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Closer Look: How Unfair is the SEC Schedule?

Does the SEC favor Alabama in its scheduling practice or is it just the luck of the draw?

Sam Greenwood

We've been teasing LSU fans for the past few years cause of all the"THE SEC IS SO UNFAIR" talk and honestly it has gotten quite annoying. LSU points to their schedule, looks at Bama's (and our titles) and claim the system is unfair. They say playing UF every year is a disadvantage while Alabama getting Tennessee means Alabama has the easier road. This may be true for the last 8 years but Florida hasn't always been Florida and that is certainly true this year.

Let's tackle the cross divisional argument first...

Complaining that you have to play Florida every year isn't a valid argument. During the 80's, UF's record was 76–38–3 (.662). Not bad but certainly not great. If you want to go back one more decade we can — in the 70's UF went 58–53–3 (.522). I fully admit Florida has been one of the elite teams in the SEC over the last 20+ years but LSU fans act like Florida has always been the class of the SEC, which simply isn't true.

Even if you look at LSU since 1971, playing UF every year certainly had little to no effect on their chances of winning the SEC and/or playing for a National Title. It wasn't until the early 2000's when this became a point of contention among the LSU faithful. Wonder what changed?

Tennessee admittedly has been a dumpster fire for the last 7 years but was certainly one of the top teams in all of college football for much of the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and early part of the 00's. LSU, and many other media pundits looking for page views, love to point to the downward spiral that has been UT football since 2008 but seemingly forget from 2000-20007 Tennessee went 11-2, 8-5, 10-3, 10-3, 5-6, 9-4, 10-4 respectively.

And as of right now, neither Florida nor Tennessee look all that impressive and UF very well could be in the middle of another coaching change in the coming months. So moving forward, unless Florida pulls themselves out of their current gutter, I would say playing Florida every year should be considered a competitive advantage..

But before we can draw any real conclusions I think it's best to remove our gump for a minute and at least try to understand their (LSU's) position..

Les Miles:

"A key piece to every conference is that we'd be able to describe the path to a championship in an equal and direct manner," Miles said. "Scheduling should not in any way decide championships repeatedly or throughout."

"We play Georgia and Florida for the seventh time this year," Miles said. There's some other schools that have not played Georgia and Florida in the same year," Miles said. "I'd have to say there's a repeated scheduling advantage and disadvantage for certain teams in this conference based on tradition and traditional matchups."

"I'd have to say there's a repeated scheduling advantage and disadvantage for certain teams in this conference based on tradition and traditional matchups. I'll give you an example. Auburn played Florida and Georgia 19 times since 2000. That makes a heck of a difference. Now, how many times has the West gone through each opponent? How many times have they played them? Not that many times."

This was handed out by LSU at the 2013 SEC Media Days


Steve Spurrier:

"I think we've all seen how much it pays off when you don't have to play the top teams from the other division," said Spurrier, who has voiced his concerns to several in the media this week.

"I'm all for Alabama and Tennessee playing every year. We can still play eight, and that would be their ninth game every year. It just won't count in their conference records unless that's the year they're supposed to play in the league. I'm sure Tennessee would love that."

"Coach Saban doesn't have a big rival out of conference he plays every year, and I understand it's hard for them to get (nonconference) games," Spurrier said. "So let them and Tennessee play every year. That's what we ought to do.

"Maybe Alabama can pick a fight with Texas. Texas doesn't play Texas A&M anymore, and they need somebody to play out of conference."

Then don't play Clemson every year...Solves that problem, right Coach? Oh, the Clemson game is important to you? How about that....

From ATVS (I asked them to give me their thoughts on the scheduling issue):

SEC scheduling is a particular sore spot for LSU fans, as the Tigers routinely play one of the hardest schedules in the country. Here are LSU's SOS by Brian Freamau's ratings by year:

2012: 4

2011: 1

2010: 3

2009: 4

2008: 4

2007: 17

Try and guess which year LSU won the national title. The funny thing about that is that the Schedule Gods certainly came through in 2007, as LSU became the first 2-loss national champion largely due to its tough schedule and the fact the top one-loss contender lost to LSU out-of-conference by 41 points. So it's not like a tough schedule hasn't had its benefits. LSU almost certainly won the 2007 title due to its OOC schedule, and the good fortune of everyone else losing and having actually beaten the other top contender head to head.

