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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

The SEC’s 2012 Non-Conference Schedule

Missouri’s non-conference schedule was supposed to include Miami (Ohio) and Southern Illinois, a pair that would have joined Arizona State to make up the Tigers’ three games outside of Big 12 play. The move to the SEC jostled those plans in more ways than one: not only did Missouri need to cancel its date with Southern Illinois, which coincided with its SEC debut against Georgia, but the program also needs to add a fourth game to match its new league’s eight-game conference schedule. For now, Missouri’s schedule lacks holes; the Tigers still host Arizona State, and have added a road trip to U.C.F., but two games remain in flux. As of today, Missouri and Arkansas, which has one non-conference date still open, are the only two SEC teams to have not finalized their 2012 schedule.

Even with those two programs still working the phones, it’s a good time to take a glance at the SEC’s non-conference schedule, which is otherwise locked in place. While the Tigers’ schedule is incomplete, Texas A&M, its past-and-future conference cohort, just added Sam Houston State to fill out its four-game non-conference schedule.

In total, and with three games still unscheduled – Missouri’s pair, and one for Arkansas – the SEC will play 10 true road games during non-conference play. Obviously, that total could jump when the Tigers and Razorbacks complete their respective schedules. With one road game already on its slate, however, it seems somewhat likely that Missouri will look for two home games to replace Miami (Ohio) and Southern Illinois.

And of the 10 true road games currently scheduled, half come against B.C.S. conference competition. Of those five, three come against an annual rival; only two of the five are true road games against B.C.S. conference competition that is not considered an annual rival – or a rival in any major sense. Here’s the current non-conference schedule, listed by team:

9/1 vs. Michigan (at Cowboys Stadium)
9/8 Western Kentucky
9/22 Florida Atlantic
11/17 Western Carolina

Arkansas (one game T.B.A.)
9/1 Jacksonville State
9/8 Louisiana-Monroe
11/3 Tulsa

9/1 vs. Clemson (at the Georgia Dome)
9/15 Louisiana-Monroe
11/3 New Mexico State
11/17 Alabama A&M

9/1 Bowling Green
11/10 Louisiana-Lafayette
11/17 Jacksonville State
11/24 at Florida State

9/1 Buffalo
9/15 Florida Atlantic
11/17 Georgia Southern
11/24 Georgia Tech

9/1 at Louisville
9/8 Kent State
9/15 Western Kentucky
11/17 Samford

9/1 North Texas
9/8 Washington
9/15 Idaho
9/29 Towson

9/1 Central Arkansas
9/8 UTEP
9/15 Texas
9/22 at Tulane

Mississippi State
9/1 Jackson State
9/15 at Troy
9/22 South Alabama
10/20 Middle Tennessee State

Missouri (two games T.B.A.)
9/15 Arizona State
9/29 at U.C.F.

South Carolina
9/8 East Carolina
9/15 U.A.B.
11/17 Wofford
11/24 at Clemson

8/31 vs. N.C. State (at the Georgia Dome)
9/8 Georgia State
9/22 Akron
11/3 Troy

Texas A&M
8/30 at Louisiana Tech
9/15 at S.M.U.
9/22 South Carolina State
11/17 Sam Houston State

9/8 at Northwestern
9/15 Presbyterian
10/27 Massachusetts
11/24 at Wake Forest

In the effort of full disclosure, my original list did not include Missouri or Texas A&M, a regrettable error that I’m sure to make again – it will take some time for my brain to automatically include this pair as part of the SEC, not the Big 12. The Aggies are one of two SEC teams, joining Vanderbilt, that will play two road games in non-conference play.

But the Commodores upped the ante to include two road games against B.C.S. conference competition. Vanderbilt is the only program to play one such road game against a non-rival, let alone two. Florida travels to Florida State, South Carolina to Clemson and Kentucky to Louisville, but those are rivalry games; each team hosted its rival last fall.

In all, there are 53 non-conference games already scheduled. That total will move to 56 once Missouri and Arkansas complete their schedules. Of the 53 games currently scheduled, 13 will be played away from home. Ten of those 13, as noted, are true road games; Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee play neutral site games over the first weekend of the season.

In comparison, the SEC will play nine games against teams from the Sun Belt, if we include South Alabama, currently transitioning into the F.B.S., as that overmatched league’s newest member. Alabama plays two Sun Belt teams, Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic, over a three-week span in September. Louisiana-Monroe goes to Arkansas and Auburn over back-to-back weeks.

