SEC Football Scheduling – Timing is Everything

Florida 20
Florida Atlantic 14

Citadel 23
South Carolina 22

Georgia 23
Georgia Southern 17

This is what November scheduling looks like in the SEC and it’s been like this for as long as I can remember. There were other SEC teams playing November non-conference games this past Saturday against opponents such as these, but Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky did a superior job in taking care of business.

In the grand scheme of things, opponents like Florida Atlantic have the same meaning if they are played in September or if they are played in November. However, there is a scenario where losing to the Citadel or Georgia Southern hold different meaning if they are played in September as opposed to November.

Think back to September of 2014. Virginia Tech strolled into Columbus, Ohio and left with a win over eventual national champion, Ohio St. This loss was considered to be the worst loss by a national champion.

Do you want to know what made it possible for Ohio St. to win the 2014 national championship after suffering a loss that would have seemed to have been catastrophic? Timing.

If Ohio St. and the Big Ten used the SEC model for scheduling, the Buckeyes never would have made the college football playoff let alone win the national championship. If Florida, South Carolina or Georgia were truly in the discussion for a playoff spot, a close win or outright loss to one of these check cashing non-conference opponents would have sunk their final four chances. Like I said, timing is everything.

The SEC scheduling model is unique in scheduling non-conference games in November. This scheduling model is also unique because it creates more conference games in September. It is a trade-off that has paid off.

Other conferences use these non-conference games against the SEC. The SEC spews a lot of bravado in regards to their overall strength and the conference’s detractors use the November schedule against the SEC. When your conference isn’t the SEC, you have to cling to any criticism you can muster.

These SEC haters say that the SEC should be playing a 9 game conference schedule. You know, it’s about balance and “one true champion.”

To be fair, there are also some SEC coaches who are supportive of a 9 game conference schedule. Nick Saban is the loudest SEC supporter of the 9 game conference schedule.

“I personally feel like strength of schedule is going to be a real important thing in the future. I know there are people out there who say we have fixed opponents that are very, very good teams. Well, let’s make a deal and let’s all play 10 good games. We’ll still play Virginia Tech or Wisconsin or West Virginia or Michigan or one of these teams in the first game of the year and go play nine conference games too.

“I think all those things make your team better and it’s really better for the fans. I think we should spend a lot more time thinking about the people that support and make college football what it is.”

Saban is correct and the SEC haters are just hypocritical.

Saban’s strength of schedule argument is a valid one. Power 5 teams have no business playing teams such as The Citadel, because there is virtually no benefit in beating a low level team like them. Beat them and everyone says that you should have beaten them. Lose and you look unmotivated and unprepared. You know, something about “shit through a tin horn.” The only way this will change is if an Alabama type of team loses one of these November games and thus misses out on the playoff.

As for the SEC haters, they’re completely hypocritical. Is there a louder SEC hater than the Big 12? No, no there isn’t. The scenario that would cause the Big 12 to write their best Taylor Swift song is if the SEC had multiple teams in the playoff while the entire Big 12 was shutout of the playoff. Bob Stoops would sing the “woe is me” song about the travesty of the SEC scheduling model. Baylor felt as if the Big 12’s “one true champion” model robbed them of their rightful place in the 2014 playoff. They seem to be positioning themselves for a similar “we were screwed” argument this year, but have you looked at the non-conference schedule for a team like Baylor? SMU, Lamar, and Rice. The Big 12 is a blank space. Their games will leave you breathless but in the end they just create a nasty scar.

If the SEC ever uses a 9 game conference scheduling model or stops playing a lousy opponent in November, it won’t be because they are striving for “one true champion.” It will be because a November non-conference opponent cost the conference a spot in the playoff.

Remember, timing is everything.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SMerenbloom.