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So Who’s Really Had The SEC’s Toughest Schedule?

gfx - by the numbersMuch has been made of the SEC’s in-conference football schedule since Missouri and Texas A&M joined the league two seasons ago.  Prior to expansion, most every SEC school was fine the old rotation — five games inside the division, two rotating foes from the opposite division, and one permanent foe from that other division.  There weren’t many yelps, whines or squeals about “easy” schedules versus “hard” schedules.

That changed — in large part thanks to LSU’s Les Miles and Joe Alleva and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier — when the SEC decided to stick with an eight-game schedule for a 14-team league.  With seven teams inside each division, that meant six games would come from the inside for each school and just two from the outside.  That made those two games versus the opposite division more important.  Suddenly, “We’ve got a harder schedule than they do” became a major issue for a couple of schools and tons of fans.

The fact that the SEC hasn’t simply unveiled a new schedule rotation featuring nine games with three played against the opposite division has only made matters worse.  Instead of an added league game, schools are using that extra slot to schedule FCS foes.  That’s not good for attendance or the league’s reputation.  And without an expanded schedule and or set rotation, the league’s makeshift schedules have come under fire for who has drawn who and for teams having to play at a rival school’s stadium in back-to-back years.

With just a couple of weeks left in the SEC regular season, we thought we’d take a look at who’s has had the most difficult league schedule to date according to each team’s win column.  Below you’ll find that we’ve tallied up all of the SEC wins by each team’s eight in-conference opponents.  There are still games to be played, so these numbers will change.  Also, keep in mind that teams don’t play themselves.  Alabama, for example, can’t play itself (seven league wins) so the Tide’s opponents will all get credit for seven wins by the opposition while Bama does not.  Winless Kentucky can’t play itself so it won’t get a zero in our chart to pull its schedule strength down.

Still, this is just a quickie, simplified view of SEC scheduling to this point in the season.  It’s not exactly what folks would have projected preseason…

 

  School   Opp. SEC Wins   Opp. Div. Wins
  Tennessee   34   13
  Arkansas   33   9
  Kentucky   30   8
  Miss. State   29t   6
  Ole Miss   29t   8
  LSU   28t   7
  Texas A&M   28t   8
  Georgia   27   9
  Vanderbilt   26   7
  Missouri   24   7
  Auburn   23   5
  Florida   22   3
  Alabama   18   1
  S. Carolina   17   1

 

The school with the hardest league schedule this year is clearly Tennessee.  Part of that is due to Missouri’s surprise rise in the East and part is due to having to play both Alabama (permanent) and Auburn from the West.  While Miles and Alleva complain about how tough life is for the Tigers, UT’s brass has not only been whine-free… they’ve championed the continuation of the Vols’ annual series with Bama, the best program in college football the last five years.  Kudos for having some guts.

Meanwhile, LSU’s “impossible” schedule ranks near the middle of the pack.  Georgia and Florida — projected to be such meanies — currently sit in the middle of the East Division standings (due in part to injuries).  Perhaps the three-loss Tigers should have worried more about Ole Miss than their East foes.

South Carolina’s Spurrier has complained about the league schedule, yet his team has had the easiest cakewalk in the SEC so far.  This offseason, Spurrier’s complaints were “for” poor Tennessee and Florida who always have to play Alabama and LSU, respectively (though neither of those schools complains).  Games with Arkansas (no wins) and Mississippi State (one win) sure haven’t been tough Carolina this fall.

Even Alabama’s schedule this year — Tennessee (one win) and Kentucky (no wins) — looks tougher at the moment than the Carolina’s.

None of this will hush the schedule moans, of course.  It will only lead to different groups moaning that they’ve been handed a tougher task than their rivals.  And that will continue to be the case until the league finally gives in and goes to a nine-game slate with a 6-1-2 rotation.

 


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