Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Art of the Cupcake Schedule

If you've ever wondered what the key ingredients are in making a perfect cupcake schedule, ask a fan from Minnesota, the Southeastern or Big 12 conferences.

Numbers don't lie now, do they?

The site National Championship Issue has completed an amazing study, looking at nonconference schedules the past 10 years. And guess what? Scheduling abuses are greatest among SEC and Big 12 teams, who continue to shy from playing other Bowl Championship Series teams in nonconference games.

Much of this data reinforces the study posted here last December by Map Game Day detailing how SEC teams rarely left the neighborhood to play a game. Georgia, for example, has traveled a total of 358 miles for nonconference games the past 10 years.

So not only do many of these teams refuse to travel, they schedule the lightest of the lightweights for home games. Shame, shame, shame.

College football fans should be outraged. You pay good money to attend games and get a product that continues to be cheapened by a watering down of competition. And don't give us that crap about how difficult your conference schedule is. Today's business model is to go 4-0 in nonconference play and 2-6 in league play. That gets your team a 6-6 record and trip to Shreveport. Yippee!
Let's get to this amazing piece of work posted by National Championship Issue, which cautions that "this is NOT a study of how difficult a team’s non-conf schedule actually was. Instead, this study attempts to measure how difficult a non-conf schedule a team tried to arrange."
Here's the first chart showing the lowest percentages of BCS opponents scheduled for nonconference games the past 10 years. Minnesota, which has played 34 nonleague games in that span, has played only two BCS opponents — Baylor and California. Arkansas is not much better with only four of its 34 nonleague games coming against BCS teams.
This chart details the fewest number of nonconference road games the past 10 years. Of Auburn's 34 nonleague games, only three — USC, Georgia Tech and Syracuse — have been on the road. Notice there are seven SEC teams in the bottom 12.
Here we look at teams that have really sold out, scheduling the most games against I-AA opponents. There are 18 teams charted, and Big 12 teams occupy seven of the slots.

As always, click a chart for an expanded view.


Anonymous said...

What do you mean forget the strength of conference scheduling? For teams like UGA, UF, LSU, Auburn, etc. out of the SEC who are competing for BCS bowls, why would they schedule more than one big non-conf. game a year, especially when it's going to be wedged in the lunacy that is the SEC. With the addition of the 12th game, the new model is to schedule one big non-conf. game a year (e.g. AU/WVU, Alabama/Clemson, UGA/Ariz. St.). I think this is all we can ask for as fans when you take into account money, local business, conflicts of schedule, etc.

Charlestowne said...

That's right.. "Boo SEC, see.. they don't play that tough a schedule. They aren't that good." More of the same gripping.

I would like to know how thay claim that it is "NOT a study of how difficult a team’s non-conf schedule actually was. Instead, this study attempts to measure how difficult a non-conf schedule a team tried to arrange." Do they have some sort of inside information from all of the scheduling departments on who they talked to about filling the non-conference schedule? Just wondering.

Kenny said...

According to the website they determined how strong a team was supposed to be based on what the team did the previous year. The problem I have is mainly with BCS schools playing I-AA teams. I think these games should not be counted as wins in regards to becoming bowl eligible.

I am an SEC fan, and I have seen the conference start to go the route of scheduling better non-confrence games, but it has not always been so. I agree that every team should at least try and schedule one game against a BCS school. I also think teams should avoid scheduling I-AA teams whenever possible.

Anonymous said...

Somehow this rating must take into account how many potential BCS opponents (say, ranked teams) are WITHIN a conference. In addition, some of these teams were recent BCS entrants and not consistent contenders. One cannot say they were powerhouses scheduling patsies - he;;, they WERE the patsies in prior years. Oh, and lastly - if they're on your schedule, you still has to BEAT them. Ask Michigan about that.

WalkingDC said...

IIRC at least two of NC State's Div 1aa opponents have been the result of last second add-ons due to Div 1a teams dropping our game (Louisville comes to mind immediately, and I believe there was at least one other).

That leaves 6 though, keeping my team in the top ten. Fans in Raleigh have been complaining about this for years, and it was one of the key sources of angst against Chuck Amato by the time he was given the boot. We're hoping for better things under O'Brien

Jason Foster said...

Why would a team from the almighty SEC schedule a non-con powerhouse? Ask LSU. It was their thrashing of Va Tech last year that ultimately put them in the Championship game.

If the SEC isolates itself with the attitude that its conference schedule is "tough enough," we'll see things like the 2004 Auburn snub happen again. If the SEC is so cutthroat that even the best teams will emerge with a few blemishes, then you'd better make sure you have some indicator of your conference strength other than SEC-supremacist rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

Whatever, enjoy USC's rose bowl win again this year. We in the SEC will be enjoying another crystal ball, together, regardless of which of our teams win it.

These articles are as hollow as they were before last year, and the year before, and the year before. It'll come out in the wash like it always does with the SEC being easily the country's best conference.

Unknown said...

"We in the SEC will be enjoying another crystal ball, together"

awwww, thats cute! does LSU and FLA share their crystal footballs with the other teams? get real, man. teams win titles, not conferences.

Anonymous said...

Not as cute as you dingleberry. I guess you didn't catch the SEC chant at the end of the 06 Fiesta by UF fans and at the end of 07 Sugar by LSU fans.

If you were an SEC fan you'd understand but you ain't so you suck.

Anonymous said...

And yet the SEC keeps winning the National Championship year after year... they must be doing something right!

Kenny said...

And, by year-after-year we mean the last two titles. The other thing that would help bring back stronger out of confrence schedules would be putting back strength of schedule in the BCS formula. It was apart of the original BCS formula. It was dropped after USC did not get its shot at the title, against LSU. It always goes without notice how weak their schedule was that year.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing: you'd do it, too.

If the margin for error was as small in your job as it is for D1 college football coaches, you'd absolutely do everything you could to make sure you'd win at least nine games and take your chances with the other three and minimize the risk.

You'd pay Georgia Southern to come to your stadium (and they'll gladly take the guarantee to make budget). You'd find convenient reasons not to play USC.

The money has gotten so big and what you stand to lose has gotten so big while the margins have gotten so small that nobody in their right mind would do what Bobby Bowden did in the late 80s - go on the road to play Nebraska and Pitt and Oklahoma and Ohio State to try to establish his program.

As a fan, yeah, I'd love to see those non-conference matchups. But you're an idiot if you think that a coach with a brain in his head would go out of his way to schedule it just because you and I think it would be cool. Unless he has just enormous amounts of chutzpah.

Anonymous said...

That should be "in the late 1970s and early 1980s," not the "late 80s."

Anonymous said...

Forget the line "If you are a fan of college football.." It is not just fans. Everyone should be angry. I am an alumni of Texas Tech and every year we play bad teams. I find it embarrassing and so do most alums, but we don't know how to get it changed. I think most people believe that a loss to a top ranked team is actually better then a win over a double directional school. At least you know were you stand in relation to everyone else. If you cant beat the number #1 then you know you have to improve. If you score 75 points against Sam Houston State, woop-de-do.

Bobby TTU '98

Unknown said...

"Not as cute as you dingleberry. I guess you didn't catch the SEC chant at the end of the 06 Fiesta by UF fans and at the end of 07 Sugar by LSU fans.

If you were an SEC fan you'd understand but you ain't so you suck."

oh, i heard the chants and boy were they moving. still, chants dont mean shit as UF and LSU aint sharing crystal footballs.

dingleberry, see, now thats creative.

Anonymous said...

As far as strength of schedule goes, part of the reason florida made it into the title game 2 years ago instead of michigan was that coachs and the writers and the computers realized they had gone 12-1 against the hardest schedule in the nation. UF plays what used to be one of the best teams in the nation (fsu) every other year on the road and schedule "the U" whenever the two schools schedules work out, which is why their "teams that received top 10 rankings" and "10+ ave wins" are so much higher then the rest of the SEC's. Of course then again, 3 of the top 10 teams of the last 20 years call the sunshine state home.

