My one complaint is you give credit to UF for creating "Local intrest" intrest in playing FIU an FAU, and you say that LSU should not have canceled a game against traditional rival Tulane. Then you say you are not impessed with the Aggies because they are playing three in state Non-AQ FBS teams. Two of those three were in the Southwest Confrenece with the Aggies and create tremedous intrest among the fan base (especially those of us old enough to have gone to A&M during the SWC days). Actually, even UTEP is an intresting game this year seeing as Showers will be their starting QB.
When it comes to pastries, no SEC school takes as many trips to the corner bakery as Ole Miss. Over the past five years, the Rebels have played a whopping six schools from the FCS level. Worse, their non-conference schedule has featured just two schools — two in five years — from BCS automatic-qualifier conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, and Pac-12).
No one in the SEC — not even Mississippi State — has feasted on as many cupcakes and creampuffs as the gang from Oxford. And MSU has nibbled on its share of sponge cake.
On the other end of the spectrum are Vanderbilt and Georgia. Some might say that the BCS-level foes they’ve scheduled haven’t always been atop their conferences, but at least they’re playing power-conference competition. Both schools have scheduled 10 games against squads from BCS automatic-qualifiers over the last five seasons.
For comparison’s sake, we’ve gone back through the 2008 season to see which SEC schools have done the best and worst jobs of non-conference scheduling. We’ve decided to include Missouri and Texas A&M even though they’ve spent just one year in the SEC. But keep in mind the Big XII played nine league games in 2011. So both A&M and Mizzou faced one less non-conference foe between ’08 and ’12 than their new SEC roomies.
In addition, please remember that those recent matchups between Texas A&M and Arkansas were non-conference games until last season.
One last note: We’re well aware of the schedule quirks, broken contracts, and state legislators’ desires that have forced your favorite school to line up games with tin cans on occasion. And to paraphrase a Tommy Lee Jones’ line from “The Fugitive,” we don’t care. Below is a simple look at how the SEC’s teams have handled non-conference scheduling in recent years. It is what it is.
The categories used are “actual competition” (BCS conference foes), “cannon fodder” (teams from non-AQ FBS leagues or independents), and “cupcakes” (FCS-level opponents).
Actual Competition: 6 — Clemson, Duke, Michigan, Penn State (2), Virginia Tech
Cannon Fodder: 10 — Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Kent State, North Texas (2), San Jose State, Tulane, Western Kentucky (2)
Cupcakes: 4 — Georgia State, Georgia Southern, UT-Chattanooga, Western Carolina
Thoughts: Nick Saban has been pushing the SEC to add another conference game. He’s also in favor power-conference teams playing only other power-conference teams. But he’s not an idiot. Until everyone gets on the same page, he won’t be trying to lead the way with Bama’s schedule. Still, he’s been more than willing to open seasons against name competition.
2013 Schedule: Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Georgia State, UT-Chattanooga
Actual Competition: 5 — Rutgers, Texas, Texas A&M (3)
Cannon Fodder: 10 — Eastern Michigan, Louisiana-Monroe (3), New Mexico, Troy (2), Tulsa (2), UTEP
Cupcakes: 5 — Jacksonville State, Missouri State (2), Tennessee Tech, Western Illinois
Thoughts: Meh. The Hogs haven’t exactly lined up the best of the best of the best over the last few years. (Hey, another line from a Tommy Lee Jones’ flick.) Texas and pre-SEC Texas A&M were good games, but Arkansas’ cannon fodder games were truly that. Then you toss in five games against FCS cupcakes. Was any Razorback fan happy to plunk down cash to see any of the last 10 schools on that list? Happily Bret Bielema and AD Jeff Long are locking up future non-conference games against quality foes from the Hogs’ old Southwest Conference days.
2013 Schedule: Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, Southern Miss, Rutgers
Actual Competition: 5 — Clemson (3), West Virginia (2)
Cannon Fodder: 10 — Arkansas State, Ball State, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Monroe (3), Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, Utah State
Cupcakes: 5 — Alabama A&M, Furman, Samford, UT-Chattanooga, UT-Martin
Thoughts: The same as above. Auburn had five marquee non-conference games in the last five years. Their remaining 15 non-conference contests were dreck. This year’s non-con slate looks to provide more of the same.
2013 Schedule: Washington State, Arkansas State, Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic
Actual Competition: 7 — Florida State (5), Miami (FL), South Florida
Cannon Fodder: 8 — Bowling Green, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Hawaii, Louisiana-Lafayette, Miami (OH), Troy, UAB
Cupcakes: 5 — Appalachian State, Charleston Southern, The Citadel, Furman, Jacksonville State
Thoughts: Kudos to Florida. The Gators have their built-in season-ender with Florida State yet they’ve still managed to schedule some other BCS foes (Miami and South Florida) as well as one interesting intersectional matchup against non-AQ team (Hawaii). FAU and FIU might have even provided some local interest for fans in the Sunshine State. With both Miami and FSU on the schedule again this year, UF gets a pass for lining up an FCS creampuff every year.
