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Arkansas Playing For Pride, But That Tact Seldom Works

gfx - by the numbersThe Arkansas Razorbacks are 3-7 overall, 0-6 in the SEC and riding a brutal seven-game losing streak.  That means there’s really only one thing left to play for:

 

“We’ve got two games to show what kind of pride we have.” – coach Bret Bielema

“It’s about pride.  We’ve got to have pride in what we do… We’ve got to keep building each and every week and be motivated for these last two games… We’re being prideful about our program.  We are Arkansas, and we’re trying to get back to the way we used to be.” — receiver Julian Horton

 

Sounds good, but how often does “playing for pride” actually work?  We went back through the last five SEC seasons to examine how all the teams that lost at least seven with two games to play.  Here’s how they fared in their final few ballgames:

 

* 2012 Kentucky (2-10) — 1-3 after seventh loss with long win coming against FCS-level Samford

* 2012 Auburn (3-9) — 0-2 after seventh loss, losing by a combined score of 100-7

* 2011 Ole Miss (2-10) — 0-3 after seventh loss, losing by a combined score of 110-13

* 2010 Vanderbilt (2-10) — 0-3 after seventh loss

* 2009 Vanderbilt (2-10) — 0-3 after seventh loss

* 2008 Tennessee (5-7) — 2-0 after seventh loss, beating Vanderbilt and Kentucky to send Phillip Fulmer out with wins

* 2008 Mississippi State (4-8) — 1-1 after seventh loss, beating Arkansas and then losing to Ole Miss to end Sylvester Croom’s tenure

 

The lesson: You can have plenty of pride (and heart and guts) and still be a bad football team.  Playing for pride doesn’t often result in success.

(Bonus: For the children of the ’80s out there.)

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Kentucky’s Stoops Says Cats Are Learning How To Be Tough

gfx - they said itKentucky is 1-6 overall and o-4 in the SEC.  The UK roster isn’t as chock-full of talent as most of their conference brethren’s.  Now Mark Stoops teams is bruised and beat up as well, having lost their last five games in a row by a combined score of 162-77.

With their two open dates already behind them, Stoops wants and needs his team to display some toughness when it comes to the pain they can play through:

 

“I think we’re learning as we go and getting tougher and getting tougher mentally…

It’s up to the players, and they have to decide what they can handle, and our medical people do a great job.  But I think that toughness comes from a culture, and we’re trying to build it.  I don’t think we’re there yet, and we’re going to get there.  I can promise you.”

 

The Wildcats should grab their second victory of the season when they face FCS-level Alabama State on Saturday.  While Kentucky’s season has been less than stellar, Stoops continues to woo new commitments.  Currently UK’s 2014 recruiting class ranks #8 in the nation according to Rivals.com.

 

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SEC Game Previews – 8/30/13

mrsec game previewTwo games down, 111 left to play until an SEC champion is crowned.  Today, we bring you the rest of our Game Preview capsules, a feature we’ll be bringing you each week throughout the season…

 

Toledo (0-0) at #10 Florida (0-0)

TV:  SEC Networwk, 12:21pm ET

Opening Line:  UF -21

Current Line:  UF -23.5

One To Watch:  He should have a strong defense and a tailback by committee to back him up, but the man to watch is Gator QB Jeff Driskel.  He says he’ll do less running this year which means his passing will need to improve.

This And That:

1.  Speaking of throwing the ball… the Gators finished dead last in the 14-team SEC in passing offense last year.  If UF hopes to compete for championships this fall, they’ll need average more than 146 yards per game through the air.

2.  Toledo will be a good early-season test for Will Muschamp’s defense.  The Rockets piled up more than 57-hundred yards of offense last season.  Against BCS foes, they lost at Arizona by seven and they upset Cincinnati by six.  Anyone forgotten the scare Louisiana-Lafayette gave Florida last year?

3.  With starter Matt Jones out, UF will likely stick behind the first running back to find a rhythm.  Mack Brown, Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers should all get some carries.

