Southeastern Conference often goes fishing for a schedule

Commentary: Greg Jayne

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

“Maybe they’re just chicken,” Biff said, like an angler flitting a fly over the water.

“Maybe who’s just chicken?” Bubba wondered, a trout leaping at the bait.

“The SEC. Maybe the SEC football teams are just chicken.”

“Chicken? They’ve won five straight BCS title games — by four different schools. What would they have to be afraid of?”

“I don’t know. But they sure schedule like they’re chicken,” Biff said, reeling in his catch. “I mean, SEC teams have only eight conference games, so they spend one-third of the season playing the likes of North Texas, Louisiana-Monroe, and Florida International.”

“Of course they do. Show me a conference that doesn’t.”

“Well, how about the Pac-10?”

“You mean the Pac-12?”

“Sorry, the Pac-12. Those schools seem to go out of their way to play tough road games.”

“And the SEC doesn’t?”

“Not by a longshot. The last time Florida played a non-conference game outside its state was 1991.”

“Really?”

“And that’s not all. Over the past five years, the 12 SEC teams have a played a total of 32 road games at schools from BCS conferences. And 11 of those were in their home state, like Georgia at Georgia Tech or Kentucky at Louisville.”

“I’ll bet they kicked some tail when they did. This is the big, bad SEC we’re talking about.”

“Not really. They’ve gone 14-18 in those road games.”

“You know this off the top of your head?”

“Nah, I did some research.”

“So, what about the Pac-12?”

“Well, the 10 schools that have been in the league have played 37 road games against big-time schools the past five years.”

“That would be a lot more per team, wouldn’t it?”

“It certainly would, my math-challenged friend. And they went 16-21 in those games.”

“Yeah, it does seem like USC’s always traveling to Ohio State or Washington is playing at Nebraska or UCLA is going to Texas. And remember the whuppin’ Oregon handed out at Tennessee last year?”

“All the Pac-12 schools schedule like that. But Auburn? Auburn has played one road game against a BCS team in the past five years. Alabama has played two.”

“Bama’s going to Penn State this season.”

“I know. They might get kicked out of the conference. Violation of SEC ethics or something like that,” Biff said with a chuckle.

“Yeah, but when you’re in the SEC, you need a break from the weekly gauntlet of great teams.”

“Maybe. But I don’t see what’s so daunting about Vanderbilt, Kentucky, or Ole Miss.”

“True that.”

“Look at Mississippi State. They have Memphis, Louisiana Tech, Alabama-Birmingham, and Tennessee-Martin in non-conference this year. If they go 2-6 in league play, they’re in a bowl game.”

“No wonder they’re in the preseason Top 25.”

“Well, that and a 52-14 shellacking of Michigan in last year’s bowl game.”

“So tell me this: Why should SEC teams play tough non-conference games?”

“They shouldn’t. That’s the problem. The system is set up to reward them for playing cupcake schedules.”

“Mmmm, cupcakes!”

“The voters don’t look at who you’ve beaten. They just look at your record. It’s a shame, I tell you.”

“You know, Biff, I think you have a point. But the SEC is the best football conference in the country, and they use the system to their advantage, and they’ve earned five straight national titles. You know what that tells me?”

“What’s that?” Biff asked, waiting to be enlightened.

“That tells me that they aren’t chicken. That tells me they’re smart.”

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. To “Like” his Facebook page, search for “Greg Jayne - The Columbian.”