SEC: The Power Five's Version of Eddie Haskell
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When the new CFB Playoff criteria for selection was published, the first snarky remarks made were how long it would take the SEC teams to put the Big Ten bottom feeders on speed dial.
That's because playing Power Five foes count more, somehow.
Which means ducking Boise State to play Indiana is a positive move. Go figure. But that's another discussion for another time.
What's before us now is the SEC actually took the snarksters' advice. En masse. And who was their logical target?
The gong show Charlie Weis runs at Kansas. Hit it, Jayhawk sales department:
Well, Kansas, you've got your choice of challenges now. An embarrassing seven SEC teams want to pay you to visit them -- they'd prefer not to travel -- and take your whuppin' just like they pay the Savannah States of this world to ... well ... let's color code their Power Five opponents and FCS schools:
|Alabama||West Virginia||Fla Atlantic||So Miss||W Carolina|
|Arkansas ...||Nicholls St||N Illinois||Texas Tech||UAB|
|Auburn ...||Kansas St||San José St||La Tech||Samford|
|Florida ...||Idaho||E Michigan||E Kentucky||Florida St|
|Georgia ...||Clemson||Troy||Ga Southern||Georgia Tech|
|Kentucky ...||UT Martin||Ohio||UL Monroe||Louisville|
|LSU ...||Wisconsin||Sam Houston||UL Monroe||N Mexico St|
|Mississippi St ...||So Miss||UAB||So Alabama||UT Martin|
|Missouri ...||So Dakota St||Toledo||UCF||Indiana|
|Ole Miss ...||Boise St||UL Lafayette||Memphis||Presbyterian|
|South Carolina ...||E Carolina||Furman||So Alabama||Clemson|
|Tennessee ...||Utah St||Arkansas St||Oklahoma||Chattanooga|
|Texas A&M ...||Lamar||Rice||SMU||UL Monroe|
|Vanderbilt ...||Temple||UMass||Charleston So||Old Dominion|
Besides rivalries -- they're your scheduling salvation, Georgia -- it's not really looking like SEC teams go out of their way to find challenges. Unless maybe ESPN is the matchmaker and tells them it's a good idea.
SEC teams are also adept at strategically placing their non-cons. Alabama, for instance, has Southern Mississippi before Florida, a bye before LSU, and West Carolina before Auburn. Smart. A team can do that with an eight-game conference schedule.
How much of an advantage do a 99% chance of an extra victory and less wear-and-tear on players give the SEC? Well, here's the Pac-12 with its nine-game conference schedule allowing for only three non-cons unless a game at Hawaii is on the schedule, whereby the NCAA allows for a 13th game:
|Arizona St ...||Weber St||New Mexico||Nôtre Dame|
|California ...||Northwestern||Sacramento St||BYU|
|Colorado ...||Colorado St||UMass||Hawaii|
|Oregon ...||South Dakota||Michigan St||Wyoming|
|Oregon St ...||Portland St||at Hawaii||San Diego St|
|Stanford ...||UC Davis||Army||Nôtre Dame|
|USC ...||Fresno St||Boston College||Nôtre Dame|
|Utah ...||Idaho St||Fresno St||Michigan|
|Washington ...||at Hawaii||E Washington||Illinois||Georgia St|
|Washington St ...||Rutgers||Nevada||Portland St|
So, the Pac-12 non-cons are comprised of 21.6% FCS schools (8-37) and 32.4% Power Fives plus BYU and Nôtre Dame (12-37). The SEC non-cons are comprised of 28.1% FCS schools (18-64) and 18.8% Power Fives (12-64).
Toss in that ninth conference game for the Pac-12 schools for the sake of four-vs-four comparison, and the numbers adjust to 16.3% (8-49) FCS opponents and a whopping 49.0% Power Fives (24-49).
Frankly, based on raw numbers alone, that would make omitting a two-loss Pac-12 champion from the playoffs a major crime. Not sure if the same could be said for the SEC, as even ESPN is downplaying it this season:
One can argue that the SEC did so well during the BCS years because it knew how to game the system. That's not to say it didn't have worthy champions, because it did. However, it is to say that those champions didn't always have the gauntlet to run that other teams did, which gave the SEC team a more refreshed pass to the title tilt.
This also enabled the SEC to enhance a brand image of superiority that pollsters obviously bought into, perpetuating a virtual entitlement to the championship game.