Anonymous said...

This "analysis" is BADLY flawed.

I'll speak specifically to Arkansas, since I am familiar with their N/Cschedule and I'm not familiar with the N/C schedule of others.

For one thing, what this does NOT show is that during the span in question, Arkansas twice played Boise State and also played South Florida - in a season when South Florida's ONLY losses were to Arkansas and defending National Champion Oklahoma. In that same season was one of the Boise State games and it was Boise's ONLY loss of the year. Of course, neither of those schools show up as a "BCS" opponent.

Secondarily, for the purposes of this "report", ALL BCS conference schools are - apparently - of equal difficulty. In other words, playing Iowa State or Baylor registers on the list as "one game", just the same as playing Florida, OU or USC. Speaking of USC, in the period this "study" covers, Arkansas played them twice, as well as playing Texas twice (three times, if you count bowl games), and they're getting ready to play them again this season, then begin a recurring series with Texas A&M beginning in 2009.

This study would be MUCH more informative and meaningful if they did the same analysis and replaced "BCS" teams with teams that played in bowls either the season before or the same season. THAT would show the true strength of the NC schedules.

Ed Gunther said...

In response to the assertion that the analysis is flawed, let me point out a few things.

1. The reason South Florida and Boise State don't show up as a BCS opponent is because they weren't - they were independent & in the WAC, respectively.

2. The argument that South Florida and Boise State were good teams the year that Arkansas played them misses the point of the study completely. As I clearly stated, this isn't about how tough the opponents were when a team played them, it's about how tough they were when a team scheduled them. I purposefully didn’t include the scores from all these games because I wanted to emphasize that it’s not about how strong a team’s opponents were the year they played, or who a team beat or lost to – it’s about who they schedule.

3. Yes, all BCS schools count the same in category 2. But category 3 is where the strength of those schools comes in, in the form of average wins & highest win seasons. Put them together (and add them to the other 2 categories) and you get a good picture, one that the stats back up. That’s nice that Arkansas has scheduled more BCS teams for the future – they should.

4. I thought about including teams that played in bowls in the study, but it would have skewed things. Why? Well because firstly, a “bowl team” doesn’t mean nearly as much as it used to. In 1993, the earliest year I use data from, there were only 19 bowl games – this year there’s going to be 34. So playing a “bowl team” in 1998 or 1999 meant a lot more than playing one these last few years did. And secondly, teams don’t get invited to bowls based solely on performance – how many seats they’ll fill is also a big factor, and that says nothing about how strong they were.

I’m glad for the critique, and I hope this response has helped clear some things up.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, we as fans should be OUTRAGED that our schools recognize the glaringly obvious reasons to start off their schedule light & at home. In fact, we should demand that they play the top 2 teams in the country, on the road, for the first 2 games.

Are you serious? What better way to start a season than with an easy game or two at home? It gets their momentum going, it shakes off the cobwebs, it gives true freshmen and other inexperienced players a good shot at playing in front of a friendly audience, and probably most importantly, it gets the fans into the season. This MIGHT be a problem if EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL in the country didn't participate, but the fact of the matter is that every single BCS team does this, so I honestly don't see it as an issue.

In regards to the SEC discrepancy, if your conference play was consistently a grueling and bloody battle, I think you'd relish the opportunity to play some weaker teams, too. Year after year, the biggest hurdle for SEC teams trying to reach the Championship game is their own conference. LSU played against 6 ranked opponents last season, to Ohio State's 4, AND LSU had to win their conference championship game, too.

I really don't understand how anyone thinks this is a legitimate complaint. Bottom line, there should be no criticism for scheduling an "easy win" opponent both at the start of the season, and in the middle of the season. A monstrous victory, even over a weak opponent, is a great confidence booster in the middle of a season that's going poorly, and in a great season is a great way for your star players to get a break, and keep the momentum.

Anonymous said...

4 National Championships out of the SEC in the past 5 years (Yes I am counting the 2004 Undefeated Auburn team) ... So I guess scheduling cupcakes can work to your advantage...

Anonymous said...

Who the hell considers Auburn 2004 a national champion? The Tigers don't even consider themselves champion in 2004! Talk about delusional.

Anonymous said...

Since the much praised Big Ten (include ND here) does not have a championship to derail a guaranteed BCS bowl appearance and has to play a BCS nonconference to equal out the loss opportunity (even if it is early in season, giving time to recover in polls) I would cut a little slack to the Big 12. Look at last year, if MU had not needed to play in the title game it would have been undefeated and played for a National championship.
Also the Big 12 teams mentioned were (excepting KU) were in rebuilding mode, not title chase (ie no Texas, Oklahoma).
Make Ohio State, Michigan, and other Big 10'ers play a title game (possible rematch chances) and we might have an even field.

Anonymous said...

How can you just look at the out of conference schedule? Do teams just play out of conference games? That's like saying lets just look at the teams we played with green uniforms. One thing that's always true about data/stats, you can always slice and dice them to prove your point. It's BS. I really think this is a weak attempt at discrediting the conferences that do have strong conference schedules. So what if Georgia, LSU, Florida or Auburn schedules weaker out of conference opponents, it doesn't seem to be hurting them come championship game time or in the final rankings. If you don't like those teams or conferences, it's pretty simple, beat them on the field and stop whining about their out of conference schedule.

Anonymous said...

The reason the SEC schedules non BCS teams is all BCS teams require a home and away schedule. Most SEC schools entire athletic budget comes from the football team's revenue. No state, or tuition dollars to any of the programs and that includes women's ping pong. In fact all of the scholarships tuition cost for the athletes are paid to the university. So while the student doesn't pay the athletic department does. In order to balance the budget the SEC teams can only schdule at best one road non conference game a year. I know LSU is raising money to create an endowment to pay these tuitions which would allow them to be a bit more creative with the schedule. I think it is going to take 200 million dollars or so to cover the cost of all of the student athlete tuitions.

Anonymous said...

Responding to various points here --

1. Having a conference championship game is no indication of quality. The Pac 10, Big East, and Big Ten (no championship game) are all considerably tougher than the ACC (which has a championship game) more often than not and at least the Pac 10 is usually tougher than the Big 12 (last year notwithstanding, so are the Big East and Big Ten).

2. Kenny, the AP champion 2003 Southern Cal team played a non-conference slate of BYU , Hawaii, Auburn, and ND. The 2003 BCS champion LSU team played Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Arizona, and Western Illinois. So they had two common opponents (Arizona and Auburn); in both cases, the margins were similar, but Southern Cal shut out both teams. It's really tough to argue that LSU's non-conference slate was tougher; Southern Cal's wasn't great (because BYU and ND were sub-.500 that year), but at least the non-BCS opponents on the slate had some history of being good occasionally and there were no I-AA teams on their schedule. And at first glance, at least, the 2003 SEC does not look significantly tougher than the 2003 Pac 10. 2003 Oklahoma probably had the toughest non-conference schedule of the three BCS title game contenders that year in North Texas, Alabama, UCLA, and Fresno State, but the Big 12 was something of a joke that year, and they lost the conference title game anyway...

Anonymous said...

"If they're on your schedule, you still has to BEAT them. Ask Michigan about that." - guy below talking about 1AA schools. (the app. state win over michigan).

If that's the case then UF is worse than App. state by that logic? LSU's 2008 non conference schedule is the funniest thing i've seen since Fletch.

Anonymous said...

2004 Auburn didn't make it to the championship, but it wasn't the schedule. USC and Oklahoma were preseason 1 & 2 and they both went undefeated.
Cry about the SEC and the non-conference schedule if you so desire, however; the SEC will still dominate bowl season.

Anonymous said...

No, I want more than that.

There should be a rule that to be eligible for a BCS-bowl a team has to play 2 non-conference BCS opponents: One at home and one on the road.

Anonymous said...


I appreciate your response, but still have problems with the design of this "study".

