I'd use this same logic in looking at non-conference scheduling. Teams are looking to schedule opponents often a number of years in advance and have to guess just how good that team is going to be. This is one of the reasons that scheduling arrangements are so appealing to me. If there is some room to adjust opponents here and there during the summer, there's a better chance that lopsided games can be avoided.
Last week, we called the chatter to dump permanent cross-division rivals in the SEC “shortsighted.” Aside from Joe Alleva and Les Miles at LSU, most everyone else clamoring for a change in the SEC’s scheduling format has been doing so based on recent history and the belief that we all know who’s going to be good and who’s going to be bad from year to year.
Specifically, Tennessee — one of the 10 winningest programs in college football history — was targeted as being such a lame duck that it’s permanent rival, Alabama, is guaranteed a conference cakewalk each and every season moving forward.
We attempted to show everyone that league records have varied greatly over the last 20 years, but some still refused to buy into the logic we were selling. So we’ve decided to dig a little deeper. This time, we focused only on the last 10 SEC football seasons (which is really as far back as you need to go to realize none of us have any idea of who’ll rise or fall in a given season). Here’s what we found:
* Over the last 10 years (2003-2012), only four schools have finished 6-2 or better in league play at least half the time: LSU eight times, Georgia seven times, Alabama and Florida five times
* Of those four schools, each finished with a losing conference mark at least once during the last 10 years
* Not a single SEC school has finished with a winning conference record in each of the last 10 seasons
* Not a single SEC school has finished with a losing conference record in each of the last 10 seasons
* Over the last five years (2008-2012), not a single SEC school has finished 6-2 or better in all five years
* Only one SEC school (Alabama) even finished with a winning record in each of the last five SEC seasons
* Only one SEC school (Kentucky) finished with a losing record in each of the last five SEC seasons
* LSU is the only SEC school to have finished 6-2 or better in each of the last three seasons
* In the five years prior (2003-2007), only one SEC school (LSU) finished 6-2 or better in all five seasons
* Only two SEC schools (LSU and Auburn) finished with winning records in all five of those seasons
* Only one SEC school (Vanderbilt) finished with a losing record in all five of those seasons
Rise. And fall.
Fall. And rise.
If you need further proof, consider how many times over the last 10 years a school has seen its conference record jump or fall by two or more victories in back-to-back seasons:
Kentucky (2), South Carolina (3), Georgia (4), LSU (4), Mississippi State (4), Tennessee (4), Arkansas (5), Auburn (5), Vanderbilt (5), Alabama (6), Florida (6), Ole Miss (6)
Alabama and Florida — the two schools most often penciled in as consistent powers — have had more major gains and losses (along with Ole Miss) than any other SEC programs over the past decade.
Let’s give you yet another way of looking at things. Over the past 10 years, here’s how many times a school finished with the same exact conference record in back-to-back years:
Alabama twice (8-0 in 2008 and 2009, 7-1 in 2011 and 2012)
Arkansas once (6-2 in 2010 and 2011)
Georgia twice (6-2 in 2003, 2004 and 2005, 7-1 in 2011 and 2012)
Kentucky twice (1-7 in 2003 and 2004, 2-6 in 2010 and 2011)
LSU once (6-2 in 2006 and 2007)
Mississippi State once (1-7 in 2005 and 2006)
Ole Miss never
South Carolina twice (3-5 in 2006 and 2007, 6-2 in 2011 and 2012)
Tennessee once (1-7 in 2011 and 2012)
Vanderbilt once (1-7 in 2003 and 2004)
Out of 108 opportunities for schools to finish with the same record in back-to-back years, it happened just 13 times. So you still think the team that’s good this year will be just as good next year?
There’s perception and there’s reality.
The perception is that certain SEC schools are always good and the schedule should be adjusted to reflect the current steady state of the league.
The reality is that there are many more ups and downs across the entire SEC than we choose to admit and it would be utter folly to attempt to reconfigure the schedule based on three-, five-, or even 10-year cycles.
The safest bet is to base the schedule — meaning permanent cross-division rivals — on college football history. In this case, a 100-year sample is much more accurate than a short-term sample. Of course, that’s exactly how the SEC office and the league presidents matched up the current cross-division rivals back in 1992.
The bottom line is that there aren’t going to be enough votes in Destin this week to do away with permanent rivalries. Recent history dating back to 2008, 2003 or the early 199os shows why that’s a good and wise development.
LSU — and any schools backing the Tigers — will simply be jousting at windmills.