For the sake of this argument we are only going to talk about the Power 5 conferences in College Football. We have the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, and Pac 12. It is largely believed that the SEC is the strongest/best/toughest conference top to bottom in the country. The fact that an SEC team has won 9 of the last 12 National Championships in College Football makes that hard to argue. Strength of schedule comes up almost every single time in these arguments, and considering the SEC is loaded most years, that too is hard to argue. Let’s try looking at it from an angle the SEC doesn’t want you to notice or even talk about, Structure Of Schedule. What do I mean by that you ask?
We all play cupcakes at some point in time on the schedules, so let’s get that out of the way right now. Conference games are conference games and even a bad conference team means more to play against than a mediocre or decent non-conference opponent. If you play a BIG out of conference team, good for you. If you play said game on the road, BIG KUDOS to you. The SEC does something with their scheduling that no other Power 5 does and I find it so insulting and suspect. I’m calling them out now. For the most part the other conferences start conference play and stay in it until the end of the year, so “trap” games are a real thing. I’m going to use Alabama as my example in all this since they are the “big dogs” in College Football. The Crimson Tide will not schedule a TRUE road out of conference game, ever. I’ve looked back at their last 10 years and the week before a tough SEC road game, they will either take a bye or play a dog. Here is the biggest embarrassment for them: The week before their rivalry game against Auburn every year, they step out of conference to play;
2010 Georgia State
2011 Georgia Southern
2012 Western Carolina
2014 Western Carolina
2015 Charleston Southern
2018 The Citadel.
Why does this matter? When you get to rest easy before big games, tough road games, and rivalry games, it makes things A LOT easier on your team, you minds, and your bodies while other conferences are going through emotional conference games straight through. I’m more impressed with lesser conferences who have to face each other all the way through and before big games and rivalries than I do a tough conference who steps out before things get hard and plays High Schools. It is easy to stay healthy and win titles when your opponents played mediocre and/or tough games throughout while you slept. No other conference does this to the extent, if at all other than the prized SEC. Come North in November against a non-conference power…you won’t. Stay in your conference before rivalry week…you won’t. Try winning something after a major injury…you won’t and you couldn’t, which is why you play with coloring books while the rest of the country faces true conference games and not the janitors from the local office building. Not all schedules are created equal and sometimes it has nothing to do with strength, sometimes we miss the structure. It is a smart ploy by the SEC and its Athletic Directors, but let’s stop pretending you fully work for things.