MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — If you believe the evil SEC empire is gaming college football’s new playoff system by sticking with an eight-game league schedule, you’re probably envious of the dynasty.
And if you argue that playing eight games in the nation’s toughest conference is equatable to a nine-game slate in those other powder-puff leagues, you’ve probably chanted “S-E-C!” a few times and even asked Vern Lundquist to officiate your wedding.
Funny how the debate becomes entirely self-serving dependent upon perspective.
With the new playoff selection committee congregating this week in Irving, Texas, the five power conferences are each intent on securing an invite, or in the SEC’s case, invites, to college football’s new Final Four.
For the SEC, that meant giving the stiff-arm to a proposed nine-game conference format. Sure the Pac-12 and Big 12 went that route the past two seasons, and the Big Ten is adding a ninth game next fall. But venerable commissioner Mike Slive and his SEC lieutenants are in no rush to conform. Winning seven straight BCS titles and coming within 13 seconds of an eighth has afforded them leverage to beat their drum as they see fit.
As much as other leagues scoff at the league’s mightier-than-thou perception, the grousing over the SEC remaining at eight games only proves how much outsiders actually believe it. They want another week of SEC civil war in hopes its stop teams will absorb an additional loss and curb the conference’s ability to snag two playoff bids.
Thus there was much chagrining when CFP executive director Bill Hancock announced the newly formed selection committee would not mandate that leagues adopt a nine-game slate. Instead the process would evaluate a team’s entire season.
Yes, that’s the same approach generally accepted by the NCAA basketball tournament committee employs, yet it seemingly irked Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who said: “Ideally, we would all run the race on a similar course.”
A similar course, eh? So all conferences should adhere to the same number of league games even though they don’t contain the same number of schools? That’s a solid case for uniformity where convenient.
Various columnists, and one newly hired Texas athletics director, didn’t think much of Slive’s scheduling caveat: That while retaining the eight-game format, all SEC schools must play at least one nonleague power-conference opponent each season.
You had to love the eye-rolling response from Longhorns’ AD Steve Patterson when he said: “Everyone else already does that.”
And of course he was dead wrong. Three teams within his own conference didn’t do that last season—Kansas, Texas Tech and Big 12 champion Baylor didn’t play a regular-season game against a power-conference outsider. (Heck, Texas Tech’s schedule hasn’t included a nonleague BCS opponent since 2003. And outside of a home-and-home series against Duke, Baylor—with its glistening new stadium on the horizon and its national reputation emerging—has zero power league opponents scheduled the next six seasons.)
We want even undertake the Big 12’s problem under the new playoff structure—the lack of a league championship game. That clearly hurt Oklahoma State’s BCS case in 2011, and could continue to do haunt the Big 12 in coming years when the other league champs (and runners-up) will have played 13.
But back to those grilling the SEC schedulers for taking the easy way out, and why the SEC isn’t necessarily doing that. T’is true the league played more FCS cash games than any other last season, but it’s also true that despite that sprinkling of cupcakes, the SEC led all conferences in composite strength-of-schedule.
Taking a top-to-bottom look at USA Today’s Sagarin ratings, the Colley Matrix, the Massey ratings and the Billingsley report—the four computer formulas published within the BCS rankings—and here was the average SOS national ranking for each power league in 2013:
SEC: 15.67 average (toughest: Auburn at 5.5; weakest: Vanderbilt at 55)
Pac 12: 16.9 average (toughest: Stanford at 1; weakest: Arizona at 32.25)
Big 12: 32.5 average (toughest: Texas at 16.5; weakest: West Virginia at 50.25)
Big Ten: 44.08 average (toughest: Purdue at 30; weakest: Ohio State at 53.5)
ACC: 50.9 average (toughest: Virginia at 38; weakest: Maryland at 70.5)
With his contingent of teams having faced the most difficult schedule of any league in 2013, why should Slive be inclined to make the road more difficult?