John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Despite playing only an eight-game league schedule in 2013, SEC teams had the toughest composite strength-of-schedule in the nation.


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?

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  • VaultHunter

    One more thing to shatter your argument. How are the two former bottom feeders of the Big 12 (Missouri Texas ATM) doing in their new conference? A lot better than they were over the last years of the Big 12.

    Coincidence I think not.

    • Rick S.

      During 16 seasons in the Big 12, Missouri and Texas A & M combined for 11 losing seasons and 21 seasons of .500 or better, including five seasons in which they finished first or tied for first. I would hardly call them bottom feeders.

      During 18 seasons in the Big 12, Baylor finished last or tied for last in its division 13 times (the Big 12 used to have two divisions).

      Iowa State had eight last place finishes, and Kansas had ten last place finishes.

      Honorable mention goes to Oklahoma State, which finished last or next-to-last nine times in 18 seasons.

      Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, and Oklahoma State -- now those teams have truly been bottom feeders.

  • VaultHunter

    This article is wrong in so many ways it terrible.

    First the SEC plays eight home games every year no other conference does this.

    Second this would hold true if they scheduled tough but any fan of college football knows they always have two games a year against AA schools no other conference does this consistently year in year out.

    Third. At the end of the season when all other programs are in the middle of conference play the mighty SEC has a home game the second to last week against one of the lower division schools. No other conference does this.

    Go ahead and buy into thete dominace and pump the SEC horn if you want you won't change my mind

    It would have been great if WVU would have used the vaunted SEC style of scheduling and played Furman instead of Kansas but hey I guess they play so much harder competition they deserve a cupcake at the end of the year EVERY YEAR.

    Go ask Oklahoma what they think about the super dominant SEC and its king Alabama. How many of you so called reporters called that one...don't lie...I'll wait.



    • Allan Taylor

      Three of 14 SEC teams played eight home games last year. ... Big 12 champion Baylor played eight home games last year and Texas plays eight this year. WVU essentially played eight home games in 2012, shifting the game against FCS member James Madison to D.C. for a slightly larger payout.

      • FNP

        Lets face it Allan, you have a soft spot for the SEC. You'll defend them until the end of your days.

  • Rick55

    College football $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  • FNP

    I say lets turn up the heat and make every OOC game agains somebody from the power conferences. WVU should be playing Penn State, VT, Pitt, NC State, Ohio State, Bama, etc. every year.

    Just like FSU and company should be playing A&M, Auburn, South Carolina, TN, LSU etc.

    I say lets spice it up and make everybody play on the same level.

    • Mister Man

      WVU does play the Auburns, LSUs and Alabamas of the college circuit. And, WVU has scheduled more for the future.

      • FNP

        What i'm saying is they should be scheduling these teams every year. There 3 OOC games should be teams like VT, Penn State, and another Big 5 team.

  • WVU fan in Boston

    The Big12 will be under the gun to come up with at least one BCS team to join the league to have a championship game. Why, first it comes down to extra league $ because of TV $s, and secondly as I see it the Big12 is just one step up from the new ACC. Where Big12 missed out was not shaking the ADs trees at Rutgers (NY market), UConn (NE Market), and missed PITT or Syracuse, and while trying to get FSU or Clemson to move it missed Maryland's move to B1G.
    Then and when the Big12 adds a 'recognized' BCS team or two then at that time is can challenge SEC pukes.

    • Aaron

      Current NCAA rules require 12 teams for a Championship game. That is why the ACC could not have one in the first year immediately after their raid of the Big East, when BC was delayed in joining the conference.

      The Big 12 would have to take 2 teams. Who do you recommend those teams be? Cincinnati and Louisville would have been nice a few years back for various reasons but now that Louisville is off the table, that is no longer an option.

      Of course, if Maryland gets out of their $50 million buyout, you could see a couple of ACC teams move to the Big 12 Conference but that's conjecture at this point.

    • Aaron

      Current NCAA rules require 12 teams for a Championship game. That is why the ACC could not have one in the first year immediately after their raid of the Big East, when BC was delayed in joining the conference.

      The Big 12 would have to take 2 teams. Who do you recommend those teams be? Cincinnati and Louisville would have been nice a few years back for various reasons but now that Louisville is off the table, that is no longer an option.

      Of course, if Maryland gets out of their $50 million buyout, you could see a couple of ACC teams move to the Big 12 Conference.