Prediction:  Florida 33, Toledo 17

 

Rice (0-0) at #7 Texas A&M (0-0)

TV:  ESPN, 1:00pm ET

Opening Line:  A&M -28

Current Line:  A&M -27

One To Watch:  Uh, who do you think?

This And That:

1.  Johnny Manziel will ride the pine in the first half due to an NCAA suspension.  This makes for two interesting angles to watch.  First, just how well will Kevin Sumlin’s offense operate without #2 on the field…

2.  And second, how will a fresh and rested Manziel look against a Rice defense that could already by tuckered out by halftime?  We’ve heard more about Johnny Football’s off-field exploits than his pass game this summer, but the QB has worked to improve himself as a pocket passer.  Will that show against the Fighting Pilafs?  I mean Owls.

3.  Texas A&M was minus-five in turnover margin for 2012.  Yet, thanks to the magic of a certain Heisman-winner, they still defied the odds to win 11 games.  Just to be safe, the Aggies need to break the turnover habit in 2013, starting tomorrow.

Prediction:  Texas A&M 44, Rice 20

 

Mississippi State (0-0) vs #13 Oklahoma State (0-0) at Houston

TV:  ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

Opening Line:  OSU -13

Current Line:  OSU -13

One To Watch:  Keep an eye on MSU corner Jamerson Love, the only DB in State’s top four cornerbacks to have started a game for the Bulldogs (and he’s started just two).  The entire secondary is really the one to watch, but if we’re narrowing things down, we’ll go with the, ahem, veteran.

This And That:

1.  Since arriving in Starkville, Dan Mullen record against non-conference BCS-level foes is 2-2 and two of those games were bowls.  The Dogs have avoided big-time foes while Mullen laid the groundwork for his program.  Now comes a “prove it” game against a ranked opponent to start the season.  This could be a very big one for Mullen.

2.  After a 7-0 start last season, MSU lost five of its last six games with four losses coming against ranked foes.  In four seasons under Mullen the Bulldogs are just 2-16 against ranked opponents, 0-8 the last two years.  Did we mention that this one could be a big game for Mullen?

3.  Oklahoma State’s pass offense ranked #7 in the nation last year and tomorrow they’ll face an MSU cornerback quartet that features a junior with two starts, a sophomore, a juco transfer and a redshirt freshman.  States new DBs are in for a baptism by fire.

Prediction:  Oklahoma State 37, Mississippi State 20

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New Schedules: The SEC Is Doing A Better Job Of Laying Out Games For TV

gfx - honest opinionNovember 17th, 2012.  That date about 10 months ago represented the nadir of Southeastern Conference football scheduling.

The lineup of action on that day was as follows:

 

Alabama versus Western Carolina

Arkansas versus Mississippi State

Auburn versus Alabama A&M

Florida versus Jacksonville State

Georgia versus Georgia Southern

Kentucky versus Samford

LSU versus Ole Miss

Missouri versus Syracuse

South Carolina versus Wofford

Tennessee versus Vanderbilt

Texas A&M versus Sam Houston State

 

If you ever wonder why the SEC is so often chastised for scheduling creampuffs, there’s your answer.  On one weekend SEC teams feasted on Western Carolina, Alabama A&M, Jacksonville State, Georgia Southern, Samford, Wofford and Sam Houston State.

Hey, if you’re going to schedule laughers, don’t put ‘em all on one day late in the season.  Get ‘em out of the way early and/or break ‘em up from school to school.  When that isn’t done, the SEC opens itself up for criticism.  Worse, it also ticks off those TV executives who happen to be paying the league billions of dollars for the broadcast rights to… Kentucky versus Samford?

The good news is that the SEC seems to be addressing the issue.  On no date this fall will SEC squads matchup with seven FCS foes as they did last November.  There will be five such games on September 7th, but that’s at the start of the football calendar — and it’s not an issue.  September is cupcake time across the nation.