2013 Schedule: Toledo, Miami (FL), Georgia Southern, Florida State
Actual Competition: 10 — Arizona State (2), Boise State, Colorado, Georgia Tech (5), Oklahoma State
Cannon Fodder: 5 — Buffalo, Central Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette, New Mexico State
Cupcakes: 5 — Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern (2), Idaho State, Tennessee Tech
Thoughts: There are a lot of people who look at Georgia’s talent and the Bulldogs long run of success who ask, “When’s Mark Richt gonna win a BCS title?” First, those aren’t easy to come by. Second, they’re especially not easy to come by when you play eight SEC contests and you schedule 10 games in five years against BCS-level competition. UGA brass could try to slide by claiming Georgia Tech is their marquee non-conference game each season but they don’t. They’ve played some name schools. More name schools than anybody else in the SEC since 2008. And that will continue in 2013 with both Clemson and Tech on the calendar. A big hurrah for guts.
2013 Schedule: Clemson, North Texas, Appalachian State, Georgia Tech
Actual Competition: 5 — Louisville (5)
Cannon Fodder: 10 — Akron, Central Michigan, Kent State, Louisiana-Monroe, Miami (OH), MTSU, Western Kentucky (4)
Cupcakes: 5 — Charleston Southern, Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Norfolk State, Samford
Thoughts: Pathetic. Kentucky is experiencing a mini-revival this offseason thanks to the early work of new coach Mark Stoops. But if UK is going to seriously take a step forward in football — which it’s fully capable of doing — the Wildcats will eventually have to schedule like men. Or else they’ll run the risk of Dan Mullen’ing their program (more on that in a minute). Western Kentucky with Bobby Petrino will probably be even more challenging in the years ahead, but when your only “name” game each year is one that’s practically forced on you by the state legislature it’s not a good thing.
2013 Schedule: Western Kentucky, Miami (OH), Louisville, Alabama State
Actual Competition: 6 — North Carolina, Oregon, Washington (2), West Virginia (2)
Cannon Fodder: 10 — Idaho, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, North Texas (2), Troy, Tulane (2), Western Kentucky
Cupcakes: 4 — Appalachian State, McNeese State, Northwestern State, Towson
Thoughts: Like Alabama, the Tigers aren’t afraid of playing quality, BCS-level competition at home, on the road or at a neutral site. Good for them. Now, the Tigers’ cannon fodder games are bad — aside from the Tulane rivalry which should not have been killed — but it’s hard to grumble when a school lines up dates with Oregon, West Virginia, TCU and their ilk. As for Towson… what the hell were you thinking, Les?
2013 Schedule: TCU, UAB, Kent State, Furman
Actual Competition: 2 — Georgia Tech (2)
Cannon Fodder: 13 — Houston (2), Louisiana Tech (2), Memphis (2), MTSU (3), South Alabama, Troy, UAB (2)
Cupcakes: 5 — Alcorn State, Jackson State (2), Southeastern Louisiana, UT-Martin
Thoughts: Uh, thank God for Ole Miss? If not for their cross-state rivals the Bulldogs would be at the bottom of the SEC barrel in terms of recent non-con scheduling. State has played two games against one BCS-level school (Georgia Tech) since 2008. All looked great early last season as MSU raced up the national polls by beating dunce after dunce. Then came squads with actual winning records and the Dogs dropped five of their last six including their bowl game. Call it “athletic diabetes,” but there’s a danger in feasting on too many pastries. A tip of the cap as Mullen and AD Scott Stricklin have developed some courage and scheduled a neutral site game with Oklahoma State this season. ‘Bout time.
2013 Schedule: Oklahoma State, Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green
Actual Competition: 6 — Arizona State (2), Illinois (3), Syracuse
Cannon Fodder: 8 — Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Florida, Miami (OH) (2), Nevada (2), San Diego State
Cupcakes: 5 — Furman, McNeese State, Southeast Missouri State, Southeastern Louisiana, Western Illinois
Thoughts: The Tigers played one less non-conference game than their new SEC compatriots, but they still managed to schedule six games against BCS-level foes. They didn’t schedule Ohio State or Oregon, but at least they dared to play some decent programs. Overall, Mizzou’s slate featured some West Coast variety (Arizona State, Nevada, San Diego State) that’s not often seen in the SEC. We’ll be interested to see what Missouri decides to do in the future — does the school go the safe route and schedule pansies for the purposes of bowl eligibility or will it mix in at least one quality foe per year? That 2013 schedule certainly won’t wow anyone.