    All I can see is WVU has a shot at a national Championship by being in the Big 12 and the S-E-C!! has a better chance then anyone because of Alabama. So, with that said, I am so glad we are in the Big 12 and we must do something about being a bottom feeder in the Big 12.

    Every team on our schedule can be beaten!
    What is the game plan for the season starting with Alabama and so on... What would be your strategy for the season, to get WVU out of the Bottom of the Big 12 and helping the Big 12 by winning games out side of our conference.

    Our players need to look a cross the field (video) and count the snaps they can play at the highest level against such talents and look his teammate in the eye and tell him he needs to be ready to step up and be ready to battle at the highest level for a long season of WAR!!!!!

    I have seen some cheap shots on our WVU players and its time to stop taking it and start making teams pay for taking cheap shots at us... (one comes to mind last play of the game against Texas)

    Let's Gooooooooooooo!! Mountaineeeeeeers!!!


    • Mister Man

      Learn to spell, and leave Texas alone. I am happy we're in the Big 12. I don't care what you "CODON."

  • Michael

    The only reason the SEC has a higher SOS is becasue the pollsters overrate teams in that conference week after week. They puff their chest out like they have beaten an NFL team and then the media (ESPN) talk them up to enhance their stature. ESPN will only get worse now that the SEC Network on ESPN will launch this fall. To have 14 teams and only play an 8 game conference schedule is embarrassing. Big 12 has ten teams and plays a 9 game schedule.

    • Allan Taylor

      Pollsters and human biases don't factor into these SOS rankings. That was the reason these computer formulas were utilized in the first place.

      • Tyrone

        Yea and Allen who puts the data into the computers ? You ask more then half of the country and they would say that ESPN is so biased toward the SEC We all know it . The more they spout off about how good the SEC is the more people start to fall for there bias .That is why Oklahoma beat them in the bowl game. Because they are so much better then all the other conferences. And that is why FSU beat Auburn because the SEC is so much better and there strength of schedule is so much better . Keep drinking the Kool aid that ESPN puts out there

      • Michael

        When a team is overrated like many of the SEC teams are, do you not agree that when another team plays them they benefit in regards to implied SOS.

  • Jim N Charleston

    Dear Glenn Closee,

    You say WVU had the lowest ranked SOS in the Big 12. Hmmh, lets look at the #s.

    WVU played 6 road games & 6 home games and in conference played 4 home games and 5 road games. The OOC was Maryland, Bill & Mary, and GA State.

    Baylor played 8 home games and 4 road games and in conference played 5 home and 4 road. The OOC was Wofford, UL Monroe, & Buffalo.

    TX Tech played 7 home games & 5 road games and in conference was 5 home and 4 road. The OOC was SF Austin, TX State, & SMU.

    I guess if you pick a service/poll after the bowl season where Baylor & TX Tech get a 13th game (against #15 UCF and #14 ASU), the #s change, but after 12 game regular season, WVU had a Sagarin SOS in the top 25 and top 2 or 3 in the Big XII.

    I'm Jim N So Charleston

    • Allan Taylor

      Yes, the bowl games gave SOS boosts to a few of those other teams. WVU wound up 33rd in Sagarin, 61st in Billingsley, 66th in the Colley Matrix (which doesn't factor margin-of-victory) and 41st in Massey.

      Just remember that Maryland slipped up after beating WVU (finishing in the 60s and 70s on those rankings), and Georgia State was winless, finishing below several FCS teams. So even though Baylor and Texas Tech played ridiculously flimsy nonconference schedules, as I've pointed out in two previous columns, WVU's wasn't markedly better last year.

  • WVfirst

    As long as rankings play into the SOS it means nothing....the SEC gets a bump just for the fact half their teams are ranked....they get more credit for L's then some teams do for wins. SOS should be based on your wins and the wins the teams you beat have, biased rankings should have nothing to do with it.

    • Allan Taylor

      Rankings DID NOT play into the strength-of-schedule calculations in any of these computer formulas.

    • Aaron

      I remember a few years back when the top 7 teams strength of schedule was all Big 10 Teams. This notion that one conference is head and shoulders better than the rest and as such, their teams should be rewarded is much older than the SEC's recent run of success. Or perhaps the correct term should be Sabancess as is responsible for 4 of the SEC's championships. The only other thing I will add is, is there anyone who believes that Cam Newton turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars and played at Auburn for free.