More impressively, over the course of five football Saturdays in November 2013, only five FCS opponents will face SEC teams.  That’s a helluva lot better than playing seven on one weekend a year ago.

In 2014, SEC schools will battle seven FCS foes total.  While that is better than hosting seven on one day, four — Alabama/Western Carolina, Auburn/Samford, Florida/Eastern Kentucky, and Georgia/Charleston Southern — will all be played on November 22nd.

In other words, the scheduling of the league’s nonconference cupcakes is getting better… but there’s still more work to be done from a television perspective.

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Smart Talks Hurry-Up; Numbers Suggest Bama’s “Struggles” Slightly Exaggerated

gfx - by the numbersEver since Texas A&M made Alabama’s defense look mortal last season, hurry-up offenses have been hailed as the chink in the Tide’s otherwise impregnable armor.  Unfortunately for the rest of college football, that theory appears to be a bit overblown.

“You guys have made a big deal about this up-tempo,” said Bama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart yesterday.  “Several teams in our league are very effective at it.  You’ve got to address the issue but it’s always been an issue.  For us, it’s more about how to get better at it more often.  Seven times in a year instead of two times in a year.”

Smart then added: “I’d still rather that than the triple-option Georgia Southern come running through here.”  The Eagles ran for 302 yards against Alabama in a 45-21 2011 loss.

While Texas A&M did hand the Crimson Tide its only defeat while using the hurry-up last season, the results for other fast-paced teams have been mixed:

 

*  Over the last three seasons, Alabama has faced six FBS teams that averaged more than 69 plays per game.  Of those six teams (Ole Miss, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas A&M last year as well as Duke and Mississippi State in 2010), only A&M scored a victory.  Of those five teams that lost, none of them scored more than 14 points.  (A&M scored 29 in their 29-24 win in Tuscaloosa last November.)

*  Since 2010, only seven FBS teams have managed to top their season average in plays-per-game against the Tide: LSU in 2012 (a UA win), Kent State and Penn State in 2011 (both UA wins), and Duke, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State in 2010 (only LSU beat Alabama).

*  Over the last three seasons, 16 FBS teams have managed to run 60 or more plays against Alabama (though not all of those teams ran a hurry-up).  Of those 16, only three won their games with the Tide (Texas A&M in 2012, LSU and Auburn in 2010).  On the flipside, that does mean that three of Alabama’s five losses since 2010 have come against teams that were able to get off 60+ plays.

*  Finally, those 16 FBS squads that managed to run 60+ plays versus Bama averaged just 13.1 points per game.  The 21 FBS schools who failed to hit the 60-play mark averaged just 9.3 points per game against the Tide.

 

Did Texas A&M have success in the hurry-up against Alabama?  Yes.  Georgia had some success going up-tempo only to lose 32-28 in the SEC Championship Game.  Ole Miss faired better than most with Hugh Freeze’s hurry-up, but the Rebels could still muster just 14 points against Alabama.

Texas A&M was a unique combination — a fast team with a tremendous quarterback who happened to catch Alabama after an emotional road win at LSU.  Other fast-paced teams haven’t been so lucky when battling Smart’s defense.  That might be why he doesn’t seem to be frenzied as the media when it comes to the “Bama versus the hurry-up” storyline.

“When teams go fast tempo there’s a lot of things they can’t do at the line,” Smart said.  “We try to create an advantage for us by being able to give them negative plays and I think if we can do that it can hurt them with their up-tempo.  We’re excited about the challenge of facing it.”

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With Talk Of A Super-Division Booming, Here’s How We’d Re-Work College Football From Top To Bottom

super-division copyTalk of a new super-division in college football is at a fever pitch today following a string of hints/threats from conference commissioners over the past few days.

Here’s a sampling of what others are saying:

 

Big 12′s Bowlsby beginning NCAA dialogue that could spark real change

Is it time for football powers to split?

