For about a dozen years now, beginning after that woeful 2010 season that saw six conference teams play the Crimson Tide on an extra week of rest, we’ve done a little check-in on the conference schedule to scout for SEC chicanery.
Alabama is a usual the beneficiary of Greg Sankey’s little gift, but Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt have also been the “winners” in this space before. For reasons that are completely baffling (though I do suspect it’s from a desire to artificially create divisional balance and improve chances for that sweet CFP money), Georgia has always skated by.
Is that the case this season?
Let’s go to the schedule, shall we. As usual, we will assess a few main criteria: Number of opponents coming off a bye, whether those rested opponents are at home, and how nasty Birmingham decided to be in stacking road games.
Number of Opponents Coming off Bye Weeks
Home or Away
- Alabama: 2 (LSU, Ole Miss — both road trips)
- Arkansas: 1 (Auburn H)
- Auburn: 2 (Arkansas, Mississippi State — both road trips)
- Florida: 1 (Georgia - N)
- Georgia: 1 (Florida - N)
- Kentucky, Mississippi State, Mizzou : 0
- LSU: 2 (Alabama, Tennessee — both home games)
- Ole Miss: 1 (Vandy - H)
- Sakerlina: 2 (Texas A&M, Ole Miss — both home games)
- Tennessee: 1 (UK - H)
- Texas A&M: 1 (Sakerlina - A)
- Vanderbilt: 1 (Mizzou - A)
So, what’s our take away here?
One thing immediately jumps out at you: the SEC East once again gets to absolutely skate by facing rested opponents.
Two of the seven teams face no one coming off of a rested week. And the teams that figure to be in the top four of the division face a total of three opponents coming off of bye weeks. But even that doesn’t count. Of those three, two are against one another on a neutral field. And the only team that faces two rested opponents, USC, gets to stay at home both times. That means there is just one team total in the SEC East that plays an opponent coming off a true rest week: Tennessee, and even they are at home.
If Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, or Tennessee slip up, it won’t be because the SEC did them no favors. To the contrary, Birmingham went out of their way to give the Top Four of the Sisters of the Poor some beat-up opponents.
Let this sink in: Alabama alone will play more rested opponents, and more road opponents with an extra week to prepare, than the entire SEC East combined.
Speaking of ‘Bama, as usual, the SEC West draws the tougher end of the stick here, especially the state of Alabama. The Crimson Tide face two opponents coming off a rest week, and they’re both road trips; though one is mitigated somewhat by the annual mutual-bye with LSU. Poor Auburn, in the midst of steep rebuilding year, actually has it worse: they hit the road twice to face rested opponents. And, unlike Alabama, they don’t get the benefit of a mutual bye. An already bad team is being thrown behind the eight-ball by the league (Thanks, Greg! #FAU).
LSU is in a similar position to South Carolina. They also face two opponents coming off a week of rest. And though they’re both home games, their opponents are much tougher than the Gamecocks: the Tigers get Alabama and Tennessee under the lights. That is only mitigated by Alabama/LSU’s mutual bye.
It’s really a three-way scrap here for who the league did dirtiest, as you can make a case for Alabama, LSU, and Auburn. I’m going to give ‘Barn the slight nod for SEC Bye Week Screwjob for 2022, by just a whisker.
On the other hand, look at how gently the league treated the Aggies: one opponent coming off a bye, and though it’s a road game, it’s against bad team and A&M has a mutual bye that week.
Look, I’m not saying the SEC is desperately trying to schedule Florida, A&M, and Georgia into relevance...but I’m not not saying that either.
Biggest bye week screwjob?
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Consecutive Road Trips
Consecutive SEC Games
Consecutive SEC Bowl Teams
The other portion of the analysis is what the SEC does with road games. Teams have to hit the road four times a year, but whether they get three previous-year and likely bowl teams in a row, have to play 6 SEC teams in a row, or have a nice lil’ home-away with some Vandy sprinkled in there, is totally up to the league.
So, who has the toughest sledding here?
Alabama: Opens SEC play with 5 games in a row and no bye. One B2B road trip (LSU, OM), but Tide comes off of Bye before hitting the road. Toughest stretch is nasty: 4 of 6 on the road, and all against bowl teams: @ Ark, A&M, @UT, MSU, @ LSU, @ OM. Six SEC bowl teams in a row.
Arkansas: No B2B road trips. No more than three SEC games in a row. Toughest stretch is one at home, one in Dallas, one on the road: A&M (D), Bama, at Mississippi State. Three bowl teams in a row.
Auburn: Opens with four SEC games in a row, no bye and it includes LSU and @ UGA. One B2B road trip (and it’s nasty) @UGA, @OM. Toughest stretch is backloaded and their own damn fault for scheduling the ‘Toppers: Ark, @MSU, A&M, Western Kentucky, @ Alabama. Five bowl teams in row.
