Glenn Guilbeau / Gannett Louisiana
BATON ROUGE – LSU athletic director Joe Alleva and Les Miles have been arguing for a new Southeastern Conference scheduling format for so long that they have confused themselves. Thank goodness, the format – right or wrong – is finally locked in for decades at eight games with one permanent opponent from the other division, so they can finally move on and stop whining.
Alleva and Miles for years have thrown out the statistic that LSU has played Florida and Georgia twice as much as Alabama has since 2000. This is true, but it is a ridiculously flawed argument as it is comparing apples to oranges.
Florida is LSU’s permanent opponent from the East. Neither Florida nor Georgia is Alabama’s permanent opponent from the East, so naturally LSU is going to have more games against those two than Alabama by simple math. Alabama’s permanent opponent is Tennessee, which has been within two games of Florida either way 15 times since the SEC adopted divisional play in 1992. Tennessee had a better or equal overall record to Florida 11 times since 1992, including last year. That’s pretty even. Florida should be better as it has more talent in its state, but it does not always work out that way and may not in the future. See Coach Ron Zook’s years and look at where Coach Will Muschamp is now coming off a 4-8 season.
Alleva has Bama on the Brain so much he has apparently lost the ability to argue.
Meanwhile, Miles is having trouble counting his games against Georgia. The Tigers have played the Bulldogs five times since 2000 in the regular season. Alabama has played Georgia four times over that span. Alabama was supposed to play Georgia in 2012, but that game was omitted as that was the year the league added Texas A&M and Missouri. But the SEC did not put Georgia on Alabama’s schedule in 2013 or ’14 either, and that is a disparity because it could have been done.
But neither Miles nor Alleva bring this up. Miles has the same logical disconnect Alleva has.
“Nine years ago when I sat down and I’m playing Florida and Georgia in the regular season, I kept saying to myself, ‘This will be fun because wait to the other guys get that,’” Miles said.
Nine years in Miles’ first season at LSU in 2005, he did not play Georgia in the regular season. He did in the SEC Championship Game in ’05 and in ‘07, so maybe that what he’s thinking. Miles did not play Georgia in the regular season until 2008 and again in ’09 and ’12. Alabama coach Nick Saban has played Georgia twice – 2007 and ’08 – and owes them one.
Alleva and Miles both missed the big argument because they couldn’t get off of Alabama. They were right, though. The SEC office did goof last week when it decided to stick with its archaic football scheduling format of only eight league games and permanent opponents across division lines. Basically, the league added two tenants in Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012 to reach 14 teams and did not increase its living space by sticking with an eight-game schedule.
Seems like a conference that basically prints money every fiscal year would understand the math better. An eight-game schedule worked when there were only 12 teams. But still just 8 for 14?
The league office’s release said staying below nine league games would help teams continue to play a strong non-conference schedule, and a new rule was instituted along this line. By 2016, all SEC football teams must play at least one team from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12.
That makes sense. But with a 12-game regular season schedule, there are still enough weeks for the SEC to play good non-conference teams with a nine-game SEC schedule. A 10-game schedule would actually be best because it would avoid the imbalance of five home games and just four on the road that half the league would get every year. And, no, SEC teams would not beat one another up.
The SEC could stand to play nine or 10 league games a year as its own league has the usual breathers because of the natural order of things. Auburn, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee were a combined 5-35 in the SEC in 2012 with Kentucky and Auburn going 0-for-16. Last year, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee went a combined 2-22 in the SEC with Arkansas and Kentucky going 0-for-16. With built-in bottom feeders like that often enough, you’re telling me you can’t play nine or 10 league games?
The way it is with just an eight-game SEC schedule even with the new rule coming to play the above four BCS leagues, members will be able to continue to play such light fare as Sam Houston State, a lower division school that will open LSU’s home schedule this season on Sept. 6, and Louisiana-Monroe, a 70-7 loser to Baylor last year that LSU hosts on Sept. 13, and New Mexico State, a 2-10 team in 2013 that LSU hosts on Sept. 20.
Most SEC teams were playing two or three breathers a year while already scheduling good non-conference games before this new rule. Alabama plays Georgia State and Chattanooga this season. Auburn has Samford, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State. Georgia has Troy and Charleston Southern. South Carolina plays Furman and South Alabama.
Those “off weeks” may get down to two or one in the future with the new scheduling rule, but how about zero breathers? If the SEC is that good, why is Charleston Southern on a SEC schedule?
The SEC also refuses to change its permanent argument for permanent West-East opponents. Forget Auburn versus Georgia, Alabama vs. Tennessee and LSU vs. Florida for a moment. There are healthy debates on both sides of that issue. But what is the debate for Ole Miss and Vanderbilt or Mississippi State and Kentucky or Texas A&M and South Carolina playing every year. Those games are so void of geographic or historical meaning that it is difficult for some to remember they actually play yearly.
“Mississippi State plays Vanderbilt every year,” Miles said. “It’s difficult for them to play Florida and Georgia.”
Actually, Ole Miss plays Vanderbilt every year, but we see Miles’ point.
Texas A&M and South Carolina has about all the rivalry ingredients of LSU versus Syracuse, but that’s another story.
The permanent opponents worked when it was a 12-game schedule. It is 14 now. The SEC missed a chance to grow. With that many teams in the league and East-West opponents staying to themselves under the permanent format, there are members that members will never get to know. Variety is the spice of scheduling life these days. The SEC woefully overlooked that.
“This schedule doesn’t share opponents,” Miles said. “The rotation of opponents (in an eight-game format) can only be the fair and right way. It gives everybody an opportunity to see the entire schedule in four years. To say that this is the fairest and rightest way to pick a champion, I think that’s flawed.”
That is an SEC coach ripping the SEC. And he’s right. Not only did the SEC stick with eight, it made sure its eight-game format severely limited a variety of opponents. Such a closed door policy is not mentally or mathematically healthy in this new age of college football with larger conferences and a new BCS playoff format dawning this season.
Other conferences may no longer see SEC football as the great model and can point to the SEC itself – namely Miles – for proof. In fact, with only the SEC and ACC stubbornly maintaining eight is enough, the other major conferences with nine or shifting to nine are looking at the SEC in a new way. They’re laughing at the SEC as if it still uses dial-up.