Posted by: Lunchbox | July 11, 2007

It’s All Talk Until the Season Starts

I did a bunch of research for this post. I’m talking pages of spreadsheets analyzing conference schedules dating back to 2002. I’m not finished yet, but I just wanted to get this up before it gets too stale. I’ll post the rest of my research soon. However, before I get into the meat of this post I’m going to relive a couple stories detailing experiences I’ve had with SEC fans.

The first story comes from New Orleans in January of 2004. Many of you remember that was the year Oklahoma and LSU played in the Sugar Bowl for the BCS title game. You may also remember that Oklahoma shouldn’t have even been in the game after shitting all over the box score of their their conference championship game against Kansas State (they lost 35-7). When it became abundantly clear, or so we thought, that USC was going to be playing in the Sugar Bowl my buddy D-Bo made hotel reservations for the Big Easy. Well, the deadline to cancel the reservations was days before the BCS selection show.

While this was going down, I had entered myself into the USC bowl ticket lottery multiple times (I may have worked the system a little.) We were trying to get as many tickets as possible for the Sugar Bowl. Once you commit to the bowl ticket lottery, there’s no backing out. So I was going to have to pay for the tickets no matter what. Well, once it was announced that USC would be playing in Pasadena and we had hotel reservations in New Orleans I had a choice to make. I could either eat the hotel charges in New Orleans and pay to attend the Rose Bowl. Or I could go spend New Year’s in the French Quarter and sell the six Rose Bowl tickets to finance the trip. I chose the latter option, which I do not regret.

While we were in New Orleans we soon realized that Oklahoma fans were playing the part of the the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals…they were just happy to be there. They were bordering on apologetic that they got into the game and USC did not. Meanwhile, we were jabbering back and forth with LSU fans about whose team was luckier that they didn’t have to play the other. As the week wore on, with the exception of the night USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl, LSU fans were growing more and more hostile to our presence in their city. Several fights nearly broke out, a lot of shit talk was exchanged, and someone may or may not have been shoved into a puddle of vomit, urine, horse manure and spilled booze. By the night of the Sugar Bowl, we decided we weren’t even going to leave the hotel because they would be insufferable after narrowly beating Oklahoma. So in summary: LSU fans don’t subscribe to the mantra “Classy, Not Trashy”.

The second story comes from last Friday night in Hermosa Beach. After a night at the infamous Poop Deck, my buddy Eric and I decided to get some late food. We waited in line for about 30 minutes next to a guy that graduated from Vanderbilt. I don’t know what the impetus was, but the conversation centered around college football pretty quick. He was making grand proclamations about the SEC’s sheer brilliance and pooh-poohing everything about the Pac-10. We had a lively conversation and it was all good-natured for the most part. It drove me crazy at the same time though. Sure, the SEC is a good conference. But this guy went to Vander-fucking-bilt okay! He wouldn’t know good college football if it took him out for an expensive dinner and nice bottle of wine. The Commodores (I had to look that up) are a joke. They sell their season ticket package for $99 (I looked that up too. It’s almost like we have a research department at PoL). Good luck getting one ticket to a USC game for that price.

Anyway, it just reminded me how the SEC serves the crazy-kool-aid to everyone in the conference, not just the traditional power teams. When the underlings of the conference are bat-shit crazy the power teams are off the charts.

Now to the reason for the post…

Les Miles’ recent attempt to tarnish the accomplishments of recent USC teams by claiming the Trojans play a weaker schedule reeks of stereotypical SEC blather. Miles was saying all the right words to get Tiger fans more excited for this coming season. What easier way to do that than by talking out of his ass about the West Coast team that continues to frustrate the LSU nation even though the two teams never play?

LSU’s frustration with the Men of Troy began in 2003, when LSU was still Slippery Saban’s team. LSU won the BCS Championship Trophy, but USC stole some of their limelight by earning the AP National Championship trophy that year. They took offense to the “Repeat” and “Three-peat” mantras that followed USC in 2004 and 2005. Everyone, including many USC fans, took offense to ESPN deeming the 2005 Trojan team as The Best Team in the History of Mankind, or something like that. USC has received a lion’s share of the publicity in recent years and SEC fans are upset that the focus has shifted somewhat from their conference of “real football”.

