Today we look at the Southeastern Conference’s non-conference football schedules. The SEC, king of college football. The SEC, king of the wuss schedule. The SEC schedules are an annual embarrassment, and 2012 is no different. An occasional marquee matchup, mixed in with a Division I-AA opponent or one of the litany of southern mid-majors trying to cash a big paycheck. Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulane, Troy, South Alabama, Middle Tennessee, Alabama-Birmingham, Louisiana Tech.
The SEC ought to be ashamed.
Games against lower-division teams: 15. All 14 teams play one Division I-AA foe, except Texas A&M plays two. Poor Jacksonville State plays Arkansas and Florida. So of the SEC’s 56 non-conference games, 26.8 percent are against lower-division teams. That’s absurd. Not as absurd as the Big 12′s 30 percent.
Games against traditional national powers: Five. Alabama-Michigan, Florida-Florida State, Ole Miss-Texas and two Clemson games — Auburn and South Carolina. So 8.9 percent of the SEC’s non-conference games are against elite competition. The Big 12 plays 6.7 percent of its games against the elite (two of 30).
Games against other major-conference programs: Nine. Some good names. Georgia Tech, Washington, Arizona State, Northwestern, Syracuse, Louisville. Also Rutgers, North Carolina State, Wake Forest. So that’s 14 solid games for the SEC; 25 percent. The Big 12 is at 27 percent.
Road games: 12. That’s counting three neutral site games — Tennessee-North Carolina State, Auburn-Clemson and Michigan-Alabama. Of the nine true road games, four are against mid-majors — Mississippi State at Troy, Missouri at Central Florida and Texas A&M at both Louisiana Tech and SMU. So the SEC plays 21.4 percent of its non-conference games away from home. The Big 12 plays 27 percent.
OK. Let’s rank the SEC schedules.
1. Missouri: Southeastern Louisiana, Arizona State, at Central Florida, Syracuse. Hey, Missouri. Three decent games? Get out of this league.
2. South Carolina: East Carolina, Alabama-Birmingham, Wofford, at Clemson. Playing East Carolina will be dicey for the Gamecocks. No other SEC school has scheduled the Pirates since 1998.
3. Florida: Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, at Florida State. Classic SEC schedule. Three automatic wins, one good game.
4. Alabama: Michigan at Arlington, Texas; Western Kentucky; Florida Atlantic; Western Carolina. Classic Alabama schedule. Three rumdums and a traditional intersectional matchup.
5. Mississippi: Central Arkansas, Texas-El Paso, Texas, Tulane. Longhorns in Oxford will be a culture clash.
6. Auburn: Clemson at Atlanta, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, Alabama A&M. Auburn is following the Alabama model.
7. Vanderbilt: at Northwestern, Presbyterian, Massachusetts, at Wake Forest. Two road games at fellow major-conference schools. Vandy is doing its part to make the SEC look good.
8. Georgia: Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech. Georgia has been playing some decent games besides Georgia Tech. But not this year.
9. Tennessee: North Carolina State at Atlanta, Georgia State, Akron, Troy. Just because you’re playing in Atlanta doesn’t make N.C. State a credible foe.
10. LSU: North Texas, Washington, Idaho, Towson. Hey, no Louisiana schools. What gives?
11. Kentucky: at Louisville, Kent State, Western Kentucky, Samford. Why Samford? Why not Eastern Kentucky?
12. Arkansas: Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, Tulsa. By Arkansas standards, this is not a bad schedule.
13. Texas A&M: at Louisiana Tech, at SMU, South Carolina State, Sam Houston State. What a strange schedule. Two home games against I-AA foes. Two road games against mid-majors. The Aggies will be pining for the Thanksgiving game against the ‘Horns.
14. Mississippi State: Jackson State, at Troy, South Alabama, Middle Tennessee. Talk about your tour of Southern mid-majors. Throw in Louisiana-Lafayette, and you’ve got a smorgasbord.