To your counter-points:

1-2) I hate to label you "Captain Obvious", but of course I KNOW that neither Boise nor USF were members of BCS conferences in the timeframe I referenced. THAT'S THE POINT!

Your analysis strongly implies that the ONLY meaningful non-conference games (for the big boys) is against other BCS conference teams, and that's just not true. I'd venture to say that those Boise teams and USF were both Top 25-30 caliber teams (For that matter, I'd guess Michigan might agree that App. State was not a walkover this past season!).

Furthermore, both teams were scheduled only a year prior to the games, so it wasn't like they were booked several years ahed with the expectation that it would be a rout. It was well known (at least to Arkansas admistrators, if not the rest of the college football world) what they were getting into. Heck - Houston Nutt had coached at Boise prior to coming to Arkansas and he knew first hand that the BSU program was on the rise. Boise was 10-3 and went to a bowl before Arkansas played them the first time, then went 10-2 that season, and was 8-4, then 12-1 the next time Arkanss played them (and they scheduled them the second time AFTER playing them the first time).

As for South Florida, they were 7-4 and 8-3 the two years before they met the Hogs - a season in which they went 9-2 (their other loss was at OU).

By the way - Arkansas also played Central Florida, another emerging program, in the early 2000's.

3) Your comment about about "that's nice that Arkansas has scheduled more BCS foes in the future - they should!" is non-responsive and inappropriate in light of my informing you in my prior post that Arkansas HAS played both Texas and USC home and home during the last 10 years (actually also beat the Horns like a drum in the Cotton Bowl during that period), and plays Texas again this year, then has A&M scheduled in what is destined to become another Texas-OU type clash in the DFW area every year.

In fact, the ONLY year that they Hogs have not played a marquee opponent in N/C (or Boise or USF, now recognized as "borderline elite" teams) since 2000 was last season, and that was because they had to move TCU (who, by the way, is also on the scedule in about 3 or 4 years for a home-and-home) in order to accomodate Texas this season.

4) While I agree that being a "bowl team" doesn't mean what it once did, I will counter with the fact that - taken at face value - a Bowl team is still (as a group) more "elite" than just saying a BCS team. At least a Bowl team has a winning record.

Is it more impressive to play 11-1 Boise or 4-8 Iowa State? The answer is obvious.

Now, I know that you did this as an excercise for all D1 teams, not just Arkansas. But the fact remains that your design - whether intentional or not - grossly underestimates and criticizes the Razorback's N/C schedule. You need to seriously re-think your methodology and REWARD teams who play big-time opponents (i.e., teams they legitimately could lose to) in NC play, which your current model fails to do.

Ed Gunther said...

Hogz, I’m not trying to imply anything with this study – the numbers are there in black and white. Other people can use the numbers as they wish, but I stand behind the methodology. The design of the study doesn’t criticize any team, even the Razorbacks, and in re-reading my analysis of them, I think I was gentle, considering their schedule.

Fact: when a BCS and a non-BCS team played in the previous ten years, the BCS team won a whopping 81.2% of the time. Undisputable. Therefore, it’s more of a challenge to play a BCS team than a non-BCS team. It’s not that BCS teams are the only meaningful matchups – it’s that they’re more meaningful that non-BCS team (which themselves are more meaningful than I-AA teams). If I honestly though that only BCS teams were worthy foes, then the only category I would have included in the study is #2. But I didn’t – you’ve gotta look at the other categories as well and take them all as a whole.

As far as the Boise State and South Florida argument goes, they might have been two of the strongest non-BCS teams in the country in 2002, sure. And if you have proof that Arkansas scheduled them because they thought those two were going to be tough that year, that’s fine too. I don’t have proof like that for any team, which is why I stayed away from speculating on those reasons.

I actually AM glad that Arkansas is scheduling more BCS teams – I love it when BCS teams play each other and don’t wuss out and schedule a I-AA team. It’s better competition and makes for a better game. But you’re cherry picking, saying that Arkansas played USC & Texas twice. The context of that is those are the only four BCS teams they chose to play in ten years! There’s no getting around that.

As far as including “bowl teams” goes, I’ll make you a deal – if you can come up with legitimate numbers and statistics that prove that previous seasons’ bowl teams are a tougher opponent than non-bowl teams, I’ll include it in the study. Deal?

Anonymous said...

Well, the problem is that you are painting with too broad a brush. You say that BCS teams beat non-BCS teams 81% of the time. Well, what is the % for BCS teams when they are playing the bottom feeders of other BCS conferences? Probably the same, or similar (by definition, a "bottom feeder" loses most of their games). So, what's the difference?

In fact, in the current discussion we're having, Arkansas BEAT Boise (both times) and USF. However, they were quality opponents who - exclusive of that loss - barely lost at all to anyone else and even went on to win bowl games over D1 opponents! So, I maintain that those opponents were equal to or better than most BCS opponents the Hogs could have played in their place.

Your comment: "And if you have proof that Arkansas scheduled them because they thought those two were going to be tough that year, that’s fine too." is ludicrous. Who goes out and actively looks for teams they think can beat them to play (I'm talking big schools here, not the smaller ones who need the paychecks)? So, they may not have "gone out and looked for tough teams"; but they knew that these teams were improving teams that were better than the public perception, and they booked them anyhow. As noted, Nutt was intimately aware of Boise's program when the first game was played, and EVERYONE was aware of Boise by the time they played the next time.

You can do the research if you want to; I don't need to. I KNOW intuitively that teams that go to bowl games - in aggregate - are tougher opponents than "BCS conference opponents" in general. Think about it - almost ALL bowl participants are BCS teams; the ones that aren't are having very successful seasons, or they wouldn't be going to bowls. On the other hand, the "BCS" pool of teams includes all of those teams PLUS all the dregs. In other words, the population I'm talking about is a more successful subset of your population, so it has to be better. It's a no brainer.

Finally, I'll say this. If you take Arkansas' overall difficulty of schedule - and I'm talking about looking at something meaningful, like the Sagarin ratings, NOT just W/L records - over the last decade, it is among the top 10 toughest in the country. Yes, a LOT of that is being the SEC, playing Alabama, LSU, and Auburn every year, as well as Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, et al on rotation. But it is also playing a healthy diet of good, competitive teams such as Texas, USC, Boise, USF and Central Florida along with the "cupcakes" that are needed to fill out a home schedule and pay the bills for ALL sports.

The Razorbacks need not apologize to ANY team or media member for their schedule, and any system that indicates them or their N/C schedule in the bottom 5 is flawed - period.

Anonymous said...

I can go right now and show the last 10 years. and the SEC has Beaten more NON-Conference Teams than any other. INCLUDING MORE top 25 teams than any conference. More Road wins than any conference More home Wins than any conference, More Total wins than any conference, More Bowl Wins than any other Conference, more NFL players than any other. OHYEA need i remind the Author of this THE SEC BEATS DOWN the opponent in the NC game also. that is part of the end schedule is it not. so go ahead chalk that up for those who doesnt know the SEC has the most BCS Champ wins also.
whats your excuse then? we beat down your Ohio state, we BEAT DOWN the oh "holy" Notre Dame< what a joke.

go ahead try to argue against me ANYONE. but you better go to your alternate dimension because i have the facts. and so does thousands of sport websites. can we have a Ranking of the most ignorant Bloggers? stop looking at other ignorant people's stats. and look at what common sense shows. SEC top to bottom is the best conference. setup up any conference vs the SEC and see what happens.

Ed Gunther said...

Dude, I think you're taking this waaaay too personally. You're more than entitled to your opinion, but there's no malicious intent here. I'm obviously not making my points understood, so I think we're just going to have to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a massive pile of tripe. Maybe you can next examine how utterly pathetic the CONFERENCE schedule is within the Big 12. A phenomenon that allows a perceived juggernaut - like Ohio State, to roll through easy weekend after easy weekend (including the always over hyped Michigan-OSU game) only to be exposed, by SEC teams, in BCS Title Game after BCS Title Game. A place where they did not belong. But, let's pat the Luckeyes on the back for that non-conference schedule! Okay, so what is the next discussion point for your pointless discussions?