It’s no secret that SEC football fans find all other Division I conferences to be the rough equivalent of Pop Warner football. SEC football is good football, but it’s not the only football. But I would ask Mr. Miles to take a look at the teams in his conference. Every conference has their patsies. I’m looking at you Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Stanford, Washington, and Arizona. But what USC lacks in conference competition, they make up for in out-of-conference (OOC) opponents. If you looked at SEC schedules from year to year, you might assume that OOC opponents like Middle Tennessee State, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Southern Mississippi were actually SEC members. The SEC cherry picks those teams so much that they might as well apply for membership to the conference.

Take a look at the out of conference opponents for USC and for LSU this season:

USC: Idaho, @ Nebraska, @ Notre Dame (USC has fewer OOC games because they chose to play the entire Pac-10 instead of scheduling cream puffs when the NCAA allowed 12 games per season.)

LSU: Virginia Tech, Middle Tennessee State, @ Tulane, Louisiana Tech

LSU gets all their difficult games at home this year: VaTech, Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas. USC plays all its tough games on the road this year: Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon (Autzen Stadium is a GREAT home field advantage), and Cal with the possible excepetion of UCLA playing tough on the Trojan’s home field.

Now, I’m not trying to determine any National Champions in July. The games have to be played. All I’m doing here is telling Les Miles to shut his fat mouth about strength of schedule. He doesn’t have solid ground to stand on.

Here’s one man’s rankings of the SEC:

First Tier: Florida, LSU, Auburn

Second Tier: Tennessee, Arkansas (soon to be back down in the Third), Georgia

Third Tier: South Carolina, Alabama, Ole Miss

Fourth Tier: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Lousiana-Monroe*

(*I’m still convinced they’re the 13th team of the SEC.)

Some more nuggets for you to digest (home teams in bold):

9/2/02 USC 24 – Auburn 17

8/30/03 USC 23 – Auburn 0 (Auburn ranked #6 in pre-season)

9/17/05 USC 70 – Arkansas 17

9/2/06 USC 50 – Arkansas 14 (Arkansas won SEC West)

If you don’t believe me about the schedules, maybe these guys can convince you:

Pac-10 Out of Conference Schedule 2007 [College Football Resource]

SEC Out of Conference Schedule 2007 [College Football Resource]

Toughest Schedules of 2007 [ESPN’s Mark Schlabach]

Top 25 Toughest Schedules [Rival’s Steve Megargee writing for]



  1. […] of List wades into the scum-encrusted waters of the conference debate with a tale of falling into the hoary SEC/PAC-10 debate with a less-than-reputable conference representative in a bar: a Vanderbilt fan, presumably talking […]

  2. […] A couple of links, one that is really Ugly July 11, 2007 Posted by Jai Eugene in florida gators, major league baseball. trackback  I’m sure you guys heard Les Miles’ recent bashing of USC and the strength of the Pac-10.  Well, I couldn’t stand by and let it go.  We try to support our West Coast brothers whenever we can.  Take a look if you get the chance. [Pyle of lists] […]

  3. About Let Miles:
    I typically don’t think it’s a good idea to try and make general statements about the power of the various major conferences because the situation changes from year to year. I do, however, believe that as a whole the SEC has been a tougher conference than the Pac-10 over the past few seasons. I’ve noticed that the Pac-10 tends to be more top-heavy than the SEC. In the Pac-10 there is a serious drop-off in talent from the top two or three teams to the rest of the league while the drop-off in SEC teams’ talent tends more linear. (This could simply be a result of having 12 teams as opposed to 10.) As a lifelong LSU fan, I take Les Miles’ comments to show how passionate he is about LSU and SEC football. I do, however, think he is exaggerating the differences between the two conferences. Anyway, if you’ve been following his off-season escapades, he’s been talking shit all summer (the ala-fucking-bama incident). Frankly I love it. He’s getting people worked up and that can’t be a bad thing.