Big 12 boss calls for NCAA reforms

Bob Bowlsby, John Swofford call for major NCAA reform

Look for Division 4 to revolutionize college athletics

We are closer to a “super division” than we thought

 

Welcome to the party, everyone.  Not to go all Clay Travis on everybody, but we’ve been banging this drum for a bit longer than just one week.  For months we’ve been saying that a super-division is coming, that a full-scale breakaway from the NCAA would be impossible to pull off (good luck creating a whole new rule book, organization, etc), and that the only question remaining is how many schools will be welcomed into the new grouping.

Heck, Mike Slive rattled his own super-division saber back in April.  For some reason that didn’t generate the national coverage we’re seeing now, but it happened.  At the time, the SEC’s commish had this to say about his belief that the NCAA needed to change its ways and allow those schools that can afford to pay players to do so:

 

“When there are certain things that many of us would like to come into play, it’s our hope that those things can all occur in the current system.  Obviously, if things like that don’t get accomplished, then it may be appropriate to talk about some alternative or division or something like that.  But that’s not our desire.  That’s not our goal and that’s not something we’re trying to get to.”

 

That was April.  Going back a bit further, here’s what Slive had to say last December:

 

“There are some matters of concern to some of us, like full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.  And there is a level of frustration over the difficulty we’ve had in getting it through the system.  And so there are some differences between some conferences.  It’s just our hope that we can work through that in this system.”

 

By mid-April it had become clear that there is simply too much opposition to stipends or full-cost-of-tuition scholarships within the NCAA.  And for good reason.  The NCAA is made up of more than 1,000 colleges and universities.  Somewhere between 65 and 80 have the financial wherewithal to offer more cash to their student-athletes.  Sixty-five or 80… out of a thousand.  All those have-nots don’t want to be left behind.  And some refuse to budge on the issue simply as a matter of principle.

According to The Chronical of Higher Education in April: 

 

“The issue has driven a wedge through an already divided Division I.  Some institutions, including those that don’t compete in football at the highest levels, say they simply don’t have the revenue to offset the added costs.  Others worry that making additional payments to players — no matter how small, and for whatever reason — threatens the amateur model.”

 

So trace it back and you can see that there’s nothing new in this week’s super-division talk, other than the fact that commissioners are beginning to speak more openly about the possibility of a shift.  But that, too, was predictable.  Just think about it.

The big conferences say they want to give more cash to athletes.  Everyone else says, “You can’t do it.”  The big conferences have start talking more seriously about a new division, even hinting at a full exodus from the NCAA in order to let the smaller schools and conferences know that they mean business.  Eventually, a new super-division will be created in order to prevent a complete secession.  It will be hailed as a great compromise that benefits everyone.

Predictable.

Now, in case you’re interested in seeing just we’ve written on this topic and when, here’s a list:

 

December 12th, 2012:  With Massive Playoff Revenue Going To The Big Conferences, We’re One Step Closer To A New NCAA Super-Division

April 11th, 2013:  As Opposition To Stipends Increases, So Too Do The Chances Of A New Subdivision In College Sports

April 22nd, 2013:  A Super-Division Is Coming, But Athletic Directors Need To Be Part Of The Process

May 8th, 2013:  UGA Prez Adams: Big-Money Schools Will Eventually Separate From Small-Money Schools

May 13th, 2013:  Further Proof That A New Division — Not A Breakaway — Is Coming

 

So what will a new super-division look like?  Will it exist as a football-only division?  If schools intend to pay athletes other than football players then we’re looking at a new division overall.  It’s doubtful, for example, that basketball schools like Marquette and Georgetown would want to compete in the same division with schools offering larger scholarships or stipends that they themselves do not provide.

Flipping that around, if schools intend to pay only football players, you can expect moans, groans and possibly lawsuits from female athletes and athletes who play non-revenue sports.  Best guess?  Creating a new super-division will be messy.

