SEC Scheduling

Submitted by L'Carpetron Do… on November 15th, 2017 at 6:24 PM

This is the SEC's "off-week", as I like to call it, with many of the league's top teams taking on out-of-conference cupcakes. Not all SEC teams play OOC teams this week, but many of them do and appear to do so every year (in other years it is much more problematic). I think this is a fundamentally unfair scheduling gimmick designed to protect the SEC's top teams from late season losses and thus enhancing their chance of getting a spot in the playoff.

Here's this week's slate of SEC games: 

Mercer @ Alabama

Louisiana-Monroe @ Auburn

Kentucky @ Georgia*

UAB @ Florida

Wofford @ South Carolina

Rest of the conference plays each other.**  

*I listed UGA here because they are a playoff contender even though they play a conference game this week. It should be noted however that UGA played UL-Lafayette and GA Southern the last two years in the 2nd to last regular season game.                                                      **Many other SEC teams played weak OOC teams (i.e. UL-Lafayette, Southern Miss, New Mexico, UMass) earlier in November.

I object to this for a number of reasons:

1) Losses are weighted in college football and a loss at the end of the season is far more damaging than one at the beginning or even a few weeks in. Since CFP spots are based entirely on ranking, a loss, especially a fresh loss in the second-to-last week will likely push that team out of the top 4 and severely jeopardize a playoff spot (see Ohio State's 2015 loss to Michigan State by a field goal. An also-undefeated Alabama team played Charleston Southern that day. They won 56-6). The later you lose, the harder you fall. Placing a soft nonconference opponent in this slot in the schedule protects them from suffering a loss.  

2) Similarly, it also guarantees a home game during a tumultous stretch of the season. It ensures you will never go on the road in the second to last game of the year to take on a conference opponent. This is a treacherous time for teams at the top and the risk and pressure are heightened. It's nice to have a cushy home game to ensure an easy W.  

3) The non-conference schedule is supposed to be at the beginning of the year for a reason. Early season OOC games are there to help teams get ready for the conference slate by playing (usually) weaker teams that they don't see very often. Powerful programs are also expected to schedule at least one game against another top team. Alabama did play FSU this year (unfortunately for them the Noles turned out to be awful) so I have to give them credit for that. However, you never see these SEC teams play USC, Oklahoma or Clemson in late November. They use this OOC game as a buffer.

Yes, I know, these teams' schedules are tough and the SEC is a competitive conference, and everybody has to play everybody at some point etc., etc. but see #1 above. This subtle wrinkle greatly helps the SEC usher its teams into the CFP by virtually guaranteeing they'll never lose in the second to last weekend. For most teams in the Big Ten, PAC 12, ACC and Big XII, conference play gets more brutal as the season wears on. Its unfair for the SEC to let its teams feast on weak opponents this late in the season.    

Is this a legit problem? Should other conferences be concerned about this? Am I just being cranky and ridiculous? (Sorry - I hit a wall at work and had this on my mind). Nevertheless, DISCUSS.



November 15th, 2017 at 6:30 PM ^

Every year this come up. If it works we should be doing it too. We play our hardest games at the end every year. When we win it makes us stronger...when we lose it's a meat grinder.

Play the games on our schedule and win. That's all I want.

Inflammable Flame

November 16th, 2017 at 5:17 AM ^

If one team sees something working for another team, it'd be foolish not to at least entertain the idea. I look at this as their shtick to our publicized satellite camps. If you find something that gives you an edge or helps your team, you'd be doing your team a disservice to ignore such possibilities.

But in the end, like you said, just win.


November 15th, 2017 at 6:35 PM ^

I think its a good strategy, I mean isn't that rutgers for us this year? I honestly would like to see this implemented, if/when rutgers, maryland, etc take that next step. I like seeing the younger guys getting reps and limiting injury opporutnities for starters. 


November 15th, 2017 at 7:46 PM ^

The B1G ought to do something similar. Maybe not the FCS cupcake games, but G5 and even P5 OOC games in October and November.

I find the solid in-conference schedule throughout October and November a bit insular and boring. I think playing ND in October is a good thing. A home and home series with an SEC or ACC or PAC team in November would be awesome!