    About ranking the SEC teams:
    Your tiers are a bit wrong. First off I would argue that there are only 3 tiers in any conference. So over the past few seasons they should be:
    Tier 1
    Florida, Georgia, LSU, Auburn

    Tier 2
    Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas

    Tier 3
    Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Miss State, Ole Miss

    About The 2003 National Championship:
    LSU football in the 90s was pretty bad and we were just starting to see some major successes with Nick Saban. Because of our relatively low preseason ranking, the loss to Florida early in the season had all but destroyed our chances for a Championship. It still looked impossible until around 10:00 PM Saturday December 6 when Oklahoma had lost (a miracle!) and LSU had just delivered a furious beatdown on UGA in the SEC Championship Game. I was there in the Georgia Dome, in the LSU student section, the whole stadium started chanting “LSU! USC! Oklahoma’s #3!”. It was one of the top 10 greatest moments of my life. Well, the computers disagreed and said that USC was, in fact, #3. We didn’t really think too much of it because frankly Oklahoma was the most dominant team in the regular season. (Avg margin of victory was over 34 pts) Most people don’t remember that the media hyped them almost as hard as the ’05 Trojans, calling them the greatest of all time and comparing them to the ’95 Cornhuskers. So after beating them soundly (much more so than the score indicated) in the Sugar Bowl the Tigers earned their first national title in 50 years, and only their second overall. Then to have part of that title stripped away by some AP clowns who were supposed to be part of the system that gave us the title was so unbelievably frustrating. The worst part about it, the other half of OUR title went to USC. US goddamn C! The Notre Dame of the West! And how smug was Pete Carrol? I doubt there was a single person in all of Louisiana who didn’t want to nut punch him. Until that day, most of Louisiana was fairly ambivalent towards USC, but now, now we hate you. We know it’s not your fault, but we hate you anyway. I encourage you to put your biases aside. Compare the schedules and the box scores. Look at who we each beat and who we each lost to. Given that the two teams never met on the field, there is no conceivable valid argument for ranking USC above LSU. To this day, I’m convinced that the sportswriters of the AP poll did it specifically to spite the BCS system and create controversy. Hopefully, you now have seen the story through our eyes and can see why over the past few years USC has been the target of so much LSU venom.

  4. amerikon,

    Thanks for the Purple and Gold input. I love hearing about the 2003 thoughts/conspiracies/frustrations from both sides of the argument. I can appreciate Coach Miles’ comments for what he’s doing: stirring up an already passionate fan-base.

    As for comparing the two teams that year, I think it comes down to each team’s loss. USC lost at Cal in triple OT on Sept 27th and LSU lost at home to Florida on Oct 11th. USC had a close road loss about 2 weeks earlier in the season than LSU suffered a home loss. Obviously it was a close call (check the link below). I will say, however, that New Orleans throws one helluva New Year’s celebration.

  5. I told myself I wasn’t going to get involved in this, but I couldn’t resist.

    Amerikon, the SEC calling the Pac-10 “top-heavy”?!?! Mr. Pot when was the last time you’ve spoken to the Kettle? I’m assuming you haven’t lost the number.

    Any conference with USC (or any other elite team for that matter) would instantly be top-heavy. Hence the fact that all conferences are “top-heavy” to the point that I’m not even using the word anymore. The best teams end up on top. It’s supposed to happen that way, so it cannot be a strength or weakness of any conference.

    As for talent disparity, it’s a toss up depending on what conference you support. I personally believe the SEC has better defensive talent top to bottom, while the Pac-10 has better offensive talent. It probably evens out.

    As for the tiers, I think we need to define how we’re measuring the teams before we actually do it. Since 2002? The last 2 years? This year’s expectations? Talent? Achievement? Performance vs. expectation?

    How do you define elite? In my book, elite = national title. You have to at least sniff a national title to be considered. If you haven’t won multiple conference titles, you’re really pushing it.

    Since 2002, Georgia is not an elite program. Unless they win a title soon, they’re 2nd tier. Florida wouldn’t have been until they romped on OSU and won a National Title. Does anyone remember Ron Zook? LSU and Auburn are definitely there, even though LSU has underachieved and Auburn has the ultimate What If season but never won anything.