That’s why we’re willing to step in and try to help out.  In May of 2012, we posted an article called “10 Steps To Better College Football Livin’” and in it the #1 item on the list was: “Set Up New NCAA Divisions Based Upon Budgets and Winning.”  Basically, if we were the NCAA, we would re-work today’s college football landscape and create a five-tiered system.  We would attempt to give full-cost-of-tuition scholarships to football players only, arguing — in court, if necessary — that football creates the greatest revenue stream in collegiate athletics by far.  For our purposes, let’s assume the argument would hold up.

Currently, college football is broken into four groups:

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Saban: “I’d Be Fine” With Top Five Conferences All Playing One Another

ALABAMA MEDIA DAYSThis fall, Alabama will host Chattanooga.  The Mocs are an FCS opponent.

Asked today if he will continue to schedule FCS foes like Chattanooga now that there will be a playoff (and strength of schedule will play a role in deciding who gets in), Nick Saban said:

 

“I was in the NFL for eight years where every team you played was in the NFL.  So if somebody wants to take the leadership and say, ‘OK, here are the five conferences that are the top conferences and we’re gonna play all our games amongst those people.’  I’d be fine with that.

But until someone says that, it’s gonna be impossible to schedule all your games with those teams.  So we will have to continue to play some of those games.

Now, do I think that’s what the fans want to see?  Probably not…

I think in the world that we live in I think it is impossible to schedule more than 10 games with real quality opponents.  It’s very difficult.  It’s very difficult from a financial/business standpoint because everyone want to play more home games… The more games you play with quality opponents you’re gonna have to play home-and-home so you’re gonna have less home games.”

 

This shoots down a criticism that’s often hurled Saban’s way whenever he pushes for a breakaway division of the biggest, richest schools or lobbies for a nine-game SEC schedule: “If you want to play nothing but good teams why don’t you go ahead and do it?”

Well, because it would be bad business and it would place Alabama at a competitive disadvantage if the Crimson Tide decided to walk down that road all by their lonesome.

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NCAA Prez To Form Athletic Director Council To Aid In NCAA Decisions

round-tableWhen NCAA President Mark Emmert and the voting body of NCAA presidents passed recruiting reform measures a few months back it was hailed as a long overdue move by fans and many in the media.  Unfortunately, most athletic directors and coaches — at least those not overseeing the richest of rich football programs — felt that the NCAA and its presidents had gone too far, too fast, without consulting any of the people who actually make their living on the front lines, where these rule changes would be felt.

As a result, those pages on recruiting that were ripped from the NCAA rule book — with Emmert playing the role of Mr. Keating from “Dead Poets Society” — were taped right back into the tome just a few months later.

So now Emmert is taking a different approach.  The always-under-fire prez announced this weekend that he will form a council of 10 athletic directors who will meet with him regularly.  Rather than leaving rule book changes to the college presidents, Emmert’s new council of ADs will weigh in and advise as well.

Emmert told The Wall Street Journal:

 

“It’s clear right now where the association has gone, it’s pushed the pendulum too far in one direction.  And it really has cut athletic directors out of the national discussion.”

 

That’s probably not a good thing considering the fact that colleges and universities set up the NCAA to govern, ya know, athletics.

Obviously, there will still be checks and balances.  The NCAA won’t — and shouldn’t — allow a pack of athletic directors to undermine overall academic concerns.  Most likely, the presidents will still have the final say on issues, with the new panel of ADs providing advice.

Ah, but the big question is: Which schools’ athletic directors will take part?

The NCAA must govern over — in football — the FBS subdivision, the FCS subdivision, Division II and Division III.  Will all four classifications be represented on Emmert’s panel or will there be a separate panel for each division?

If Emmert sets out to convene people from only the FBS level, smaller-budgeted schools will likely howl in protest.  Obviously, the five richest conferences of the FBS level (ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC) all have their own agendas.  Representative ADs from those leagues would likely push for full-cost-of-tuition scholarships and perhaps an entirely new subdivision at the top end of the Division I, above the FCS and even the FBS.