Every team, with the exception of Missouri, which will join this club once it adds those two missing games, will play one team from the F.C.S., as the SEC does every year – and the conference is not necessarily alone in this fact, it should be added. Jacksonville State is popular: Arkansas plays host in the season opener, while Florida extends the same courtesy two months later.

What’s the worst weekend of the year for SEC football? Try Nov. 17, when the league will feature more than twice as many games against F.C.S. competition, seven, as it does actual conference games, three. While the rest of the country is knee-deep in conference play, the SEC will take a breather. Not that it matters: barring an unforeseeable change in the weather, the SEC will still send a team to the national title game.

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  1. Redwolf4life says:

    Psst.. Arkansas, how about you pick up a game against Arkansas State? I know, it’ll never happen, but I can dream.

  2. jjncaa says:

    This is ridiculous… Somebody has to stop this nonsense

  3. Burnt Orange says:

    Western Kentucky’s non conference schedule-

    Austin Peay
    Southern Miss

  4. [...] Paul Myerberg notes that there may be one weekend that proves to be the exception to the adage that you don’t plan a wedding in the South on a fall weekend:  “… Nov. 17, when the [SEC] will feature more than twice as many games against F.C.S. competition, seven, as it does actual conference games, three.” [...]

  5. BobJ says:

    The NCAA has rules regarding a team’s schedule that affects bowl eligibility, doesn’t it? Like a certain number of wins over F.B.S. teams? It would be easy to add a scheduling requirement for playing a certain number of conference games, determined by conference size.

  6. Gotham Gator says:

    I’m not sure why a non-conference game against a team that’s a rival somehow gets counted differently. A tough game is a tough game.

  7. Lee says:

    The SEC plays: Michigan, Texas, FSU, Clemson(2), Louisville, SMU, Tulsa, Washington, North Western, Arizona St, GT, NC St, and Wake Forest.

    That’s a pretty impressive OOC schedule.

    Paul, why not do a comparison over the other BCS conferences? I bet they are similiar.

  8. Burnt Orange says:

    @ Lee- the SEC has 14 teams and plays only 8 conference games, so you have 56 slots to fill. The Big 12 with 10 teams playing 9 conference games has 30 slots to fill. With those 30 slots, the Big 12 has Miami, Notre Dame, Iowa, Virginia, Ole Miss, Arizona, Maryland, SMU(2), Tulsa, and Wyoming.

  9. Woodysc says:

    ACC plays Stanford, Penn State, TCU, Notre Dame(3), Kansas St, Florida, Auburn, SC, UGA, Vandy, BYU, WVU, Tenn, Cincy, Northwestern, USF(2), Louisville, Pitt.

    7 of the ACC’s out of conference opponents finished the 2011 season in the top 25 (this includes two SEC teams UGA and SC). Two others were the next highest vote getters (BYU and Auburn)

  10. jjncaa says:

    wow: “Rutgers, Arkansas announce 2-game series in 2012 & 13. Arkansas first SEC team ever to visit Rutgers”

  11. DMK says:

    I suppose all that really matters is how many *good* teams you play in a season, be they in conference or out. The SEC holds its own here.

    Schedules today are just like they were 30 years ago, except with a couple of payday scrimmages thrown in. You make some money, get a look at the young kids, try not to lose.

    Some teams, it’s true, will be “knee-deep” in their conference schedules, but most will be less than ankle-deep.

    Also, I recognize that there’s a difference between scheduling Duke/Minnesota/Syracuse and LaMonroe/FlaIntl/Troy, but not that much, and any team with championship hopes should win easily against any of them.

    The truth? The FBS should drop about 50 teams. Most non-AQ conferences just need to be spun off into an entirely different league.

  12. Lee says:

    I would understand peoples arguments if the SEC played NO ONE in it’s OOC schedule. But to play the teams that they do combined with their conference schedule is enough for me. They have nothing to apologize for.

    For what it’s worth. I think the ACC has the best OOC schedule.