2008 and 2009 had little to no impact on LSU's title hopes as LSU had little to no shot of winning the title with the teams they did field. Though 2009 is an odd case as LSU was one of only three teams in the SEC to post a winning conference record, and LSU had to play Florida and Georgia (and Vandy, to be fair) cross-divisionally. Schedule also didn't really come into play in 2010, as LSU would have won the West had it just beaten Auburn.

So really, LSU's SEC schedule complaints focus on the last three seasons. And the complaint is not that LSU has to play Florida every year. The complaint is that LSU has been playing brutal cross-divisionally schedules whil Bama has been playing exceedingly weak ones, yet getting credit for playing a tough schedule.

In 2011, LSU played 3 of the top 5 teams in the country, beating all of them. LSU beat two other ACQ conference champions, both away from Tiger Stadium. Meanwhile, Alabama beat three teams with a winning record prior to the bowl season. Bama's second best win was likely Auburn, which was LSU's sixth best win. LSU beat Alabama head to head, had to play an extra game in Atlanta, yet Bama was actually rewarded for losing and got a rematch. It's not the fact that there was a rematch that was so galling, it was that Alabama didn't play a very tough schedule to earn that rematch. It was as if Bama got credit for LSU's brutal schedule.

But 2012 was even worse. That was the first time the SEC was decided by schedule. The top three contenders in the West all went 1-1 against one another and were 5-1 versus the division. The title was decided by schedule: the team with the easiest schedule was rewarded. There were three elite teams in the East that year, LSU played two of them and went 1-1, A&M played one and went 0-1, and Bama played none of them. Playing a much tougher schedule cost both LSU and A&M, and gave Alabama the divisional title.

2013 promised a similarly disproportionate schedule, but LSU made it a bit of a moot point by choking against Ole Miss. But the worst thing about the last two seasons is that the schedules have NOT been random. There has been no "luck of the draw". The SEC had to make bridge schedule due to expansion, so it made these schedules with the full knowledge of the relative strengths of the teams. And the league office gave Bama an easy schedule and LSU a tough one. That, above all else, is the source of LSU's frustrations. This was not just bad luck, this was a conscious decision.

Well then...

Okay, for starters the 2011 argument is quite silly. You can't use your divisional schedule to prove the unfairness of your over-all schedule. LSU played Tennessee and Kentucky from the East that year (Bama got Florida and Vandy) but LSU scheduled, on their own mind you, Oregon and WVU..That's on them, not the SEC.

Forgetting the annual match-up with UF, LSU has played UGA three times since 2008 and USCe twice. But how quickly they forget that over that same time frame Alabama played UGA once, Florida twice and USCe twice.

3+2 = 5 and 1+2+2 = 5, right?

Now, since 2008 Alabama has played Vandy and Kentucky more times than LSU, though not by that wide of a margin (LSU 3, Bama 4).

So, this really is about the permanent cross divisional rivals and not the natural scheduling rotation, huh..

The point ATVS made about the last two seasons being random, and not part of a designed mathematical equation, is quite damning, in my opinion. You have to wonder why the SEC gave Alabama such a lenient schedule in 2012 and 2013 while LSU was given UGA and USC yet again.

However, starting in 2014, Florida rotates in for Alabama and LSU picks up Kentucky. So, is that unfair for Alabama or from LSU's perspective, just sweet justice?

To give ourselves one last view point on the matter, here are the schedules for LSU, Florida, Georgia and Alabama since 2007. I included only these four teams because of their consistency since 2008. (Sorry, Auburn) I excluded the divisional games and only included cross divisional/ OOC games. My reasoning here is that you can't complain about a schedule with-in your own division, unless you want to realign the divisions, which I won't be debating today..

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Florida Florida Florida Florida Florida Florida Florida Florida
USC USC Vandy Vandy Tennessee USC UGA Kentucky
Kentucky UGA UGA Tennessee Kentucky
Virginia Tech Troy Washington UNC Oregon Idaho UAB ULM
MTSU North Texas Louisiana-Lafayette WVU Northwestern St Townson Kent St Sam Houston
La Tech Tulane Tulane McNeese St WVU Washington Furman New Mexico
Tulane Troy La Tech ULM Western K North Texas TCU Wisconsin