Anonymous said...

"I can go right now and show the last 10 years. and the SEC has Beaten more NON-Conference Teams than any other. INCLUDING MORE top 25 teams than any conference. More Road wins than any conference "

Ok, do it tough guy.

Pauli said...

when is the SEC EVER going to play outside of "dixie"? seriously. WHY was LSU credited for a great victory over VA TECH .. they PLAYED AT HOME against what would arguably be the worst BCS conference? why was this a "BIG WIN" seriously. play USC - play on the ROAD -- there non conference games were tulane - super dome - va tech at home.

WTF -- play a road BCS game.. not the championship game. hell give me a MONTH to study film and of course SEC would win. SO WHAT if they are WEDGED between tough sEC games. don't other BCS conferences have to do the same? i hate Notre dame but at least they TRAVEL.

if they SEC doesnt play other BCS schools then PLAY all 11 other conference teams every year and stop the ridiculous conference title games.

i'm not saying SEC isn't the best. i'm not saying they can't win..
just prove it !

win on the road. win against another BCS school win it in september. win one in november
THEN i will say you deserve the title.

kansas played no one. ohio state cant beat SEC - but do we know if SEC can beat big east? do we?
how bout big 12? we never see it.

6 home game 6 away - 4 divisonal
4 othe conference
4 games left
1 bcs opponent at home
1 bcs opponent away
1 1-aa school or "in state" game
1 neutral or conference title game

how a team is "good" that plays less than 5 away BCS games in 10 years is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

"setup up any conference vs the SEC and see what happens."

Well, that's the point. We in the Big Ten and Pac 10 would like you to do exactly that, but you'd prefer to schedule your Western Kentuckys and Louisiana-Monroes.

If the SEC is the indisputably the best conference, then why not augment your point by scheduling like the B10 and Pac 10 do?

Then we'd have no argument left, and we would be forced to concede the SEC will always be our superiors. Hoo-ra!!!

"Make Ohio State, Michigan, and other Big 10'ers play a title game (possible rematch chances) and we might have an even field."

You have no one to blame except your greedy conference commissioners for that one, hoss. No one's forcing the Big 12 or anyone else to schedule a Conference Championship game.

Anonymous said...

Enough of the Big Ten/SEC argument.
Call it what it really is: The Ohio State/SEC argument. It's pretty easy to prove that your entire f*cking conference is better than one team. If you really want to make it about the Big Ten/SEC then you'll remember that Michigan stomped a mudhole in Florida's ass last year. Just let it go, you'll never win this one. The fact of the matter is The Ohio State University will roll USC and be back to play for another National Championship. Deal with it and then figure out which team out of your entire conference will do the same. You SEC fans never stand up for your TEAM because you can always fall back on your sacred conference schedule.

BF said...

Michigan "stomped a mudhole in Florida's ass"? Really?!? I didn't realize a 6 point spread was that big of a beat-down.

Guess that means we can refer to the 14 point spread in the BCS Title Game as a MurderDeathKill.

Anonymous said...

BF-You're an idiot...if you wateched the Michigan/Florida game, you would understand that was the most lopsided 6 point blow out, I have ever seen. In 2007, The Big Ten actually won 2 of the 3 Big Ten/SEC match-ups.

Ohio State should not have been in the national title game last season. Most knowledgeable Buckeye fans will tell you this. However, it is not OSU's fault that everybody ahead of them sh*t the bed. Ohio State's team was tooled for this season when they return 40 out of 44 on the two deep including what could be 3 top ten picks; Beanie, Lauranities, Jenkins.

As for the actual games themselves, stop listening to the media blow your schools so much. Ohio State mainly beat themselves last year with stupid penalties and interesting play calling. Not to say LSU wasn't the better team, but it was not a HUGE mismatch as everyone wants you to believe.

About conference championships, your conferences ADDED them. They weren't forced to, don't blame the Big Ten, Big East and PAC-10 because your holy conference is money hungry. The games actually help your teams with a shorter lay off. Ohio State last year had to wait 50 days between their last game and the national championship, two weeks longer than the Tigers...advantage: LSU.

-The SEC chant is pretty ridiculous. The civil war ended in 1865, ladies, I'm sorry you lost.

Anonymous said...

Look at the non-conference, away from home games that the SEC teams do not schedule - the bowl games in January. SEC teams look pretty good in those. A few years ago AU hosted (and pasted) Washington State at home with no return game. Why? WSU seats about as many people as a Texas high school. AU would lose money to return the favor. That is the situation SEC teams would mostly face outside of playing Big10/Big12/ACC schools. This is all about money, and frankly why should LSU, UGA, AU, etc fly anywhere to lose money when every "would be important/on the rise program" would go into the red to test themselves against the best on the road? Remember Boise State's little trip to Athens a few years ago? I imagine BSU players and fans still do. SEC football pays for every other sports program at the schools. Without those extra two home games there is less money for the programs that do not generate income but win NC's: Alabama/UGA women's gymnastics, AU swimming, LSU/Arkansas track and field, and on and on. And by the way, OSU scheduling a game in Seattle against UW is not exciting for anyone - it is premediated assault and battery.

Anonymous said...

OSU scheduling of Washington was made in the mid 90's when their program was top notch. UW came to Columbus I believe in '97 or '98, this was the return game...it has been on the books for awhile.

As for not scheduling big games because you lose money, come up north. I'm sure Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State would love to have you. Three of the biggest stadiums in the country.

Lets not forget, most of the big bowl games are played in the SEC's backyard.

Anonymous said...

"Ed Gunther said...

Dude, I think you're taking this waaaay too personally. You're more than entitled to your opinion, but there's no malicious intent here. I'm obviously not making my points understood, so I think we're just going to have to disagree."

Ed, you really disappoint me here by giving up. Nowhere do I acuse you of "malicious intent"; in fact, I think your methodology and premise are flawed, if well intentioned - not malicious.

To this point, we had been engaging in a spirited but civil conversation/debate; you had at least made a respectable effort to answer my coherent, non-flaming and informative posts with "counter points" of your own.

I don't know why you wouldn't continue to defend your product unless you no longer feel it is viable to do so. As with my previous posts, I answered your prior post with FACTUAL information that (IMO)_trumped your arguments. Your failure to respond will lead people to draw their own conclusions about your own belief in the validity of your premise.

And - by the way - don't "dude" me.

Ed Gunther said...

Here’s why this discussion isn’t working for me.

1. I don’t know how else to make you understand that this study is not just about being in a BCS conference. I really don’t. If you want to know who the “bottom feeders” are, just look at category 3 – it’s all right there! (And if you want to know who the BCS bottom feeders are, just combine categories 2 & 3 – it’s really not that hard.)

2. You keep bringing up things like how good South Florida and Boise State were, and the results of the games, and you even threw in things about the SEC conference schedule – none of these have anything to do with the study. Nothing. You can’t try to talk about how flawed a study of apples is by bringing up things about oranges.

3. Comments like “I know intuitively” and “any system that indicates them or their n/c schedule in the bottom 5 is flawed – period” show that you’re not interested in examining the facts and discussing their merits. It shows that you’re only interested in being right.

I think I’ve defended the study plenty here and well enough for any neutral observer. If your honest goal was to discuss the merits of the study, and you actually brought up things relevant to the study, I’d happily continue. But it seems your only goal is to prove that Arkansas’ schedule isn’t weak, and I’m not really interested in having that discussion.

Anonymous said...

ask Michigan what they though of their cupcake last year

Anonymous said...

The Big 10 Championship game is played each year by Ohio State and Michigan.

Anonymous said...

UConn hasn't been I-A for 10 years, so of course they don't have many OOC road games vs. BCS teams.

Anonymous said...

I agree OSU's non-conference schedule in 07 was weak, but as others have pointed out, Washington was scheduled before the went down the tubes, so not entirely their fault.

