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Thursday
Feb172005

Fell For It... Sigh

Ahhhh the college football media.  You gotta love them.  Mostly, I admire their laziness and otherwise ability to be manipulated.

Here's an AP story picked up by ESPN.com about LSU's 2005 home schedule.  It's basically an LSU puff piece arguing that it's schedule is beefed up.

Now, why would this piece ever appear on a major college football media website?  College football in general has the most rabid, knowledgeable (about their teams at least) fans.  They know the schedule, they've planned their tailgates and road trips well in advance.  That's why college football schedules are posted years in advance.

To answer my question, the article is up there because it is a defensive salvo from the SEC camp.  You see, SEC teams have taken a beating in recent years about their various scheduling practices.   Auburn was universally mocked last year for playing weak sister The Citadel, among other cupcakes.  The schedule cost them a shot at the Orange Bowl.

To their credit, nobody circles the wagons like the institutions in the SEC.  So there's no doubt we'll see more articles like this and some spin from the conference's defenders (ahem, Tim Brando) once the season starts about revamped scheduling practices.

For years college football fans have been told the SEC is the best conference, bar none.  Not just in any given year, but every year.  And the college football media buys it.  Is it the best conference some years?  Arguably.  It's mostly a weak argument at that, but one that can be made.  Unfortunately for the conference, one of its greatest strength is also its greatest weaknesses.

Scheduling.

We will go into much further detail at a later time on here, but there is a fancy SEC scheduling myth that few people really understand, and fewer take the time to criticize.

Some of the criticisms include the following:

  • Weak out-of-conference (OOC) schedules
  • OOC slate never leaving the geographical south
  • Bifurcated conference setup that allows for few matchups of the conference's top teams
There are many more.

The issue at large is scheduling practices, something that's finally starting to catch up with the SEC as fans like myself call them on their shenanigans.  And this article is one way the SEC tries to control the public debate on the issue.  It's one-sided, and aims at spinning away a weakness.  This isn't to say the SEC is the only conference guilty of scheduling shenanigans.  Only that they are the masters and aren't taken to task about it.  It benefits them at the expense of other conferences, which is the part that bothers me.

College football doesn't have a regulated schedule the way other major sports do.  So its up to the member institutions, voluntarily, to create competitive schedules.  Many teams avoid that task, and in the case of the SEC, an entire conference has undertaken a deceptive scheme to prop up 3-4 of its "best" teams in any given year, giving them inflated records.

As said before, we'll detail this in much greater detail down the road, so our apologies for any confusion.  But for tonight we'll glance once more at the aforementioned schedule, LSU's 2005 home slate.

North Texas (9/3)
Arizona State (9/10)
Tennessee (9/24)
Florida (10/15)
Auburn (10/22)
Appalachian State (11/5)
Arkansas (11/26)

Funny, but in the gushing praise for the schedule in that article, nowhere was North Texas mentioned, or Appalachian State.

That's TWO cupcakes on a single schedule.  Worse, they're home games.  Worse, they're out-of-conference.  If you hadn't taken the time to find LSU's full schedule, you very likely would have fallen for the wool-over-eyes spin coming from Baton Rouge.

Yes, four teams were in the AP top 25 last year.  But a lot of that has to do, again, with the SEC scheduling myth we'll detail down the road.  The lone exception is Arizona State.

To bring up one more criticism, the only major name out-of-conference teams playing the SEC with any consistency lately is the Pac-10 slate.  LSU hosted Oregon State last year.  This year it's Arizona State.  Alabama hosted UCLA a few years ago.  Auburn hosted USC in 2003.

I have a strong hunch this is because the SEC has long perceived the Pac-10 as the weakest big-name conference, and given the Pac-10's willingness to not only play difficult OOC slates, but make road games out of those slates, this was an easy grab for SEC teams.

To the SEC's credit most of these games against the Pac-10 have been season openers or very early games, when teams are at their most vulnerable (especially upper-level teams).  But they also are usually home games, a huge advantage in college football.

Reading the AP release, I had the sense that LSU should be given credit for its home schedule, but it is in fact is only responsible for its out-of-conference opponents, as an SEC team's conference slate is decided by the conference.  So although Auburn looks like a hell of a test, LSU plays Auburn most years anyway.  That's like Oklahoma talking up its game with Texas.  They are conference foes, that game happens every year.  LSU also gets to play SEC cellar-dwellars Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Ole Miss in 2005.  That's what happens when you are a member of a conference.

LSU fans should be excited to have some fun home games, but this schedule is nothing out of the ordinary.  Unless it's the SEC and anytime a Pac-10 team that's on your OOC slate suddenly makes the top 25 the year before.  Then you send out a press release for the AP and ESPN.com to pick up.

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Reader Comments (2)

LSU's logic to scheduling App. State is that they want to beat an ASU school at least once next year. ASU punks them at their trailer park stadium, then LSU takes its anger out on App. State.

I love how no SEC team ever seems to play a non-conf road game.

SEC stands for "schedule easy cupcakes".
February 17, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Kim
Great point about LSU specifically, and the SEC in general. They have some great intra-conference games, but outside of that?? Makes me long for college football playoffs. If the Auburns of the world don't want to get left out of the big dance, they probably shouldn't schedule the Citadel as their marquee OOC matchup.
February 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

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