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Auburn Auburn Auburn Auburn Auburn Auburn Auburn Auburn
Alabama Alabama Arkansas Arkansas Ole Miss Ole Miss LSU Arkansas
Okie St Ga Southern Okie St Louisiana-Lafayette Boise St FAU App St Troy
Western Carolina Central Mich Arizona St Colorado St Coast Carolina Ga Southern Clemson Clemson
Troy Arizona St Tenn Tech Idaho New Mexico Buffalo North Texas Charlston Southern
Georgia Tech Georgia Tech Georgia Tech Georgia Tech Georgia Tech Georgia Tech Georgia Tech Georgia Tech

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Auburn Ole Miss MSU Alabama Alabama A&M Arkansas Alabama
Ole Miss Arkansas Arkansas MSU Auburn
Western Kentucky Hawaii Charleston S Miami Ohio FAU Louisiana-Lafayette Miami Eastern Kentucky
Troy Miami Troy USF UAB Jacksonville St Georgia Southern Eastern Michigan
FIU Citadel FIU App St Furman Bowling Green Toledo Idaho

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee
UGA UGA USC Florida Florida Mizzou Kentucky Florida
Vandy Kentucky Kentucky USC Vandy
ULM Clemson Virginia Tech Penn St Penn St Western Kentuck Colorado St Western Carolina
FSU Western Kentucky FIU San Jose St Kent St FAU Georgia St ?
Houston Tulane Noth Texas Duke North Texas Western Carolina Chattanooga ?
Western Carolina Arkansas St Chattanooga Georgia St Georgia Southern Michigan Virginia Tech WVU

Year by Year, West vs East Comparison

*BCS Champion

Tennessee Florida LSU Auburn
UGA USC Auburn Alabama
Vandy Kentucky Ole Miss Ole Miss
ULM Virginia Tech Western Kentucky Okie St
FSU MTSU Troy Western Carolina
Houston La Tech FIU Troy
Western Carolina Tulane FSU Georgia Tech

Tennessee Florida LSU Auburn
UGA USC Ole Miss Alabama
Kentucky UGA Arkansas LSU
Clemson Troy Hawaii Ga Southern
Western Kentucky North Texas Miami Central Mich
Tulane Tulane Citadel Arizona St
Arkansas St Troy FSU Georgia Tech

Tennessee Florida LSU Auburn
USC Vandy MSU Arkansas
Kentucky UGA Arkansas LSU
Virginia Tech Washington Charleston S Okie St
FIU Louisiana-Lafayette Troy Arizona St
Noth Texas Tulane FIU Tenn Tech
Chattanooga La Tech FSU Georgia Tech

Tennessee Florida LSU Auburn
Florida Vandy Alabama Arkansas
USC Tennessee MSU MSU
Penn St UNC Miami Ohio Louisiana-Lafayette
San Jose St WVU USF Colorado St
Duke McNeese St App St Idaho
Georgia St ULM FSU Georgia Tech

Tennessee Florida LSU Auburn
Florida Tennessee Alabama Ole Miss
Vandy Kentucky Auburn MSU
Penn St Oregon FAU Boise St
Kent St Northwestern St UAB Coast Carolina
North Texas WVU Furman New Mexico
Georgia Southern Western K FSU Georgia Tech

Tennessee Florida LSU Auburn
Mizzou USC A&M Ole Miss
Western Kentuck Idaho Louisiana-Lafayette FAU
FAU Townson Jacksonville St Ga Southern
Western Carolina Washington Bowling Green Buffalo
Michigan North Texas FSU Georgia Tech

Tennessee Florida LSU Auburn
Kentucky UGA Arkansas LSU
Colorado St UAB Miami App St
Georgia St Kent St Georgia Southern Clemson
Chattanooga Furman Toledo North Texas
Virginia Tech TCU FSU Georgia Tech

Tennessee Florida LSU Auburn
Florida Kentucky Alabama Arkansas
Western Carolina ULM Eastern Kentucky Troy
? Sam Houston Eastern Michigan Clemson
? New Mexico Idaho Charlston Southern
WVU Wisconsin FSU Georgia Tech

Only a true gump could deny Alabama has had the easier path of the four but UGA does comes in as a close 2nd. I truly believe this is the last year we'll hear about how unfair the SEC schedule is, at least from LSU fans. I'm sure Spurrier will pick up where Miles left off but the OBC is only here for entertainment purposes, right?

I do believe that the permanent cross divisional rivalries are a thing of the past and will be done away with when the SEC goes to a nine game conference schedule. That is unless Florida falls head first in the gutter and LSU sees no logical reason to take them off their permanent schedule..

Roll Tide