Playing Wisconsin in Game 11- when you could be facing them in the conference championship just two weeks later- is poor scheduling.

The SEC certainly benefits from this scheduling- more conference games in September, a mixture of heavier and lighter games throughout the season. That means more, broader media coverage over the whole season. It gives teams (and perception of the relative strength or weakness of the conference) a chance to recover from a poor start in September. As it is now, if the marquee teams in the conference stumble early, the entire conference is discounted, with no chance to modify that perception until the post-season.

I know there is already one bye week (which came too early in the season this year, IMO), but it is helpful to have a somewhat lighter game or two when your squad is banged up, without counting on Rutgers and Maryland to be doormats every year.


November 15th, 2017 at 8:00 PM ^

But within their right. If it is deemed to be an unfair competitive advantage, we should do something about it to level the field.

We can start next year by moving the Notre Dame to November.

L'Carpetron Do…

November 15th, 2017 at 8:02 PM ^

Separate complaint: ND should have to play 13 games a year.  If every other team vying for a spot in the CFP has to put it on the line in a conference championship game, the Irish should have to play an extra one too.  No more of this special treatment bullshit. I know this essentially creates a problem for CFP teams who lose a conf game and don't make their championship but  at least they're in a conference.  ND has literally a shorter path to the CFP than everybody else.  


November 15th, 2017 at 8:28 PM ^

Conversely some SEC teams open with a conference game which doesn't seem ideal. It's definitely not a problem though because the big ten and every other conference is free to do the same.


November 15th, 2017 at 8:34 PM ^

Been known for years that if you're going to lose, do it early. I like the way they schedule ooc or a tough in-conference game at the start of the season and then protect the year's work with a schedule of this type at year's end. Most teams are completely different at season's start and now. If a team loses that first game and then runs the table, chances are whatever was wrong has been fixed and they could do some damage in post-season. If they turned it around and did the cupcake first, whatever was wrong might have not been uncovered. 

You Only Live Twice

November 15th, 2017 at 9:50 PM ^

isn't it equally likely to beat them early in the season as it is, late?

If so the SEC is exploiting the schedule for maximum gain.

With tougher opponents, playing early seems to create more win possibility for the underdog.  By the time November comes around, most of the tough opponents are established.  Plus, you've got the one or two losses out of the way earlier.


November 15th, 2017 at 8:33 PM ^

honestly, it sounds like you're crying about this. who cares? I'd like Michigan to not have to play Wisconsin and Ohio state back to back, so if it meant playing eastern Michigan this week instead, I'm good with that. smart thinking actually by the sec

Late Bluemer

November 15th, 2017 at 9:26 PM ^

you mean to tell me that Troy and Louisiana-Monroe aren't actually in the SEC?  W/ the number of SEC games they play each season I just thought that they were confrerence members.



November 15th, 2017 at 9:50 PM ^

Half of the SEC finish their season with two nonconference games because their main rivals are in the ACC.

Florida/Florida State, South Carolina/Clemson, Georgia/Georgia Tech and I think there are a few more I'm forgetting. I think because of this, the SEC is able to pull this off a little easier?

B1G teams won't be doing this any time soon so I'm not bothering to complain about it. And I would imagine Michigan will never be scheduling an opponent on the level of Wofford or Mercer. Considering the student section was about 80% empty for the Akron game four years ago (just one week after an exciting win over Notre Dame) it would be a disaster whether in September or November.


November 15th, 2017 at 11:33 PM ^

SEC changed things around a bit when they went to 14

Always season ending games



Arkansas-Missouri   (used to be ARk/LSU)

Texas A&M-LSU   (was TAM/Missouri for a couple years)

Tenn/Vanderbilt  (used to be Tenn/Kentucky)


The one you're forgetting is Kentucky/Louisville which started as an end of year game when Lousiville went to the ACC, thus the flip with Kentucky/Tennesee.  UT used to finish with Vandy then UK as their rivalry ending.


SEC scheduling really breaks down like this, Big games in the East are mostly done before the end of October, the West is settled in November.



November 15th, 2017 at 11:24 PM ^

They do it that way because they want to. If the B1G wants to do it that way, they can. But we don't want to do it that way, and so this is where we are.