2013 Schedule: Murray State, Toledo, Indiana, Arkansas State
Actual Competition: 2 — Texas, Wake Forest
Cannon Fodder: 12 — BYU, Fresno State (2), Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Memphis (2), Tulane (2), UAB, UTEP
Cupcakes: 6 — Central Arkansas, Jacksonville State, Northern Arizona, Samford, Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Illinois
Thoughts: Ridiculous. Two games against power-conference teams? Two? In five years? And one of those was Wake Forest? Throw in all those FCS opponents — with another on this year’s schedule — and the less said about Mississippi’s scheduling the better. At least they scheduled that home-and-home with Texas.
2013 Schedule: Southeast Missouri State, Texas, Idaho, Troy
Actual Competition: 7 — Clemson (5), NC State (2)
Cannon Fodder: 8 — East Carolina (2), Florida Atlantic, Navy, Southern Miss, Troy, UAB (2)
Cupcakes: 5 — The Citadel, Furman, South Carolina State, Wofford (2)
Thoughts: Like Florida, Carolina could point to its annual battle with Clemson and dodge other big-conference foes. But Steve Spurrier and the Cocks haven’t done that. They’ve played NC State twice and will open this season against North Carolina. Granted, NCSU and UNC aren’t living in the national top 10 these days, but those are at least draws for Carolina’s fans. There’s been a lot of talk about declines in ticket-buying in recent months — some other SEC schools should start paying attention — so creating a schedule with some interesting games is more important now than ever. This season USC will face the other Carolina, a UCF squad that went 10-4 last season, and Clemson. That’s solid work.
2013 Schedule: North Carolina, Central Florida, Coastal Carolina, Clemson
Actual Competition: 5 — Cincinnati, NC State, Oregon, UCLA (2)
Cannon Fodder: 12 — Akron, Buffalo, Memphis (2), MTSU, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Troy, UAB (2), Western Kentucky, Wyoming
Cupcakes: 3 — Georgia State, Montana, UT-Martin
Thoughts: Tennessee has long been the most daring schedule-maker in the SEC. The Volunteers almost always have some marquee program on their slate and that’s not changing. Not only will UT tangle with Oregon in Eugene this season, but on the docket in coming years are home-and-home dates with Oklahoma and Nebraska. Sprinkle in another home-and-home with UConn and it’s almost enough to make you forget that UT’s previous coach and AD bought their way out of a game at North Carolina a couple of seasons back. Heck, since the Volunteers have only played three FCS foes since 2008, we’ll just go ahead drop that Carolina-for-Buffalo swap.
2013 Schedule: Austin Peay, Western Kentucky, Oregon, South Alabama
Actual Competition: 4 — Arkansas (3), Miami (FL)
Cannon Fodder: 12 — Arkansas State, Army, Florida International, Idaho, Louisiana Tech (2), New Mexico (2), SMU (2), UAB, Utah State
Cupcakes: 3 — Sam Houston State, South Carolina State, Stephen F. Austin
Thoughts: As was the case with Missouri, A&M played one less non-conference game over the last five years than all the other SEC schools. The Aggies have only faced four BCS-level foes since ’08. Last year they were forced due to their conference jump to take on two FCS opponents. One of them — Sam Houston State — is back on the schedule this year along with some other in-state ne’er-do-wells. Not impressive at all. TAMU recently inked a deal for a pair of games with Oregon in 2018 and 2019, but Kevin Sumlin and Eric Hyman need to kick their scheduling into another gear if they want to become a perennial national title contender (like Alabama and LSU).
2013 Schedule: Rice, Sam Houston State, SMU, UTEP
Actual Competition: 10 — Duke, Georgia Tech, Northwestern (2), Wake Forest (4), UConn (2)
Cannon Fodder: 7 — Army (2), Eastern Michigan, Miami (OH), Rice (2), UMass
Cupcakes: 3 — Elon, Presbyterian, Western Carolina
Thoughts: Ten power-conference foes for the Commodores? Kudos. And before anyone suggests the squads Vandy has played haven’t been juggernauts, remember that UConn, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech have all been to BCS bowl in recent years. Vanderbilt has been creating a challenging schedule for itself and AD David Williams deserves applause for that. Matter of fact, while Vandy’s cupcake games have been real stinkeroos — Elon? Presbyterian? — they’ve only played three such games in the last five years (with Austin Peay becoming Number Four this fall). No, James Franklin’s schedule isn’t on par with some of the league’s big boys, but its a far sight better than some schools (like those in the Magnolia State, for example).
2013 Schedule: Austin Peay, UMass, UAB, Wake Forest
One last note for you… the next time SEC expansion becomes a hot topic, maybe someone should start pushing for Louisiana-Monroe to get an invite. The Warhawks have played ten games against SEC foes since 2007 and they collected a win at Alabama (2007) and at Arkansas (last season) in that time. They also took Auburn to overtime at Jordan-Hare Stadium last year.
Toss in upcoming games with LSU in 2014 and Georgia in 2015 and Louisiana-Monroe qualifies as the SEC’s de facto fifteenth team.