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Hobbs: Current SEC football scheduling needs repair

Last Modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 2:02 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Hardcore LSU conspiracy theorists need to proceed with caution here today, or perhaps just go work the crossword puzzle.

It’s not going to be pretty.

You’re not going to like it.

Me, I don’t believe an actual conspiracy exists, even though I’m well aware the Southeastern Conference office is still located in Birmingham.

But take a deep breath anyway.

Get in your happy place.

Think peaceful thoughts.

Make sure you’re sitting down.

Ready?

OK, as you’re probably aware, in the now-expanded SEC football schedule, each team plays the other six members of its own division and gets assigned two from the other division.

The latter is where the variable comes in.

For a random, fun example, let’s compare the cases of LSU and Alabama, which as often as not seem to determine the SEC West winner.

LSU’s two opponents from the East this year will be Florida (home) and Georgia (away) — which last year combined for a 14-2 conference record.

Alabama’s two opponents from the East this year will be Kentucky and Tennessee — which last year combined for a 1-15 conference record (fortunately for the Vols, they did play each other).

Oh, so that’s how Nick Saban’s famed “process” works.

No, I’m willing to call it a coincidence.

But it also seems to be a trend.

Last year, LSU’s two East opponents, Florida and South Carolina, went 13-3. Alabama got Tennessee and Missouri, which went 3-13.

Last year doesn’t always predict for this year, admittedly, but it’s as good of a starting spot as any.

Florida and Georgia don’t appear to be backing up any, and it doesn’t look like Tennessee and Kentucky are ready to storm the gates anytime soon.

Of the West teams, only Arkansas’ upcoming schedule remotely compares to LSU’s — the Hogs’ East opponents, Florida and South Carolina, went 13-3 last season. Nobody else’s East duo was better than .500 last year.

But no team comes close to the 1-15 East pillow fight Alabama will have to deal with. Mississippi State has the projected next easiest, Kentucky and South Carolina, which went 6-10.

More?

Had the expansion not occurred, LSU’s other East opponent last year was going to be Kentucky. So, in effect, the Tigers replaced the winless Wildcats with newcomer Texas A&M.

Alabama, had things not changed, was set to add Georgia to its schedule. Instead, it got 2-6 Missouri.

Again, I’m not suggesting anything more than bad luck for LSU and some incredibly good scheduling fortune for Alabama.

Last year and this upcoming season is the result of what the SEC calls a “bridge” schedule.

Translation: “The best we can come up with until we figure out what we really want to do on, like, a permanent basis and, yes, we’re still working on it.”

For instance, there is not yet a clue what the 2014 schedule will look like.

In reality, the SEC has been hammering on a permanent rotation, night and day, for going-on two years now. Former Mississippi State athletic director Larry Templeton has turned it into a full-time job, along with all 14 current athletic directors, a very powerful computer and some other outside consultants.

Apparently, they have not come close to cracking the code for anything more than a makeshift schedule for the next year.

I don’t think it was planned to paint that “bridge” crimson all the way to Atlanta.

All I’m suggesting, again, is that in its haste to expand, the SEC may have bitten off more than it can schedule.

I told you it was a bad idea when they did it.

Before expansion, each team played five division games and three from the other. Now it’s six and two.

You’ll have to consult your local mathematician for the specifics.

But when you go from playing half of the other division each year to playing just 29 percent of them (2 of 7), it would make sense that you set up yourself for the kind of mile-wide discrepancies evident in the Alabama and LSU schedules for this year.

I don’t know what the solution is.

The SEC isn’t going to admit it made a mistake by getting too big for its britches and kick Texas A&M and Missouri back out of the conference.

Maybe they could just add two teams to each division, let the divisions ignore each in the regular season while admitting they are actually two separate conferences and see you in Atlanta for the championship.

Probably not.

But I would have two suggestions to at least alleviate the scheduling Rubik’s Cube.