    One thing is for sure, Alabama is NOT a 2nd tier team in the SEC no matter how you’re measuring it unless it’s all time performance or inflated expectations.

    So the SEC has 3 elite teams compared to the Pac-10’s one. Sorry Pac-10 apologists but Cal and Oregon aren’t elite. But, the SEC forfeits any SoS gain they would have with their Out of Conference schedule. That puts them on an even playing field with the Pac-10 until they stop with the Division 1-AA BS.

    LSU is doing the right thing putting Virginia Tech on their schedule. That shows some cajones. Even if the elite just scheduled one solid OOC game, the SEC would be in a better position. But year after year, the SEC pisses away their obvious conference strength advantage by scheduling patsies.

  6. Oh and I almost forgot, shut up about the 2003 National Title LSU fans. USC didn’t stump for votes or pay anyone off. The AP, in it’s attempt to stick it to the system, awarded us their National Title. Just like all the disputed titles before the BCS era, nothing is going to change and both USC and LSU will claim it.

    I don’t accept the “we know it’s not your fault, but we hate you anyway” argument because that sounds like ignorance at it’s peak: we know the truth, but we choose to hate anyway.

    The idea that the 2003 LSU team was unquestionably better than USC is preposterous. Any unbiased person that knows anything about college football would declare that a toss up.

  7. […] It’s All Talk Until the Season Starts I did a bunch of research for this post. I’m talking pages of spreadsheets analyzing conference schedules dating […] […]

  8. I have to stick up for my alma mater here when you say Georgia is not an elite team since 02.

    Georgia went to the SEC title game in 02, 03 and 05. They won 2 of those games.

    Since Mark Richt took over, they are 61-17. That’s .78 winning percentage and they finished in the top 7 4 out of the past 5 years.

    I’d say that’s top tier.

    But again, that’s my alma mater.

  9. SEC Team Rankings (I probably should’ve supported my claims!):
    I don’t think I used the term elite and I wasn’t really thinking on a national scale when ranking the teams, just focusing on the conference itself. We’ll use performance since 2002 as the criteria. There are 6 teams in each of the two SEC divisions so I picked the best two teams from each division for tier 1 the next best two for tier 2 and so on. Tier 1 teams have over the past five years all won conference championships. Since 2002 you can argue that Tennessee is just as much a tier 1 team as Florida but UF has a conference and national title and hasn’t had a losing season where the Vols have. UGA is an undisputed tier 1 team. Matt_T hit it on the head. The other arguable ranking is SC in the 2nd tier. Kentucky has had at least as much success in the last five years as the Cocks, but come on… it’s Kentucky. And Alabama is a solid tier 2 team. They have had some crappy seasons (always 4+ wins though), but they’ve also had two 10 win seasons.

    The “Top Heavy” comment:
    Yes of course, all conferences are top heavy by the fact that the best teams are at the top, but what I meant (and said) is that the drop-off in talent/performance from the top two pac-10 teams to the next two or three teams is typically much more pronounced than it is in the SEC which almost always has four strong teams. And as I said before, it could simply be the consequence of the SEC having 12 teams instead of 10. Still don’t believe me? Let’s look at the two conferences using the last five seasons AP poll rankings:

    Pac-10: 4. USC, 10. Washington St. After that there are 3 unranked teams with 2 fewer wins (8) than WA St.
    SEC: 3. UGA, 11. Alabama, 14. Auburn. After that there is another 9 win team and three 8 win teams.

    Pac-10: 1. USC, 9. Washington St. The next three teams, again, have 8 wins.
    SEC: 1. LSU, 7, UGA, 13. Ole Miss, 15. Tennessee, 24. Florida. There is one more 8 win team and one more 9 win team.

    Pac-10: 1. USC, 9. Cal, 19. Arizona State. The next two teams have 7 and 6 wins respectively
    SEC: 2. Auburn, 7. UGA, 13. Tennessee, 16. LSU. The next two teams have 7 and 6 wins respectively.