Also, OSU should be looked upon as the model team for non-conference scheduling from 08 on out:

2008: @ USC
2009: USC
2010: Miami FL (recent recruiting should have them back towards the top of the NCAA)
2011: @ Miami FL
2012: Cal - TBA
2013: Cal - TBA
2014: V. Tech - TBA
2015: V. Tech - TBA
2016: Oklahoma - TBA
2017: Oklahoma - TBA
2018: @ Tennessee
2019: Tennessee

Now, a lot can happen between now and 2019, and their other games are against lesser competition (no FCS teams after 08, however). You can't deny that they are doing non-conference scheduling the right way up in Columbus.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention OSU's games with N. Champs Texas in 05 & 06, NC State with Philip Rivers in 03, and Washington St. in 02 when they won the Rose Bowl.

Anonymous said...

My bad, Washington St. won the Pac-10 but lost the Rose Bowl in 2002.

Anonymous said...

There is an assumption by some that non-BCS = cupcake. I think this is a questionable assumption, but it is one that can be made. There are some teams who are not BCS teams and even some 1AA teams that are not cupcakes and may (consistently/recently) be stronger teams than BCS teams.

Scheduling Boise State (or maybe Appalachian State) may be a more challenging game than Vanderbilt or Minnesota/Purdue or Iowa State or Connecticut.

If you want to discuss which conference is the best (or which team is the best) I suggest including an unbiased system, such as Sagarin. The SEC is consistently among the top conferences, but several of the best teams in other conferences were ranked higher (USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, for instance).

Personally, I would like to see strength of schedule and margin of victory (and home field advantage) back in the mix. Sagarin's predictor includes these. There is a difference between beating Miami of Ohio by 2 points at home and beating USC by 20 points in Southern California. This should not be the exclusive system for me as games like Michigan against Florida were not as close as they may have appeared by the final score. As soon as Oregon lost Dixon they were nowhere near the best team in the country (which they may have been when healthy at mid-season).

Florida has Florida State and Miami on the schedule for 2008. When they were scheduled they were both considered to be Top 5 or Top 10 programs. Now they are 2 teams with very good defenses and little offense and may be overachieving to finish in the Top 25.

Anonymous said...


FINALLY, someone who gets it. Using a "one size fits all" BCS or non-BCS label is not nearly as important as WHICH of those teams you play.

In a related issue, is it "better" to play four mediocre "BCS conference" teams or three "directional schools" and ONE "BIG DOG" (Ohio State, Texas, USC, Florida State, etc.) who it will really mean something to beat?

Ed's (the author) analysis is interesting, but does not go as far as it needs to in order to yield meaningful results.

Anonymous said...


Get over it. Ed is right. You're coming across as a pretty crazy/obsessed/myopic.

You're more interested in trying to prove [insert favorite team/conference here] is better rather than objectively looking at the data.

Take a deep breath.

Anonymous said...

It seems pretty fair to say that something is wrong with the United States when the most debate between people with different ideas comes between sports fans and their favorite amateur teams.

I know...it is very important to have 18-24 year old "students" proving your allegiance that you hold more strongly for their team than for your own country. Be proud.

College sports are a waste of money and should be done away with...This country is going splat and its apparent when we stress college athletics over college academics--you know the thing college was supposed to be about.

I'm sure you all have favorite college teams in China too...Oh wait. Hmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Tennessee fan and would rather see them play Southern Cal than UAB, espically at home. However, there is not that much difference between Tennessee's OOC schedule over the last ten years and USC's. USC has played fourteen and Tennessee has played seven a difference of .7 games per year. USC played N. D. 5 times Hawaii 2 times and Nebraska, Arkansas, BYU, Auburn, Colorado, Kansas State and FSU once each. Tennessee played Memphis and Notre Dame twice and Syracuse, Miami of Fl and Cal once each. During that decade Tennessee also played twice at Auburn, twice at Death Valley (LSU) and five times in Athens, GA and five times in The Swamp (UF). I'll leave it up to others to interpet these stats, but I believe that the original post leaves out a lot of stats that really do not support the argument. I'd also like to stress the fact that OOC games are scheduled several years ahead. So basing the difficulty of playing a certain team on what they did the year before you played them doesn't make any sense. If you had scheduled FSU in 1999 for a game in 2006 or 2007 you wouldn't have expected the lesser team that you got.

Anonymous said...

first of all i give credit for the pac 10 scheduling tough non conference schedules and thats coming from an sec fan. i do admit the sec schedules non conference but heres thing... the pac 10 can afford to schedule tough non conference because they play in a weak conference, nowhere near as tough as the sec. non conference only accounts for 3 of their 12 games. here in the sec we actually have to play non high school in conference opponents that account for 8 games as opposed to the 3 tough opponents that the pac 10 has to play. so because the sec is so much tougher than the jv league we call the pac 10, the schedule is still a lot harder for the sec because we play at least 8 tough games as opposed to the pac 10's 3 games. if you say the pac 10 is better than you are a stupid pac 10 fan. the sec is by far the best conference and theres no denying it.

Elliott Goodrich said...

SEC sucks balls!!!!

Anonymous said...

'SC vs SEC recently (17-10-1 alltime)
2002 Auburn W 24-17
2003 at #6 Auburn W 23-0
2005 Arkansas W 70-17
2006 at Arkansas W 50-14

And the only reason 'SC's strength of schedule was so low in 03 was 'cuz Auburn tanked after getting stomped by 'SC to start the season.

'SC had few routs comparable to these in the PAC-10 and these aren't the bottom feeders of the SEC.

To reiterate Ed's point, not all BCS schools are better than all non-BCS schools in a given year, but statistically BCS schools tend to be better.

Which just goes to show what they say about statistics...

Then again, a team that goes 5-7 in the BCS may be better than a team that goes 7-5 in the WAC and goes to a bowl game...

Anonymous said...

This study shows the SEC teams have to answer for more than one problem here: the first chart shows that 5 SEC teams are among the worst offenders at failing to schedule BCS-conference foes; the second chart shows that 7 SEC teams are worst at playing nonconference games on the road (and this study doesn't show it, of course, but most followers of college football know that these road games are almost never outside the south).

So many SEC teams eschew playing BCS-conference opponents, and also don't like to play nonconference games on the road (it'd be interesting to see how often they played BCS-caliber teams ON THE ROAD). If the SEC only showed up on one of these dimensions, it might be explainable; the fact that they shirk such games on BOTH dimensions is cowardly.

Contrast this with the Pac-10, which on those two charts has only one team (Oregon St.).

Sidenote: since a year or two ago, the Pac-10 opted to play a 9th conference game, leaving each of its teams with only 3 nonconference games. This (henceforth) makes trouble for charts like 2, which count numbers (not percentages) of nonconference games.

This is relevant to the overall point against SEC teams: since they have a total of FOUR nonconference games to work with, the least they could do is schedule 2 decent opponents, one of them on the road. If, from now on, the SEC continues to outperform the Pac-10 in nonconference cowardice, they are even more to blame, since they are working with 4 instead of 3 nonconference games.

Anonymous said...

Hey all - the SEC is stepping up!! They are going to play the University of Washington Huskies at home in 2009! That's right, a road game, clear across the nation against a BCS Pac 10 team that hasn't had a winning season in 5 years...wait a minute - and they agreed to that this year...ummmm, well at least they are leaving the state. Yep, tough scheduling going on down there! :)

Anonymous said...

Hate to break it to all the SEC-lurvers out there, but the fact remains: Pac-10 > SEC.

The louder the SEC fans get, the more they prove the point. Go enjoy Gardner-Webb and Louisiana-Monroe, guys. Should be a barn burner...

This post reminded me of a friend's post from just before the BCS championship game, who spent (a bit way too much) time breaking down how easy it is for the SEC champ to sneak into the title game slot. It's a bit long, but thorough Mr. Lebowski. Hard evidence that the SEC are pansies in scheduling and down-right mediocre in big bowl games (as a conference) compared to the Pac-10 (read: USC). Enjoy.