  13. MJ says:

    For 2011, here was the average number of regular season home games against non-BCS teams for each conference (per team):

    SEC: 2.5 (30 total)
    Big East: 2.5 (20)
    Big Ten: 2.25 (27)
    Big 12: 1.9 (19)
    ACC: 1.75 (21)
    PAC-12: 1.17 (14)

    The SEC isn’t alone in scheduling home cupcakes, but they are definitely at the top of the list. If Arkansas and Missou fill their unscheduled games with non-BCS home games, the SEC would be up to 39 total, or 2.8 games per team next year. That would be the highest average of home games against non-major teams EVER by a conference in a single season. (http://www.cfbtrivia.com/cfbt_records.php?fry=1980&thy=2011&ncnf=on&home=on&nonmajor=on&tmajor=on&nbowl=on&spl=on&splmar=1&fcn=on&sortby=GP&iall=on)

  14. BobJ says:

    The tough games in the OOC portion of SEC schedule are not the point here. It’s that by not playing the one additional (and potentially losable) conference game, SEC teams get to schedule a much easier OOC game in its place. In that regard, the SEC does not hold its own.

    Take the OOC schedules listed above, keep the toughest game, then pick any of the remaining games and substitute an SEC game from the other division for it. Even keep one F.C.S. opponent if you want to, but I guarantee you would see some losses by the better teams that would otherwise not have occurred.

  15. vaudvillain says:

    It’s not just the OOC schedule (lots of teams in lots of conferences have weak OOC schedules). It’s also where the games are played. Vanderbilt is travelling all the way up to Evanston to face Northwestern…but Vandy is the only team traveling even close to that far north. The SEC is the best conference around – I do not dispute that. But the SEC also never leaves its own back yard, either during the regular season or during the bowls. Would it make a difference in the results of the games? Maybe not. The SEC is very, very good. But it sure would be nice to see.

  16. DMK says:

    All that matters is how good the teams are that you play. Whether you play 12 conference games or 0 (like Notre Dame), you will be judged by your body of work.

    There aren’t many teams that play more than 6 or 7 tough (pre-bowl) games. It’s easy to see how that’s a problem, but it would seem to be a problem across the board.

    Or, we just accept that major teams only ever play 6 or 7 tough games a year and that the rest are filler games that have to do with getting rest, getting money, promoting the sport, and not tripping up.

    I guess maybe it helps Vandy steal a bowl slot from some other equally bad team, but who cares.

  17. Andrew says:

    It is also the fact that they get 4 non conference games.

    A team can go 2-6 in SEC play and go bowling.

  18. Dave says:

    Please don’t conflate issues or debate straw men. The post is not titled, “Who has the toughest conference?” That debate is over, it’s the SEC until someone proves otherwise, and no serious college football fan disagrees.

    The post is about NON-conference schedules, and the reason people care is this is the one aspect of the schedule over which a school actually has control. As such, it says a lot about your guts – or at least your priorities. I’m sorry, but the fact that Vandy – Vandy! – is the only team to schedule 2 x BCS opponants speaks volumes about both.

    ‘Bama – props for Michigan, but the rest of that garbage is really not befitting a team that has won 2 national titles in 3 years.

    LSU – how do you go from Oregon and West Virgina to Washington and North Texas? (in fairness, I guess they learned from ‘Bama last year that there’s no incentive to schedule tough)

    UF – I realize you are not constitutionally permitted to travel outside your state OOC, but if not Miami, why not at least USF?

    Finally, can someone please explain how Mississippi gets Texas OOC but A&M does not…?

  19. DMK says:

    I believe the SEC thinks they already play enough tough games to compete for national titles and to send a bunch of teams bowling. And they have been right about that. When you’ve hit on a formula for ultimate success, don’t change it.

    If voters start to believe that the SEC plays a soft schedule, then it will hurt them, just like it has hurt Boise et al. in the past.

    The priorities of the SEC are the same as every other conference: win national titles, send teams bowling. The guts part comes from actually being in the SEC, which is the most homerish thing in the world to say, but most of the country believes it at this moment in football history.

    And South Carolina vs. UAB will probably be a sell out, which is insane, and just doesn’t happen too often outside SEC country.

    I just don’t think the SEC needs to raise it’s profile at home or abroad at this point. Contenders have to take on all challengers, not champs.

  20. Burnt Orange says:

    @ Dave – Texas has decided it is not playing A&M in any sport anytime soon. Neither is Texas Tech. Messy divorce.

  21. Marc says:

    The sec is weak! Weak, I tell you! You southerners just think your poop don’t stink and your better than everyone else.

    Start scheduling 9 conference games like everyone else and stop scheduling fcs teams. You don’t deserve half the credit you get, and that’s the dang truth.

  22. Lee says:

    Texas is pathetic.

  23. Bobak says:

    It’s no surprise that there’s an epidemic of obesity/diabetes in the South with all of those cupcakes!

    USC, UCLA & Notre Dame remain the only teams to have never scheduled non-FBS teams since the D-1A/1AA split in the late 70s.

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