Nobody would really be interested in playing Cincinnati this week, would they? Of course not.


November 16th, 2017 at 12:26 AM ^

It started off as an agreement between Alabama and Auburn to make sure both teams had easy games before the Iron bowl. As the end of year SEC/ACC rivalry games became a tradition the SEC realized it gave their teams a better chance of winning to schedule a cupcake the week before. I think it’s crap, but it’s not that surprising.

L'Carpetron Do…

November 16th, 2017 at 9:30 AM ^

Clemson-So Carolina and FLorida-FSU are both in-state, out-of-conference games with traditional rivals.  And they are always the last game of the year as chief rivalry games should be.  

My point is that the 2nd-to-last game of the year is always protected for these teams.  You never see Alabama or Alabama scheduling USC or Clemson or Okla or any other top team and slotting them in this week.

Personally, I would be disappointed to see the Big Ten start emulating this. It makes the end of the season incredibly un-interesting. And November is the best part of college football.  I think if Michigan can finish their season strong by taking out Wisconsin and Ohio State that says a lot more than finishing up vs. say, Akron or Toledo and then Ohio State. 


November 16th, 2017 at 7:10 AM ^

Way longer than the BCS has been around.  OOC is OOC, doesn't matter when the games are played.  Clemson's conference slate was finished last week and finishes the year with two OOC games.  Also, they'll open the year with a game against GA or something.  Don't really understand how this would be an advantage.  The B1G uses the OOC as sort of a preseason for conference play which allows teams to iron out the wrinkles before any game would affect their conference title hopes. Other conferences could say that's an advantage over teams facing conference foes in week 1 or 2.

I think a part of this is that a lot of these teams' rivalries are OOC games that they like to play at the end of the year as well, so they'll schedule their tomato can the week before.  IDK, doesn't seem like anything to get worked up about.


November 16th, 2017 at 9:22 AM ^

As probably mentioned above, the other way to look at this is that those SEC teams have a very early conference opponent (which could be a decent team) before they've figured out their problems and addressed them. I'd like to think that Harbaugh teams get better as the season progresses, and I'd actually prefer to play all the tougher games later (The Game last, as usual), even though losing late has implications for playoff inclusion as stated.

I just think it gives our team the best chance to win. If we opened the season with, say, Wisconsin, we may not have been too happy with the outcome. I feel like we've at least ironed out some issues now (running game/O-line personnel improving, RB's improving, more power than zone blocking plays=more success, Peters at QB, etc.), and perhaps will put forth the best effort this team is capable of this Saturday (and next).

An argument could be made for fewer injuries, more time to gameplan during the summer, etc. with earlier tough games, but I feel like our team's improvement over the course of the season outweighs those.


November 16th, 2017 at 9:48 AM ^

SEC needs to move to a 9 game conference schedule. Having 14 teams, but only 8 conference games is a joke, even more so when you have a protected crossover game like ALA/TENN. Now Florida and Georgia and the rest of the East will only play Alabama once every 6 years, and only see them at home once every 12 years. All the while Tennessee will continue to get pummelled every year. 


November 16th, 2017 at 11:53 AM ^

How about Wisconsin's schedule?  It just shows that if your a P5 team and go undefeated your in contention for a Playoff spot regardless of who you play.  Granted they still have to win the BIG Championship but the schedule locks them into that game because of the West Division and Non Conf. Schedule. Throw Wisconsin in the EAST or eliminate divisions all together and the Badgers record would not be undefeated.  Lets take em to the back of the wood shed! GO BLUE!

Fri, Sept 1 1-0 (0-0)
Sat, Sept 9 2-0 (0-0)
Sat, Sept 16 3-0 (0-0)
Sat, Sept 30 4-0 (1-0)
Sat, Oct 7 5-0 (2-0)
Sat, Oct 14 6-0 (3-0)
Sat, Oct 21 7-0 (4-0)
Sat, Oct 28 8-0 (5-0)
Sat, Nov 4 9-0 (6-0)
Sat, Nov 11 10-0 (7-0)
Sat, Nov 18 12:00 PM ET FOX 499 available from $84
Sat, Nov 25 TBD 708 available from $63