The teams have traditionally had one permanent opponent from the other division.

The conference office doesn’t say whether those relationships are still in effect or not, but not one of them has been torn asunder through two seasons of bridge scheduling.

The LSU-Florida game, for instance, has been good for the SEC, often good — despite their occasional whining about it — for both teams.

But you can’t have everything, and, sad to say, the permanent opponents need to be dropped, just to open up more wiggle room on the schedule.

Then you must ignore the coaches’ innate fears of cannibalism and increase the conference to schedule to nine games.

That would least allow three games against the other division, theoretically lessening the chance for the huge inequities on display this year.

As for the other sports, well, basketball and baseball have already gerrymandered post-season tournaments that are indecipherable.

•••

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU sports. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com






Chart

Each SEC team plays two teams from the other division. Following is each team’s two opponents for this season and their combined record last year:

WEST

• LSU (Georgia and Florida, 14-2)

• Arkansas (Florida and South Carolina, 13-3)

• Auburn (Tennessee and Georgia, 8-8)

• Ole Miss (Vanderbilt and Missouri, 7-9)

• Texas A&M (Vanderbilt and Missouri, 7-9)

• Mississippi State (Kentucky and South Carolina, 6-10)

• Alabama (Kentucky and Tennessee, 1-15)

EAST

• Kentucky (Alabama and Mississippi State, 11-5)

• Missouri (Ole Miss and Texas A&M, 9-7)

• Vanderbilt (Ole Miss and Texas A&M, 9-7)

• Florida (Arkansas and LSU, 8-8)

• Tennessee (Alabama and Auburn, 7-9)

• Georgia (LSU and Auburn, 6-10)

• South Carolina (Arkansas and Mississippi State, 6-10)

Posted By: Jeff On: 2/15/2013

Title: Schedule solution

I believe if you don't play a like schedule then only the record against teams in the division should count to see who goes to the championship. That is the only fair way to determine who wins the division.

Posted By: StopRobot On: 2/15/2013

Title: Oh please

and in 2010 when virtually every Bama SEC opponent had a bye week the week before they played Bama......was that part of the conspiracy?

Posted By: balsu On: 2/14/2013

Title: who are these idiots that comment???

re. easy schedule. Who are you and where do you get your information? Easy schedule? In 2011 we played and beat the PAC 10 champ and the Big East champ. Not only was it the toughest schedule in the country, but we went through it undefeated. And don't come back with 1/9. The other team that participated in that game was given a mulligan, do-over, call it what you want. They got a second chance after losing at home. REALLY? As for the "rotation" comment. PLEASE!!!!! Quit trying to come up with viable excuses for the SEC office and all it's bama grads, scheduling in bama favor. The schedules speak for themselves. 2012 - LSU, UF and USC; bama, mizzou and UT. 2013 - LSU, UF and UGA; bama, UK and UT. May as well provide their opponents with pink uniforms!!!!

Posted By: mikee On: 2/14/2013

Title: had to make up for easy schedule

The SEC had to make LSU play a tough conference schedule due to the fact that the non conference schedule the past few years has been so so weak......They play teams that no one ever heard of like Towson state..........and since Miles gets paid so much more it seems like he will have to earn his pay..........Miles only national championship was when LSU had a schedule of 9-2 and got lucky when other teams lost..........Charles Mclendon was fired when he went 9-2 and this fool gets a raise when he goes 9-2..........go figure.............quit crying or join the Big 12 with U Texas .....lol

Posted By: crimson hammah On: 2/13/2013

Title: rotation

sec began in 92 even numbered yr and all is established from that ...rotation will begin in even numbered yrs...home and away issues within division ...home and away with out of conference rivals ex fla fla st....the rotation will be completely balanced

Posted By: KiaXtreme On: 2/13/2013

Title: SEC Scheduling

Not to mention that most SEC teams play one game against a team from the Championship Subdivision.
I call that a gimme.

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