If Emmert decides to indeed include athletic directors from every level, expect the richest conferences to complain.  “Why should someone from Mount Union have a say in how Alabama, Texas and Ohio State run their programs and spend their money?”

Those scenarios — and there are many more — show once again just how impossible NCAA reform truly is.  And before anyone shouts, “Yeah, down with the NCAA,” please remember that no one’s come up with a better alternative yet.
Conferring with the ADs of the Round Table sounds good, but so did the idea of NCAA reform and wholesale changes to the NCAA’s rule book.  Obviously, the problems lie in the execution of these ideas, not the ideas themselves.
For that reason, we at MrSEC.com will temper our expectations for Emmert’s new team of athletic directors.

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SEC Gets Proactive With Attendance Issues… But It May Not Matter

guy-with-clipboardIf you’re the Southeastern Conference and you’re about to come into a hefty chunk of newfound cash, how would you spend it?  Well, if you’re smart, you’d invest some of that cash back into the product.

Turns out, that’s exactly what the SEC plans to do with some of its new television, playoff, and bowl money.

While the SEC continues to lead the nation in college football attendance, there’s no denying the fact that attendance is dropping across the conference.  For four straight years the SEC’s average attendance has fallen.  In response, the SEC has created what it’s calling the “Working Group on Fan Experience.”

The group plans to tackle issues involving the in-stadium experience.  That means showing more in-game replays (the league began doing so last year), improving cell phone and Wi-Fi coverage in and around stadiums, and finding ways to lure students back into SEC stadiums.

According to a report by CBSSports.com’s Tony Barnhart, the secondary ticket market (StubHub, for example) and the quality of games on teams’ schedules will also be hot topics for the SEC’s special panel.  Some of the topics will also involve pricey solutions.

The cost of improving Wi-Fi, for example, will run about $2 million per stadium.  “Our next generation of fans is used to staying connected,” Tennessee AD Dave Hart told Barnhart.  “They should be able to communicate in real time with somebody on the other side of the stadium.  It’s quite an investment but we have to make it.”

The most direct route to improved attendance is a strengthened home schedule, of course.  Florida AD Jeremy Foley said: “There once was a day when every single seat for every single game would be full.  But those days are gone.  If it’s a big SEC Game we don’t have a problem.  But if it’s not a big game we are concerned.”

Ironically, the chairman of the SEC’s new task force is Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin, a man who’s been against going to a nine-game conference schedule.  While his Bulldogs will play Oklahoma State this season in Houston — kudos — he has in the past stated that some programs — meaning his — need to schedule plenty of lesser opponents during the rebuilding process.  That kind of thinking won’t help SEC schools at the turnstile.

While Stricklin recognizes the problem, it’s likely he’ll focus on in-game experience issues rather than the obvious solution — better games.

“What is the real attitude of our fan base?” he asked Barnhart.  “We know about all these issues, but what are the real world solutions?  Soft attendance is something we’ve been dealing with a few years.  We have to get a handle on this now.”

One suggestion that we at MrSEC.com would make — and we’ve made it before — is that schools should refurbish their stadiums and decrease the number of seats in the process.  The average fan is being priced out of most games anyway.  High-definition television at home has become a good alternative to fighting traffic and spending money to see a team beat up on an FCS foe.

To combat that, successful programs could actually decrease seating capacity, create in-game experiences that can’t be found at home (“impact seating,” really good food, sports bars, in-game apps that can only be used inside stadiums, etc) and increase ticket price.  If a stadium can’t be filled up, cut down on seating and make the seats that are available more valuable.

Some schools are already removing bench and chair-back seating to make room for new lounge and club boxes.  Expect that trend to continue moving forward.

While the best fix for declining attendance is better scheduling, the SEC deserves credit for at least attempting to study this problem and find solutions for it.  Whether the league will be successful in its quest is anyone’s guess.

