When it comes to pastries, no SEC school takes as many trips to the corner bakery as Ole Miss. Over the past five years, the Rebels have played a whopping six schools from the FCS level. Worse, their non-conference schedule has featured just two schools — two in five years — from BCS automatic-qualifier conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, and Pac-12).
No one in the SEC — not even Mississippi State — has feasted on as many cupcakes and creampuffs as the gang from Oxford. And MSU has nibbled on its share of sponge cake.
On the other end of the spectrum are Vanderbilt and Georgia. Some might say that the BCS-level foes they’ve scheduled haven’t always been atop their conferences, but at least they’re playing power-conference competition. Both schools have scheduled 10 games against squads from BCS automatic-qualifiers over the last five seasons.
For comparison’s sake, we’ve gone back through the 2008 season to see which SEC schools have done the best and worst jobs of non-conference scheduling. We’ve decided to include Missouri and Texas A&M even though they’ve spent just one year in the SEC. But keep in mind the Big XII played nine league games in 2011. So both A&M and Mizzou faced one less non-conference foe between ’08 and ’12 than their new SEC roomies.
In addition, please remember that those recent matchups between Texas A&M and Arkansas were non-conference games until last season.
One last note: We’re well aware of the schedule quirks, broken contracts, and state legislators’ desires that have forced your favorite school to line up games with tin cans on occasion. And to paraphrase a Tommy Lee Jones’ line from “The Fugitive,” we don’t care. Below is a simple look at how the SEC’s teams have handled non-conference scheduling in recent years. It is what it is.
The categories used are “actual competition” (BCS conference foes), “cannon fodder” (teams from non-AQ FBS leagues or independents), and “cupcakes” (FCS-level opponents).
Actual Competition: 6 — Clemson, Duke, Michigan, Penn State (2), Virginia Tech
Cannon Fodder: 10 — Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Kent State, North Texas (2), San Jose State, Tulane, Western Kentucky (2)
Cupcakes: 4 — Georgia State, Georgia Southern, UT-Chattanooga, Western Carolina
Thoughts: Nick Saban has been pushing the SEC to add another conference game. He’s also in favor power-conference teams playing only other power-conference teams. But he’s not an idiot. Until everyone gets on the same page, he won’t be trying to lead the way with Bama’s schedule. Still, he’s been more than willing to open seasons against name competition.
2013 Schedule: Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Georgia State, UT-Chattanooga
Actual Competition: 5 — Rutgers, Texas, Texas A&M (3)
Cannon Fodder: 10 — Eastern Michigan, Louisiana-Monroe (3), New Mexico, Troy (2), Tulsa (2), UTEP
Cupcakes: 5 — Jacksonville State, Missouri State (2), Tennessee Tech, Western Illinois
Thoughts: Meh. The Hogs haven’t exactly lined up the best of the best of the best over the last few years. (Hey, another line from a Tommy Lee Jones’ flick.) Texas and pre-SEC Texas A&M were good games, but Arkansas’ cannon fodder games were truly that. Then you toss in five games against FCS cupcakes. Was any Razorback fan happy to plunk down cash to see any of the last 10 schools on that list? Happily Bret Bielema and AD Jeff Long are locking up future non-conference games against quality foes from the Hogs’ old Southwest Conference days.
2013 Schedule: Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, Southern Miss, Rutgers
Actual Competition: 5 — Clemson (3), West Virginia (2)
Cannon Fodder: 10 — Arkansas State, Ball State, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Monroe (3), Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, Utah State
Cupcakes: 5 — Alabama A&M, Furman, Samford, UT-Chattanooga, UT-Martin
Thoughts: The same as above. Auburn had five marquee non-conference games in the last five years. Their remaining 15 non-conference contests were dreck. This year’s non-con slate looks to provide more of the same.
2013 Schedule: Washington State, Arkansas State, Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic
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