct. 13 Tennessee
Oct. 20 at West Virginia
Oct. 27 at Kentucky
Nov. 10 Alabama
Nov. 17 at Arkansas
Nov. 24 Ole Miss

Combined record of Division I-A opponents: 85-56 (.603)
Bowl teams: Eight
Home games: Six
Division I-AA opponents: One
AP Top 25 teams: Five (two at home)

Why they're No. 10: As if Mississippi State doesn't have enough trouble dealing with the rigors of an SEC schedule, the Bulldogs also must travel to West Virginia in between games against Tennessee and Kentucky. Mississippi State could fall out of contention in the West by mid-September because the Bulldogs face LSU and Auburn in the first three weeks of the season. The Bulldogs later encounter a grueling five-week stretch in which they face Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama and Arkansas.

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