      • WVfirst

        I would have used the Big 10, Pac 10 or whichever conf this would help.....biased ranking blur what teams actually do...I am using the SEC right now. Two years ago Bama played 5 winning teams and was 4-1. K St played 9 winning teams going 8-1 but yet Bama gets the nod as the better team?? Why do we put some much into the rankings they prove year in and year out to be no where near reliable i.e. Auburn last year....they were not even in the top 50.

  • Hop'sHip

    Ouch! Not only did wehave a lousy season, we did it while playing the conference's weakest schedule. And while doing it, we drove down the ACC's SOS by playing Maryland. The good news is that this year we will have the opportunity to adversely impact the SEC's SOS! Chew on that, Bama, when you are beating up on us.

  • Silas Lynch

    ...... and in the mean time, the U.S. slipped for the first time in 147 years from being the largest economy in the world.
    In other words, sports fans,--- you guys can't lift your "We're #1" foam finger in the air when debating your peers of world economic affairs....

    • Aaron

      In terms of GDP and per capita basis, the US is still #1 and will remain so for some time to come. We are the SEC of World Economics.

      • Ut Oh

        Good one Collie!

      • Mister Man


      • Silas Lynch

        I suppose you are right if you follow the ICP analysis instead of PPP which is perfectly acceptable to do. However, using ICP methodology would still possibly mean only 10 years until china overtook the US as the worlds largest and most powerful economy, according to the estimate of some.

        My estimate; It will never happen, the world economy will reset itself first and we'll all start over from scratch. The lazy and stupid will die and the smart and ambitious will thrive.

  • Aaron

    The SEC, while loaded at the top, is no different than any other league in that the bottom teams are as bad as any other leagues. To think that Arkansas, Tennessee or Kentucky are more competitive because they play in the SEC is nothing more than bias.

    To me, the story is not that the SEC feels superior thus they should only have to play 8 league games whereas the other schools play 9, it is that the 5 power conferences are angling to keep every other conference out of a potential playoff.

    They would rather see, and will make arguments for, a 3 loss power conference champion in the 4 game playoff over an undefeated non-power conference team. The simple truth is, this is more about the have's distancing themselves from the have-not's in order to hoard the goose that's laying the golden egg, television money.

    What the non-power conferences need to do is get together and come out with the stance that if the Big Conferences are going to keep small conference champions out of the play-off system, ALL small conference member teams are going to refuse to take the bait of Big Conference teams guaranteed money and stop being sacrificial lambs 3 to 4 weekends a year.

    If Auburn doesn't have Arkansas State, Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic to beat up on in what are essentially off weeks and instead is forced to play TCU, Miami and Purdue, are they as likely to make through a season with only one blemish?

    Perhaps Auburn may have last year, or perhaps Alabama might have 2 years ago but the likelihood that these teams will continue to only lose 1 game a year is vastly reduced if you remove the 4 cupcakes from their schedule.

  • Rick S.

    A few thoughts regarding items in this story:

    * Texas Tech has not played a non-league BCS opponent since 2003. On a national scale, Texas Tech is irrelevant in football. Texas Tech may be in a "power conference," but its football program is at a level much more suited to Conference USA.

    * Baylor did not play a non-league BCS opponent last regular season and only has Duke scheduled in the next six years. In all fairness, over the past 20 years, Baylor has been one of the worst football programs in the country. Coach Briles has done a wonderful job to turn Baylor around recently, but a couple of good years out of 20 does not constitute a national power. Until Baylor proves it can compete year in and year out, it is probably more appropriate that Baylor play a schedule of Sun Belt and I-AA teams, which is what the level of Baylor's program traditionally is.

    * Kansas did not play a non-league BCS opponent last season. Kansas is one of the worst "power conference" football programs in the country. At this point in time, who can blame them for trying to schedule lower-tier and I-AA teams against which it might be able to compete?

    * West Virginia had the weakest schedule in the Big 12 last season. All last season I kept reading that West Virginia's schedule was the toughest in school history. As it turns out, that may not have been the case. While the strength of schedule may have been statistically difficult in the early part of the season, it averaged out over the course of the full season after WVU played weak teams like Kansas, Iowa State, and TCU (as opposed to early season foes William & Mary and Georgia State).

  • pat

    I'd rather see SEC teams schedule two games against a power league team than play nine conference games. That still gives them two warm up games.

  • pat

    Don't you just hate spell check? Come on editor, read the article next time.

    • Logic

      Agreed. Very sloppy editing. I would be embarrassed to put something out to the public with so many mistakes in it.

    • NotSoFastMyFriend

      I thought the same thing. Pretty lazy.