The SEC is often accused of padding their schedules with soft competition and of not being willing to travel. It's a an accusation with some merit. Since the advent of the 12 game schedule, many SEC schools have often had eight home games. Before that, it was common to have a seven game home schedule. I was perusing the 2008 SEC schedules though and noticed an overall upward trend in both quality of non-conference opponents and a willingness to travel that we haven't seen in a long time. Only LSU has an eight game home schedule this year. Here's a quick look at SEC non-conference travel this year:
Alabama: Clemson in Atlanta
Arkansas: at Texas
Auburn: at West Virginia
Florida: Georgia in Jacksonville, at Florida State
Georgia: at Arizona State, Florida in Jacksonville
Kentucky: at Louisville
Mississippi State: at Louisiana Tech, at Georgia Tech
Ole Miss: at Wake Forest
South Carolina: at Clemson
Tennessee: at UCLA
Vanderbilt: at Miami (Ohio), at Wake Forest
I realize that several of those are standing rivalries and might be dismissed by naysayers, but travel to FSU, Louisville, Clemson can't be shrugged off because it's routine. Two games are neutral site (one conference, one non-conference), but it's still a forfeiture of revenue and home field advantage.
With the exception of the two Vanderbilt games and MSU at LaTech, all of these games are near locks for TV coverage (Ole Miss at WF is a bit questionable too...but it has a chance of regional coverage) Unfortunately this newfound sense of adventure is coupled with the nagging problem of scheduling 1-AA teams. Just about everybody's got one too:
Alabama: Western Kentucky, though I give us a bit of a pass on this one since they're in a transition year to being D1...though I don't know if this was known when the scheduling decision was made. WKU is playing 10 D1 opponents this year.
Arkansas: Western Illinois
Florida: The Citadel
Georgia: Georgia Southern
Kentucky: Norfolk State, Western Kentucky (I'd be interested to know if both count toward bowl eligibility...)
LSU: Appalachian State
Mississippi State: Southeastern Louisiana
Ole Miss: Samford
South Carolina: Wofford
That's ten teams with 1-AA opponents, nine if Western Kentucky is counted as D1 since they're kind of homeless right now (they'll be eligible to earn a bowl bid in the Sun Belt next year.) I realize you can't play USC, Ohio State, Texas and West Virginia for your non-conference schedule, but we, as a conference, shouldn't be playing the 1-AA schools. I know those games serve the money machine, but I don't even care about them. Had Western Carolina not been Saban's first game and the opening game of the season, I wouldn't have gone last year. Actually, the most important factor in attending that game is that I lived within walking distance of the stadium. Without that, I would've skipped it entirely. I like the travel trend, but the 1-AA games have got to cease.