    Pac-10: 2. USC, 13. Oregon, 16. UCLA. The next two teams have 8 and 7 wins respectively.
    SEC: 6. LSU, 8. Alabama, 10. UGA, 12. Florida, 14. Auburn. The next two teams have 7 and 5 wins respectively.

    Pac-10: 4. USC, 14. Cal, 21. Oregon St. The next three teams all have 7 wins.
    SEC: 1. Florida, 3. LSU, 9. Auburn, 15. Arkansas, 23. Georgia, 25. Tennessee. The next two teams have 8 wins each.

    If you look at the SEC in 2002, 2003, and 2006 the #6, 7, 8 teams in all have as many as eight wins. In 2005, the SEC’s most unbalanced season, there were 5 teams in the top 15 so you’d expect a serious dropoff after that. 2004 was very similar to the distributions of the Pac-10 teams, but with one extra ranked team. My point is, that in the Pac-10 the mediocre teams start at the 3,4,5th ranked positions (in the conference) whereas in the SEC, the medicore teams are usually in the 6,7,8th ranked positions. Based on data from the last five season this is absolutely undeniable.

    JP, I will agree with you that scheduling a 1-AA team is disgraceful and shouldn’t be allowed. Especially for teams in BCS conferences. But when you think about it, what’s the difference between a team from the MAC or Sun Belt and a 1-AA team? Not much. Also, every conference pillages the mid-majors for their ooc games. That’s just how it is. If you look at the links provided in the main article, they break down the ooc teams for both the SEC and the Pac-10 and it comes up pretty similar. 7 of the Pac-10’s 27 (26%) non-conference games are against BCS teams while 14 of the SEC’s 45 (31%) non-conference games are against BCS teams. Also, the main criticism of the SEC’s schedule strength is the weak ooc games. But schedule strength should look at the entire schedule. Just because a game is against a conference foe doesn’t make it less difficult to win. For an elite team, which schedule is harder? A schedule where you have to play 4 very good teams, 4 mediocre teams, and 4 really bad teams or one where you play 2 very good teams, 8 mediocre teams, and 2 really bad teams. Certainly the first, which has only 8 “guaranteed wins” as opposed to the second, which has 10. I would consider this the difference between the typical SEC schedule and the typical Pac-10 schedule. This leads me to the next point…

    LSU vs USC 2003:
    If you look at the schedules, USC played in two games against ranked teams. In the first they humiliated a very good Washington State team. The second was the Rose Bowl win against Michigan. The rest of the schedule was mediocre with all other opponents having 5 or more losses. LSU played 5 games against ranked opponents. They played 7th ranked Georgia twice(!), #24 Florida (and lost), #13 Ole Miss, and #3 Oklahoma. With the exception of Arkansas, (9-4, should’ve been ranked) the rest of LSU’s schedule was mediocre to poor with Louisiana-Monroe, Western Illinois, and Arizona at the bottom end. Is there any doubt which team had the harder schedule? Now compare the loss suffered by each team. USC lost to Cal. Was it close? Yes. But the fact remains that Cal was by no means a good team. They only won two other games against winning teams. They beat C-USA champ Southern Miss (9-4) and Virginia Tech (8-5, 4th in the Big East). Their only other strong showing was a 3 point loss to Kansas State in the season opener. LSU lost to Florida who had the same 8-5 record as Cal. Florida was a much better team than their record suggested mainly because they played the single hardest schedule I have ever seen. They played 8 games against teams with 9+ wins. Of those 8, 7 were against teams in the top 15. Like Cal, Florida had 3 wins against teams with winning records. Those came against LSU (13-1), UGA (11-3), and Arkansas (9-4). Florida’s five losses were to #5 Miami, #8 Iowa, #11 Florida State, #13 Ole Miss, and #15 Tennessee.

    So if you had to compare two teams that didn’t play each other and had to put one above the other (no ties!). Would you choose the team that had a stronger schedule, more wins against ranked opponents, and whose single loss came to a strong team or would you choose the team with the weaker schedule, less than half as many wins against ranked opponents, whose loss came to a decidedly mediocre team? If you chose the second team, you must be a USC fan.