It’s possible, after all, that tomorrow’s sports fans — kids who’ve grown up inside their own bubbles staring into smartphone screens — won’t have the same desire as their grandpaps to fight crowds and attend events in person.  We’re talking about a generation that’s become accustomed to watching movies and sporting events on tiny handheld screens.  If the next generation of fans finds that kind of “experience” satisfactory, the SEC may have to work miracles if it wants to draw those people to an expensive, packed stadium on a Saturday afternoon.

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Big Ten Leaders Continue To Say All The Right Things About Scheduling; Is the SEC Listening?

gfx - honest opinionBig Ten leaders are trying to be proactive when it comes to scheduling in the soon-to-dawn age of a college football playoff.  The league has already decided to use a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016.  In addition, the Big Ten has decided to put down some new guidelines for its schools when it comes to their non-conference scheduling options: no games against FCS opponents and at least one game each year against a team from one of the other major conferences.

Readers of this site know that we are in favor of the SEC doing the exact same thing.

With the Big Ten holding its annual meeting this week, a number of Big Ten personalities opened up about their league’s push to toughen up its scheduling:

 

“We want to get out of the business of scheduling games that feel like scrimmages to our fans… Football can be pretty boring in September if you don’t create great contests.  We don’t want to be boring.  We want to strengthen the schedule to create more excitement early in the season…. Yes, you’re going to take a few losses, but, ultimately, you’ll become more competitive.” — Michigan AD Dave Brandon

“It’s a little more difficult (to draw fans) with 60-inch TVs and the price of concessions and having to wait in line to go to the bathroom.  We have to do our part for the in-game experience, but who we’re playing is also (important).” — Illinois AD Mike Thomas

“We collaborate a lot.  If we’re looking for a game, does somebody know about one?  Let’s say somebody had a team on their schedule, but for whatever reason, they needed to move the game.  Maybe you call Purdue and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got X.  You looking for a game?’  And maybe you trade-off.  It’s kind of a co-op.  We work together and try to help each other schedule.” – Penn State AD Dave Joyner

 

For those who missed it, Michigan coach Brady Hoke also got on Notre Dame’s case this week for “chickening out” of future games against his Wolverines.

The Big Ten’s moves to beef up its scheduling — and its loud talk of doing so — should aid Jim Delany’s league moving forward.

First, playing teams from the other major conferences guarantees — in most cases — home-and-home contracts.  That will result in Big Ten football getting exposure in the West and in the South where the population is booming.  Population growth has slowed or stalled in the Big Ten footprint, a point that Delany himself has made when explaining his conference’s decision to expand.  Big Ten teams visiting the Southern or Western states should help on the recruiting front.  With its own talent pool drying up, there couldn’t be a better time for the league to take its show on the road.  And even when Big Ten teams host teams from the ACC, SEC, Big XII or Pac-12, they will still get attention from prospects in the ACC, SEC, Big XII and Pac-12 regions.

Second, going public with its scheduling plans — and doing so very loudly — will help create the perception that the Big Ten is a leader when it comes to non-conference scheduling.  When a selection committee for the new College Football Playoff convenes in 2014, strength of schedule is supposed to be an A-1, top-shelf consideration.  The Big Ten’s self-propelled image as a tough schedulin’ league coupled with a committee that will likely want to bring in teams from all over the country could help Delany’s schools gain invitations.

The old quote attributed to Muhammad Ali comes to mind: “I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”

For SEC fans rolling their eyes at our thumbs-up to the Big Ten, keep in mind that the Big Ten currently makes more money than any other conference while also maintaining the best academic reputation.  All while dealing with a growing talent gap produced by its location in an area of the country that’s being passed population-wise.

SEC fans might not like Delany, but he and Larry Scott of the Pac-12 are progressive, strategic-thinking conference commissioners who must be taken seriously.  Each has made more money for their leagues than anyone thought possible without the benefit of seven BCS titles in a row.  The SEC leaders should take note of what the Big Ten is doing now (as well as keeping an eye on the marketing-minded Scott to the West).  You can be sure that Mike Slive is paying attention.

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