The SEC: 6 – 2 (1 game remaining: LSU vs. Ohio State)

Invitees: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee
Bowl Invitations: Autozone Liberty (Mississippi State), PetroSun Independence (Alabama), Gaylord Hotels Music City (Kentucky), Chick-Fil-A (Auburn), Outback (Tennessee), Cotton (Arkansas), Capital One (Florida), AllState Sugar (Georgia), BCS Championship (LSU)
Bowl Invitations Rank: 1st
Overall Rank: 2nd

The thing with the SEC is that, every year, everyone starts hooting and hollering how tough the SEC is. Which is a circuitous way of apologizing for why they play cupcakes for their non-conference schedules. Don’t believe me? Here’s a list, sorted by final division standings:

SEC East: (Nonconference Record: 21 – 3)

Georgia (6-2) – Oklahoma State (W), Western Carolina (W), Troy (W), at Georgia Tech (W)
Tennessee (6-2) – at Cal (L), S. Mississippi (W), Arkansas St. (W), Louisiana- Lafayette (W)
Florida (5-3) – Western Kentucky (W), Troy (W), Florida Atlantic (W), Florida State (W)
Kentucky (3-5) – Eastern Kentucky (W), Kent State (W), Louisville (W), Florida Atlantic (W)
S. Carolina (3-5) – La.-Lafayette (W), S. Carolina St. (W), at N. Carolina (W), Clemson (L)
Vanderbilt (2-6) – Richmond (W), E. Michigan (W), Miami of Ohio (W), Wake Forest (L)

SEC East Nonconference Home Record: 19 – 2
SEC East Nonconference Away Record: 2 – 1

Cupcake Schools (10 schools, 14 games): W. Carolina, Troy, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, E. Kentucky, Kent State, South Carolina State, Richmond, Eastern Michigan

Schools that “Might” Be Good When Scheduled (7 schools, 7 games): Oklahoma State, Southern Mississippi, Louisville, North Carolina, Clemson, Miami of Ohio, Wake Forest

Legitimate Nonconference Contests (3 schools, 3 games): Florida State, Georgia Tech, Cal

Takeaway Message on the SEC East: They played exactly 1 team (Cal) who ended up being a good team with a long bad-luck streak this year. And lost. Yes, Florida State has some residual aura about them, but it was a down year for them, as it was for Georgia Tech. And FSU is showing symptoms of long-term mediocrity. Oklahoma State is hardly the pride of the Big12 and there’s nary a Big10 school on the list. Fact is, they schedule patticakes.

SEC West (Nonconference Record: 20 – 4)

LSU (6-2) – Virginia Tech (W), Middle Tennessee (W), at Tulane (W), Louisiana Tech (W)
Auburn (5-3) – Kansas St. (W), S. Florida (L), New Mexico State (W), Tennessee Tech (W)
Arkansas (4-4) – Troy (W), North Texas (W), Chattanooga (W), Florida International (W),
Mississippi State (4-4) – at Tulane (W), Gardner-Webb (W), UAB (W), at West Virginia (L),
Alabama (4-4) – W. Carolina (W), at Florida State (L), Houston (W), Louisiana-Monroe (W)
Ole Miss (0-8) – at Memphis (W), Missouri (L), Louisiana Tech (W), Northwestern State (W)

SEC West Nonconference Home Record: 17 – 2
SEC West Nonconference Away Record: 3 – 2

Cupcake Schools (16 schools, 18 games): Middle Tennessee, Tulane, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Tennessee Tech, Troy, North Texas, Chattanooga, Florida International, Gardner-Webb, UAB, W. Carolina, Houston, Louisiana-Monroe, Memphis, Northwestern State

Schools that “Might” Be Good When Scheduled (2 schools, 2 games): Kansas State, South Florida

Legitimate Nonconference Contests (4 schools, 4 games): Virginia Tech, Florida State, Missouri, West Virginia

Takeaway Message on the SEC West: They played 2 BCS teams, going 1 – 1. But in those legitimate nonconference games, they went 1 – 3, losing to FSU, Mizzou and West Virginia. And that win over VaTech is pretty weak, once you saw them roll over their sword against Kansas in the FedEx Orange Bowl. Note again the complete lack of a Big10 school. And that name-brand West Virginia game? Scheduled by mighty Mississippi State.

So is the SEC any good? Or is their greatness equal parts weak scheduling (for the most part) and some timely wins rather than any real great season-long effort? I’d say that you can’t defend the SEC that strongly. Yes, they have good teams. But like the rich kid up the block, they only come out to play once in a great while and as a result, you end thinking their toys are all the greater when you do see them. Unless of course for the times that they lose, like in the Tennessee loss to Cal. In which case, you quietly change the subject and hope everyone forgets.

Another way to look at it, is to lump the whole conference together:

Overall Record: 89 – 57 {46 – 27 (SEC-East), 43 – 30 (SEC-West)} .610 win%
Overall Interdivision Wins: SEC-East 10 - 8 SEC-West
Overall Conference Record: {25 – 23 (SEC-East), 23 – 25 (SEC-West)}
Overall Nonconference Record: 41 – 7 (.850 win%, 46% of overall wins)

Some important things immediately jump to mind. 1) Their nonconference schedule is almost exclusively home games (40 out of 48 games). Which shouldn’t be surprising, given what they’d pay to small schools to come to their home field. 2) Their nonconference schedule is nearly devoid of major conference schools (only 13 schools) or schools that ended up making a bowl berth (16 teams). 3) Their record nonconference is 41 – 9. But against major conference schools? Big East champion West Virginia? Loss. Pac10 Runnerup Cal? Loss. ACC trainwreck Florida State? 1 – 1.

Item 4) There's only 18 interdivision games, which slightly favored the SEC-East this year 10 wins to 8 for the SEC-West. This is possibly due entirely to the presence of Ole Miss in the SEC-West. But the interdivision schedules are hardly balanced. The way the divisions work, all conference games count towards your division total, with tie breakers first being determined in head-to-head and then inter-division records. So it's conceivable to lose no interdivision games and not make the conference championship (see: Georgia). And it's equally conceivable to lose the right mix of division and interdivision games and take a tie-breaker (see: Tennessee). I'm not saying that you can be a total conference dog, but if you win 4 of your division games, chances are you're in the running to for a tie-breaker. 5 wins and you're in. Tennessee and LSU won 4. Georgia won 3. The point is: interdivision games mean very little so long as you clean up your division (thereby winning crucial tie-breakers). Just ask Georgia, who went 3-0 against the SEC-West and somehow didn't make the conference championships, thanks to an early surprise loss home to South Carolina that cemented a second place finish when they lost at Tennessee a month later.

The 5th and final thing that jumps to mind is that the SEC teams EACH get 4 nonconference games. Which leaves them 8 conference games. 9 for the lucky two who get to the championship game (more on that in a second). Since there are 11 other conference teams, that means they play only 72% of their conference in any given year. But that’s not exactly true, since you must play everyone inside your division (that’s 5 games). Leaving you 3 games against the other division. So you face 50% of the other division. So, if the schedule gods are nice, you might get two patsies (pick from Vanderbilt or South Carolina in the SEC-East; Ole Miss, Alabama, or Mississippi State in the SEC-West) or a tough team at home (see: Kentucky 43 – 37 LSU). In any event, in the conference that complains that it’s too difficult to go undefeated, they say you have to win 7 conference games to lock up a spot in the conference championship. Or this year, just 6. Either way, it’s nobody but the SEC’s fault that they have a (money-generating) conference championship. Cut out one nonconference game, and rotate through one team in your division that you don’t play each year, and suddenly you need 8 conference wins to be legitimate. Plus, it greatly changes the benefits of playing Ole Miss if you aren't assured that game year after year (as half of the SEC gets now...) You get to choose which 4 teams from each division (out of 9 games) that would be. You're still able to lose 1 game. But beating exactly half of the conference PLUS one conference championship game (which may or may not be a rematch) is, in my book, garbage. And it’s 2 or 3 fewer games than the Pac10 or Big10 champ have to win to clinch their championship-game-having conferences.