Florida: Just four SEC games in a row, all after the Bye, and it’s quite manageable (includes Vandy, USC). No B2B road trips. Toughest Stretch (I guess): Cocktail Party, at A&M, vs. South Carolina. Three bowl teams in a row.
Georgia: Just one four-game SEC stretch, all after the bye, and it likewise is manageable but just a bit harder than Florida’s (two roadies to Miss. State and Kentucky). One B2B road swing: Kentucky, Miss. State. Toughest Stretch: Cocktail Party, Tenn., at MSU, at UK. Four bowl teams in a row.
Kentucky: One four-game SEC swing, but event that includes USC and Vandy. One B2B road trip, at archrival Tennessee and a trap game at Mizzou. Opens SEC Play in Week 2 vs. Florida, but that is wedged with NIU, Youngstown, and Miami - OH. Toughest Stretch: None, really, unless you want to count B2B trips to CoMo and Knoxville. And, please do remember, Kentucky also faces zero teams coming off a bye week.
LSU: Two separate four-game SEC stretches, and both times they face four straight bowl teams. No B2B road games. Toughest Stretch: the last month — UA, @Ark, UAB, @A&M. Four bowl teams in a row...twice. No cushy Vandy here.
Miss. State: Four SEC games in a row, all before the bye. Six straight opponents coming off of Bowl games. Two B2B road trips (but one is their fault for scheduling Arizona), and one is easier, one is far tougher: @Ariz, @LSU and @UK, @Alabama.
Ole Miss: Five game SEC stretch without a bye, and three are on the road. One B2B road trip, and it is nasty: LSU, A&M. Toughest stretch: Last three weeks is where Lane will make his money: Alabama, @ Ark, Egg Bowl. Six straight SEC opponents coming off a bowl appearance.
South Carolina: One B2B roadie: Vandy, Florida. One five-game stretch after the bye (and then Clemson) that could see the Gamecocks get just one win after Halloween. Toughest stretch: Take your pick, because the season starts hard and ends hard. They open vs. Georgia State, vs. UGA, and at Arkansas. And they end with a road trip to Florida, vs. Tennessee, and at Clemson. Okay, yeah, probably those last three. Just two consecutive SEC bowl teams in a row though...but they do that three times.
Tennessee: One five-game SEC stretch to end the season, but it has Vandy and South Carolina for a soft landing. Just three SEC bowl teams in a row (though they do that trick twice in the season). One B2B road trip, but it’s South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Toughest stretch: Florida, at LSU, Alabama — but even that is broken up by a bye week. This is a hella’ friendly schedule for a program trying to get off the mat. (*wink, wink*)
Texas A&M: One B2B road trip: Miss. State, Alabama. One four-game stretch against SEC teams, and it’s the easier portion of the schedule. Three SEC bowl teams in a row, just one time. Toughest stretch: Arkansas in Dallas, @Miss. State, @Alabama. Still, this is ridiculously easy schedule. I’m sure that was an accident and not Houston being the third-largest market in the country. (*wink, wink*)
Vandy: Does it really matter? This is a 10-loss team wearing a Power 5 skin suit. Every game is hard as hell for them, perhaps even including Elon. But Vandy does have one four-game stretch against SEC teams to end the year, and Florida won’t be nearly as stinky this season as they were last. So we’ll also say that’s also their hardest: SC, @UK, UF, Tennessee
Easiest SEC schedule
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So, what do we have here? Well, like the Bye Week situation, some of those non-Alabama contenders really got a jolt from the league office. In particular, Texas A&M, Kentucky, and Tennessee were gift-wrapped 9 wins out of the gate, if scheduling is the sole factor. And, yes, once again, we see the Florida-Georgia tandem landing on the softest bed that the SEC can make for them.
I’m not saying that Sankey is trying like hell to manufacture four national power-type programs, and an excellent upper-middle class, but this has gone on for a long time...and with the same ole’ usual suspects.
Meanwhile, like the ole’ prayer that God never gives you what you can’t handle, the talented Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers get heeve-hoed from Birmingham.
But, in total, the biggest screw job of the year has to go to the Auburn Tigers. Not only do they get it coming (by way of Bye Week chicanery), but going — throwing in two awfully tough SEC stretches broken up by a bye.
As usual, we remind you as you look at the standings and wonder why LSU is a .500 team or why Kentucky and Tennessee are flirting with 10 wins or why Georgia and Florida have an entirely healthy roster in December, the SEC has a whole lot to do with that before the first kickoff of labor day....And, Auburn bros, get that buyout money ready: The Tigers are setting up for a four-win season and it won’t entirely be Harsin’s fault.
Toughest SEC Schedule
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