    Finally the “we know it’s not your fault but we hate you anyway” comment:
    Ignorance at its peak? This is College Football not race relations! No one, except maybe those most detached from reality, actually hates you. Do you really hate people who root for UCLA? Of course not! Did I really want to nut punch Pete Carrol? Well, maybe, but I wouldn’t have! At the very least so as to avoid the wrath of any 300lb Samoan linemen.

  10. I appreciate the time you took in putting together a well constructed argument. Most areas we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Although I did agree that the SEC is a stronger conference but they piss that advantage way by putting 1-AA teams on their schedule. If the SEC (or any conference) just stuck to 1-A teams, they’d have a lot more respect in my eyes. The Pac-10 has one 1-AA opponent this year and I think Arizona is playing them. Mike Stoops must’ve picked that up in Big 12 country.

    But, what’s the difference between Sun Belt and 1-AA? A whole division is the difference. It’s not the same, no matter how much you believe it. And playing someone from the WAC or the MAC is quite different than even the lower tier 1-A teams, much less a 1-AA opponent.

    The big problem with your overall win argument is that at least some of those 8 or 9 win teams played a 1-AA opponent. You should subtract a win. If you subtracted those wins from both the Pac-10 and the SEC, the SEC’s win number would decline significantly while the Pac-10’s wouldn’t change too much. The Pac-10 is a weaker conference than the SEC but every team plays the other (all conferences should add an additional conference game) and they stay within Division 1-A. That improves their strength of schedule. The Pac-10 utilizes their schedule to improve their SoS, the SEC uses it to take a break.

    Anyone that watched both the 2003 LSU and USC teams knows they’re nearly equal in the talent department. They were both deserving of being in the BCS Championship, regardless of who they played. What were their OOC schedules that year?

  11. 2003 LSU vs USC:
    I think the whole world agrees that LSU should’ve played USC in the ’04 Sugar Bowl. I am not trying to diminish the talent of the ’03 Trojans. If they weren’t a great team we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. But, my argument is that as the season stood, after all of the bowl games, looking at the accomplishments and failures of both teams the facts (stronger schedule, better wins, better loss) support LSU being ranked above USC. I’m not trying to say we would’ve beaten the crap out you had we played, just that given that we didn’t play and the limited information available, any non-biased, well-informed observer would rank LSU first. We clearly are both biased so It’s probably best to leave it at that.

    1-AA Teams:
    As I said before, I think that teams in BCS conferences should not be allowed to play 1-AA teams. Or at least have some sort of gentleman’s agreement not to. But in reality, for any team other than the lowest of the low (the less than 4 wins crowd) there is very little difference between playing a team like Utah State (WAC) and Richmond (A10). It’s the difference between you or I beating up a 10 year-old as opposed to an 8 year-old. And I don’t know if you ever look at Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings, where he ranks all of D-1, but there are a bunch of 1-AA teams ranked above 1-A teams. So it’s not as clear-cut as “all 1-A teams are better than all 1-AA teams”. A really good 1-AA team like UMass, Appalachian State, or Furman would be a much better opponent than Florida International or Buffalo. Also, how can you say that playing someone from the MAC or the WAC is “quite different” from playing a “lower tier 1-A team”? The MAC and the WAC ARE the lower tier 1-A teams. While the WAC (along with C-USA) are one of the better “mid-major” conferences they still have 1 or 2 good teams on top of a bunch of lousy teams. The MAC is almost as bad as the Sun Belt. They occasionally have a good team like Central Michigan last year and Miami(OH) when Ben Roethlesburger was there, but there’s nothing else there. Akron, Toledo, E Mich, W Mich, Buffalo, Kent State, Ball State, Bowling Green, the MAC sucks.

    Taking away a win for playing 1-AA teams:
    That just doesn’t make sense. Any team that can get 7 or 8 wins, can beat another cupcake team in the place of the 1-AA team they scheduled. If Auburn goes 8-4 do you think it would be that much harder for them to beat Troy as opposed to Wofford? At most you could take one win from one team, which would represent the likelihood of a crappy mid-major team upsetting a decent BCS team.