Still need more proof that the SEC is geared to win one game (a gamble that USC, Cal, Oregon, West Virginia, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Missouri, etc. would gladly have then their current regular season schedules)? Look no further than Tennessee’s 45 – 31 loss to Cal for what they dread about nonconference games. Too much risk. But, in addition to those 4 patsies they “can” schedule, they get to add in Ole Miss (who could only win nonconference games), Vanderbilt (2 – 6 in conference), and South Carolina (3 – 5 in conference), and the top challengers to the SEC crown are at 5 or 6 wins before they even play a single good game, and potentially 2-0 in their division, meaning they have to only win 2 of 3 games. Don't believe me? Look at the results. Though the year was screwy in general for football, pretty much all you needed to do in the SEC was win one clutch game and then let the deck reshuffle itself and find where you sit. That's how Tennessee made it. And LSU. And why Georgia was left out. Florida choked to Auburn, and lost to LSU and Georgia. They're out. And yet, they still finished with 9 wins. Auburn is still shaking their head over Mississippi State's 19-14 upset . Two other losses to LSU and Georgia finished their season. With 8 wins. Georgia got to 10 wins. But their two losses will forever haunt them. They lost their spot to a team (Tennessee) with one fewer regular season win AND (therefore) one more loss. And both get to look at LSU preen on a national stage NOT because their 10-2 regular season record (identical to Georgia) was any better, but mainly because: West Virginia lost to Pittsburgh, USC lost to Stanford, Oregon decided to make an ambulance the team bus, Kansas lost to Missouri who lost to Oklahoma, Boston College lost to Florida State and Maryland in back-to-back weeks, and nobody had the guts to stick an undefeated Hawaii in the BCS Title Game. So tell me LSU is better. Go ahead. At least if Tennessee had beaten LSU, Georgia wouldn't have an argument. Instead, it's a "they just didn't schedule us" argument. Which is no argument for determining who is a better team.

Need numbers? Let’s take out those 41 nonconference wins, and the 21 wins over the bottom of the SEC. That’s 62 wins (practically) guaranteed. What does that leave the SEC minus the bottom feeders? A pedestrian 29 – 31. Georgia, LSU, and Tennessee have 18 of those wins.

How is this a good conference again? They beat up on weak DivIAA teams and have 3 more games against in-conference cupcakes. Given that they have 12 teams and cannot possibly play each other without giving up that lucrative Troy or Gardner-Webb home game, they play to win one game more than half of their remaining 5 conference games. Getting them to the magical 6 – 2 conference record shared by Georgia, Tennessee, and LSU. It’s a joke.

Just to prove I’m not a total Pac10 snob, I did the same analysis for the Pac10. These are all their non-conference games (sorted by final conference standings):

USC (7-2) – Idaho (W), at Nebraska (W), at Notre Dame (W)
ASU (7-2) – San Jose State (W), Colorado (W), San Diego State (W)
Oregon State (6-3) – Utah (W), at Cincinnati (L), Idaho State (W)
Oregon (5-4) – Houston (W), at Michigan (W), Fresno State (W)
ucla (5-4) – BYU (W), at Utah (L), Notre Dame (L)
Arizona (4-5) – at BYU (L), Northern Arizona (W), New Mexico (L)
Cal (3-6) – Tennessee (W), at Colorado State (W), Louisana Tech (W)
Washington State (3-6) – at Wisconsin (L), San Diego State (W), Idaho (W)
Stanford (3-6) – San Jose State (W), TCU (L), Notre Dame (L)
Washington (2-7) – at Syracuse (W), Boise State (W), Ohio State (L), at Hawaii (L)

Overall Record: 67 – 54 (.554 win %)
NonConference Record: 21 – 10 (.677 win%, 31% of overall wins)

Cupcakes Schools (7 schools, 10 games): Idaho, San Jose State, San Diego State, Idaho State, Houston, Northern Arizona, Louisiana Tech

Schools the “Might” Be Good When Scheduled (12 schools, 16 games): Nebraska, Notre Dame, Colorado, Utah, Cincinnati, Fresno St., BYU, New Mexico, Boise St., TCU, Colorado St., Syracuse

Legitimate Nonconference Contests (5 schools, 5 games): Michigan, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Hawaii (potentially this year only)

This is the difference between winning the Pac10 and the SEC. Nearly half of your games won in the SEC come from out of conference, whereas one-third count for the Pac10. Ergo: Conference games mean more in the Pac10, which is why you have to win more Pac10 games to be conference champion. Usually, it’s 8 wins out of 9. And, with the nice balance of 10 teams, you play everyone, every year. This year, being as topsy-turvy as it was, 7 wins was enough. Which is exactly the same that LSU needed to be conference champion (and the same number of conference losses). The difference is, it’s far more likely to win the SEC with 7 wins than the Pac10 in any given year. Have the good fortune to be in the “weak” division, sweep those opponents and then go 1 – 2 against the other division, and you’re in the conference championship! Or even better, go 0 – 3 against the other division and you’re still in! Want to know the last time a Pac10 team with 3 conference losses won the Rose Bowl invitation? Never. Last time an SEC team with 3 conference losses was crowned champ? How about 2001? The team? LSU.

Yes, there is good football in the SEC and a lot of good teams. But in a super-conference like the SEC which has to split the conference into divisions, you can sneak through the weaker division and then win the conference championship, having never played the top teams. Or, alternately, you can be frozen out by a silly tie-breaker rule that saw Tennessee take Georgia’s rightful place in the SEC Championship Game, who then proceeded to lose a tough one to LSU. But you can’t say that the SEC is flat-out the best conference in the country. There are a million arguments why LSU doesn’t belong in the BCS Championship Game to counter the million arguments why they do belong. Fortunately, Ohio State gets to help sort that out. But in the rest of their extensive bowl season (9 total games), they tended to fizzle when it mattered most (see: Florida, Arkansas). The second-tier games were where they shined, winning all five of those contests. And while I like Georgia, their 41 – 10 win over Hawaii proved nothing to me except for the sad fact that Hawaii, though undefeated when they arrived, was not a Top-10 team in the country. They were a better fit at the Holiday Bowl.

And when you think about it, the BCS Series of bowl games is designed to get the 10 best teams to play each other, with the purported top two getting the coveted Championship Game. Yet this year, the BCS sported a spotted record of guaranteeing that the other 8 slots went to the other 8 best teams. Which is why the BCS is such a puzzle to figure out. How do you guarantee the at-large bids (Kansas, Georgia, Illinois) are the right choices? The fact is that you can’t. And with money being the motivator of the bowl season, chances are any future changes will be cosmetic. And worse, given the relationships still maintained by conferences and bowls, you still get stuck with USC-Illinois and Georgia-Hawaii when pretty much anyone would agree that USC-Georgia is a much better match-up. Wherever it would be played.

Pac-10: 4 – 2

Invitees: Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, ucla, USC
Bowl Invitations: Pioneer Las Vegas (ucla), Emerald (Oregon State), Pacific Life Holiday (Arizona State), Bell Helicopter Armed Forces (California), Brut Sun (Oregon), Rose Bowl (USC)
Bowl Invitations Rank: 3rd
Overall Rank: 1st

Again, I must admit that, as an alumnus of USC, I have a particular fondness for the Pac10. In a tier of rooting interests, I routinely cheer for Pac10 schools over any other opponent (unless the team is ucla). With the reflected aura of USC, the six invitations for the Pac10 were respectable, and the teams rose to the occasion. Only ASU (whooped by Texas) and ucla (lose on a blocked field goal attempt to BYU) lost. But no conference performed better. Compared to the SEC (who is trotted out annually as the “toughest” conference in the land, and then we’re forced to swallow it), the Pac10 was statistically superior, despite playing in 3 fewer games. The Pac10 schools +61 point differential compared to the SEC, which managed a +17 rating. Take just the winners? The Pac10 jumps to +80 while the SEC improves to +54, which is a nice jump. Yet, with three more games to play, the Pac10 still outscored the SEC by 37 points. And in the conference marquee invitations (Rose, Holiday and Emerald Bowls), the Pac10 went 3 – 0. Comparatively, the SEC went 2 – 2 (Cotton, Capital One, Sugar, BCS Championship). Yes, the SEC finagled a BCS Championship invite, but it’s not clear that they deserved it. Despite what those mouth-breathing LSU fans who continue to enjoy the shattered wit that is “Geaux Tigers!” Yes, LSU lost their two games in overtime. But those two losses accounted for over 100 points given up. That vaunted SEC defense? Not so much. But USC’s two losses? A quarterback with a broken hand who didn’t get benched despite 4 second-half interceptions (and yet, they still led until :11 seconds were left) and a tight game at Oregon with the back-up quarterback. You can argue all you want, but I say injuries, more than anything else, proved USC’s and the Pac10’s more generally (see: Oregon, ASU, Cal). Yet, healthy, they more than showed their mettle. And as I said, I couldn’t care less about ucla’s loss, and ASU did get their clocks cleaned. But is that any worse than Arkansas or Florida’s losses? I say no. Especially when Arkansas beat LSU and Florida is the defending champ. In essence, the SEC showed that their top teams are just good enough to lose (on average) but their middle of the table teams are pretty good against other middle-finishers. Congratulations. The SEC owns the mediocrity angle!

Meanwhile, the Pac10 gets to notch another Rose Bowl win, continue to gloat over the early-season Cal win over Tennessee, the generally superior nonconference schedule (Ohio State at USC after each gets a few tune-up games next season (USC opens at Virginia, while Ohio State is home to Youngstown State and Ohio before heading off to LA). Or do you seriously think that a 3-game homestand of North Texas, Troy, and TBD (OOH!) is more exciting? Don't forget LSU's big game against Tulane. Or the fact that they have 4 away games (Auburn, Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas). Again proving the point that LSU has, at best, to win 1 and possibly 2 big games (depending on the quality of Florida and Auburn next year). Meanwhile, USC continues to boast the impressive nonconference schedule that draws recruits (Virginia, Ohio State, Notre Dame - a team that cannot possibly be worse than the 3-9 squad they trotted out this season).

And that's why the Pac10 is the best conference in the country. Better nonconference schedule, more marquee wins, better offense, and a more difficult conference format to determine champion. Not to mention one great fight song.

Now, if only USC and Georgia had played...

joe hads said...

Funny how the SEC still claims to be the "best" conference, on the strength of the two past titles. Ask Cal what they think of the SEC #2 Tennessee Vols (whom they thrashed just last year). That's why SEC does not sched biggies OOC. Let's see: So Fla (USF) def Auburn, CAL def Tenn, WVU rips middling Miss State two years in a row by 35 or so... And check WVU rip up Auburn this year. And so what, give me year in the past 20 when the SEC wasn't on NCAA probation. You can't cause it will be 20 years this summer. Great. Win one legitimately and then talk to me...

Anonymous said...

so this is a quick comment to WizardofhOgZ, who actually seemed among the most cogent of the SEC supporters (i mean, at least he mostly spelled things correctly). i'm just curious how arkansas is consistently in the top 10 on strength of schedule in a 'real' ratings system "like sagarin," when sagarin's end of season strength of schedule numbers for arkansas over the past decade range from 18 to 63, with an average of 39.1? i'm all for conference loyalty and whatnot, but seriously -- this is the kind of hyperbole that always seems to spew from the mouths of SEC babes. don't spout, don't rant, don't pound the table and get all red in the face (you might spill your drink, after all). cite some numbers. back up your argument. get some data and examine it, like the author of this study has.

if you could put down your julep for a moment and maybe clear the alcoholic fuzz from your eyes, you'll see that all the author is saying is that the SEC, overall, has consistently scheduled more games agains teams that 1-come from non-BCS conferences, 2-live in I-AA and/or 3-don't have historically dominant winning records or polling presence. (oh, and that most of those games are at home.) them's the facts, full stop. near as i can tell, the three sets of data are simply presented, and if you're scheduling more powerful outlying non-bcs opponents (such as boise state in successive good years, or notre dame in many years (bowl record notwithstanding, they're typically ranked), or usf before they joined a bcs conference), then it will show up in the sets of data about rankings and win/loss records. if they're all powderpuffs, that will also show up.

you want to defend the facts, go ahead, but the vehemence of your arguments belies the obvious truth that these facts indicate that the SEC is a bit cowardly in scheduling.

and yes, i'm calling you yellow. ;)

Anonymous said...

One more thing you didn't mention, sometimes the games that get scheduled are not of the teams choosing. For example, this season, Oklahoma originally had Clemson, Washington, Cincinnati, and TCU scheduled. Now because Clemson saw themselves being ranked highly at the beginning of this season in the recent past, they backed out of their contract for this season. With most other schools schedules filled out, Oklahoma had to bring in Chattanooga St. In your data, this makes Oklahoma look bad (the actual data makes Oklahoma look good) or other schools that this also happens to.

Also your comment about the Pac 10 being stronger than most other conferences is just laughable. Simply line up the teams top to bottom between the Big 12, SEC, Big East, and Big 10 and there would be no contest. Now deciding between the Big 12 and the SEC, quite a bit more difficult.

dawizofodds said...

A reminder to check our study from last December, looking at nonconference travel. It's linked on the right-hand column under "Best of the Wiz." It's titled "Nonconference Travel 1998-2007."

Or just click the link below:

Click here

Anonymous said...

I agree wholly with those who have fought against the SEC and even the Big 12. I mean, come on, how patheitc do you ha ve to be to schedule yourself against FCS teams (Div. AA) YEARS in advance. Remember, these schedules are prepared years in advance people, not just before the season as some uneducated fans might believe. I mean, look at USC's schedule this year: UVA away, then Ohio State at home (the #3 preseason team in the country, and what I think will be THE game of the year; that's right, screw the rivalry games). But when you look at LSU's schedule, who's coach has been whining the past couple years that the BCS and voters hate them: they play schools like Tulane, who has maybe had a grand total of 12 wins the past 3 years. Oh wow, but they're traveling to Washington everybody!!! Yay!!!! Give me a break; they managed to pick a one of the worst teams in the Pac-10 to play (albeit a rebuilding one). I will give credit to Tennessee who at least had the balls to go to UCLA. I mean, no conference is without its scheduling weaknesses (the Big 10 plays AA schools, as does the Big East and ACC, and even USC supposedly plays Idaho for its opener next season). But they should keep the divisions separate, and BCS teams of the upcoming year should be required, in their 2 or 3 nonconference games, to play at least 1 BCS team from the previous season, or at least one that was ranked at the end of the previous season. I'm not questioning the strength of the individual conference schedules. But when it comes to some schools and their nonconference games, they need to, to put it quite simply.....MAN UP BITCH!!!

Anonymous said...

Let's talk about that tough and strenuous out of conference schedule Ohio State had to play last year to get into the championship game.

How did they ever go by unscathed with the powerhouses of Youngstown State, Akron, Washington & Kent?

Anonymous said...

we all know the sec is better than the pac 10 top to bottom. the pac 10 is good at the top in usc but after that its very inconsistent. the pac 10 on a good year has at most 3 good teams while the sec has 4-5 not just good teams, but national title contenders. the pac 10 can afford to schedule tough non conference because their cupcake in conference. and non conference only accounts for 3 of the 12 games. in the sec we have 8 tough games as opposed to the 3 that the pac 10 has to go through.

Ed Gunther said...

Just for reference, wizardofhogz, THIS is what a flawed, BCS-centered report looks like. Now you can take your argument up with ESPN. Cheer!