    Strength of Schedule:
    Although the “Strength of Schedule” score used by the BCS system is fixed (it’s a weighted average of opponents records and opponents’ opponents records), true strength of schedule is relative to the team that plays that schedule. That is you can have two schedules of equal “average strength” where one is much harder to go through undefeated than the other. Imagine if we had all the teams ranked from 1-119. Schedule A contains teams 1-6 and teams 114-119 (the six best and six worst) while schedule B contains teams 53-64 (the twelve most average). If I am an elite team, schedule B is much easier than schedule A despite the fact that they both have the same average strength. This is because with schedule B, my team is significantly better than all of my opponents, so I should easily go undefeated. The flipside of this is that if my team is simply mediocre I would want Schedule A, because I could guarantee 6 wins. Obviously this is an extreme example but the point is that for elite teams in consideration for the national title the top end of a schedule is far more significant than the bottom. Do you agree?

    Non-Conference Schedules:
    If you believe that the SEC is a tougher conference than the Pac-10, then the non-conference schedule for an SEC team is far less important than it is for a Pac-10 team. For example, last year LSU played 4 top-10 teams on the road. So how much does it really matter what the rest of the schedule is? Maybe 25% of the schedule’s difficulty will come from the other 8 games. (Unless it’s some mythical schedule where all of your opponents are really good: See Florida 2003) So like you said, “The Pac-10 utilizes their schedule to improve their SoS, the SEC uses it to take a break”. I agree with that 100%. But when you have a schedule where you play 4 top-10 teams on the road, you need the break provided by those ooc games. Now the rest of that argument is that the SEC won’t be as strong every year as it was in 2006, so you do need some difficulty in the non-conference games to keep from looking foolish. I agree with that as well.

    Adding Another Conference Game and Non-Conference Schedules:
    I don’t necessarily think that all conferences should add an extra conference game. It makes sense for a 10 team conference to do so, but not really anywhere else. (Some conferences only have 8 or 9 teams.) I would much rather see more non-conference games between BCS teams. The problem with that is two-fold. First you can’t force teams to schedule that way because it would further widen the gap between the BCS conferences and the mid-majors making them, by law, second class conferences. The other problem is that because you have to win all of your games (or lose one and get lucky) to go to the title game, no one wants to take a risk in scheduling a good game against a tough opponent. That’s just how it is.

    So what’s a good non-conference schedule? I’d say for a team looking to maximize their chances at a title you’d want one good team (but not too good) one or two mediocre teams (a low team from a BCS conference or a better team from a mid-major) and one or two cupcakes. And if people will take Ball State more seriously than Appalachian State, then schedule Ball State and laugh to yourself knowing you’re playing the easier team. Looking at USC’s non-conference schedules they tend to be pretty good. 2007, 2005, 2004, and 2003 are almost the exact formula I said above. 2002 looked like a beast (K State, Colorado, Auburn), and last year’s was pretty tough too, although I don’t think that Arkansas and Nebraska were as good as most people think. LSU typically has one mediocre to good team and three cupcakes. But I don’t really care about comparing two team’s non-conference schedules unless they’re in the same conference. Conference games are just as important as non-conference games, and the schedule as a whole is much more important. Basically every time you say “Well what about your non-conference schedule?”, I can say (“Oh yeah, well what about your conference schedule?”) and it would just go in circles. Unless you look at the whole schedule, the argument is meaningless.

    Since You Asked:
    2003 – USC played Auburn (8-5), BYU (4-8), Hawaii (9-5), and Notre Dame (5-7). One good but not too good, one cupcake, and two mediocre.

    2003 – LSU played Louisiana-Monroe (1-11), Arizona (2-10), W Illinois (9-4 1-AA), and Louisiana Tech (5-7). Mmmm… tasty.

    Fun Fact: Of the four teams, W Illinois was the highest rated 2003 Sagarin Ratings! (172, 101, 77, and 86 respectively).

  12. We can absolutely go round and round about this one with no end.

    I think you’ve made some fine points. If you’re interested in doing a point-counterpoint type of post with me for the blog, let me know.

  13. Did you hear Snoop Dogg go off on Les Miles?

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