By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports
What will the SEC decide to do with the two extra conference games it’s adding to the 2020 conference-only format it announced on Friday?
It appears the league will go with either the addition of 2021 and 2022 crossover games or some sort of strength of schedule model.
The former is easier and cleaner. The East division hosts the West division in 2021. It reverses in 2022. That could make it simple to slot in predetermined matchups and locations. That should eliminate accusations of favoritism. It’s also the format that’s been most reported to be what the SEC has often discussed.
The latter format is what would most likely achieve competitive balance in scheduling. It would potentially diminish complaints by leveling the league schedules out, top-to-bottom. I realize eliminating complaints in today’s society is impossible to achieve. The ACC used a strength of schedule model. This will be imperfect as well. I’ll explain more below.
Let’s dive into the two formats.
Vince’s View: It’s easy to overreact to the two additional SEC games by looking at them in a bubble. Just because those two games are tougher or easier for one team over another doesn’t mean the entire schedule is that way. You need to look at the 4 cross-division games each team plays and line those up side-by-side for best comparison. I’ve done that for you below.
Some teams that have difficult 9th and 10th games may have had a lesser rest of the schedule. The in-division games will match-up for the other 6 games for a more level comparison.
Here’s what those look like. Judge with the eye test, not previous season’s records. Where you play matters when judging schedules, as does when you play, which we don’t know yet. Who has the toughest 4-game set? The easiest? I bet opinions will vary.
|SEC East||Permanent CO||2020 CO||2021 CO||2022 CO|
|Florida||vs. LSU||at Ole Miss||vs. Alabama||at Texas A&M|
|Georgia||vs. Auburn||at Alabama||vs. Arkansas||at Miss State|
|Kentucky||vs. Miss State||at Auburn||vs. LSU||at Ole Miss|
|Missouri||vs. Arkansas||at Miss State||vs. Texas A&M||at Auburn|
|South Carolina||vs. Texas A&M||at LSU||vs. Auburn||at Arkansas|
|Tennessee||vs. Alabama||at Arkansas||vs. Ole Miss||at LSU|
|Vanderbilt||vs. Ole Miss||at Texas A&M||vs. Miss State||at Alabama|
|SEC West||Permanent CO||2020 CO||2021 CO||2022 CO|
|Alabama||at Tennessee||vs. Georgia||at Florida||vs. Vanderbilt|
|Arkansas||at Missouri||vs. Tennessee||at Georgia||vs. S. Carolina|
|Auburn||at Georgia||vs. Kentucky||at S. Carolina||vs. Missouri|
|LSU||at Florida||vs. S. Carolina||at Kentucky||vs. Tennessee|
|Mississippi State||at Kentucky||vs. Missouri||at Vanderbilt||vs. Georgia|
|Ole Miss||at Vanderbilt||vs. Florida||at Tennessee||vs. Kentucky|
|Texas A&M||at S. Carolina||vs. Vanderbilt||at Missouri||vs. Florida|
Vince’s View Review: Overall, of those 4-game crossover comparisons, I think Florida and Alabama have the two toughest schedules. It looks like Mississippi State and Texas A&M have the lightest schedules.
Only one SEC team doesn’t add perhaps the top four teams in the league (Georgia/Florida/Alabama.LSU) in the two add-on games…Missouri. What are the other two Western Division games previously scheduled for the Tigers? Home vs. Arkansas and at Miss State. That’s more than manageable. Texas A&M and Auburn are still tough games, so it does even-up some.
People have complained about Georgia getting an easy duo with games vs. Arkansas and at Miss State added. Maybe, but when you add that to vs. Auburn and at Alabama it seems fair.
I’ve heard Tennessee fans speak out against playing at LSU because it would give them 5 Top 10 opponents. Well, no it won’t. LSU basically replaces Oklahoma since it’s SEC only. Secondly, when you look at the 4 West opponents as a whole, UT plays arguably the two best teams in the division and the two worst. Arkansas is on a 19-game SEC losing streak. So, again, it balances out. Not saying it’s all equal. Just pointing out to look at all 4 crossovers to judge more reasonably, if you’re into that kind of thing..
Strength of Schedule
Vince’s View: This is the format that UT AD Phillip Fulmer said on SportsTalk Friday he thinks will probably play a bigger role in the final schedule than the crossover model. It’s an interesting hint, perhaps. Take that for what it’s worth.
This is the more complicated format and also an in-exact one. Strength of schedule is typically gauged off of the previous year’s records. However, with losses of key players, coaching changes and even team improvements from year-to-year, you often won’t get identical results or strength of teams in consecutive seasons.
With in-division and two crossover opponents already set, the league is tasked with matching up each team with two of the five remaining teams not on the current SEC schedule. I’ve listed each school’s 5 teams that are options to be added below.
Here’s how the strength of schedule of the current SEC opponents lays out. I’ve listed them for both SEC games in 2019 and overall record in 2019, which would give you a little more separation of win percentage, if they chose to use it.
Opponent Record/Win % in SEC Games in 2019
1. South Carolina 37-27 (58%)
2. Arkansas 33-31 (52%)
Vanderbilt 33-31 (52%)
Alabama 33-31 (52%)
Auburn 33-31 (52%)
Ole Miss 33-31 (52%)
7. Florida 32-32 (50%)
Georgia 32-32 (50%)
9. Mississippi State 31-33 (48%)
10. Kentucky 30-34 (47%)
11. LSU 29-35 (45%)
Tennessee 29-35 (45%)
13. Texas A&M 28-36 (44%)
Missouri 28-36 (44%)
Opponent Record/Win % in All Games in 2019
1. South Carolina 71-34 (68%)
2. Mississippi State 68-36 (65%)
3. Auburn 66-39 (63%)
4. Ole Miss 65-39 (63%)
5. Arkansas 63-40 (61%)
6. Alabama 63-41 (61%)
7. Vanderbilt 61-41 (60%)
8. Georgia 60-41 (59%)
9. Florida 60-43 (58%)
10. Tennessee 57-44 (56%)
11. Kentucky 56-46 (55%)
12. LSU 55-46 (54%)
13. Missouri 54-48 (53%)
14. Texas A&M 54-48 (53%) *own 2019 record tiebreaker
Vince’s View Review: So what do you do with all those teams that share the same strength of schedule if you just base SOS on SEC records in 2019? Not easy. One thing is clear, South Carolina has, by far, the toughest current schedule. If any team should get a little lighter two additional games, it should be SC.
For having one of the easier SEC schedules, fans that think that UT’s schedule is already too difficult may be upset if this formula is used and the Vols end up with two tough opponents. There’s perception. There are numbers. None of this is going to be spot-on. Outrage will ensue, unfortunately.
Here are the game options for every SEC team within the strength of schedule model. Two of the 5 listed will be added. I will let you choose who should be added for each team. Try doing that puzzle. It’s not as easy as you think when you’re trying to keep the integrity of your strength of schedule rankings and there are two games involved.
The number listed next to each team is the SOS rank (in overall games,) with 1 being the toughest. That means the Gamecocks should land the easiest two games while Missouri and Texas A&M should land the hardest.
|Florida (9)||Ala||Tx AM||Ark||Aub||MSU|
|Georgia (8)||Ark||MSU||LSU||OM||Tx AM|
|Kentucky (11)||LSU||OM||Ala||Ark||Tx AM|
|Missouri (13)||Tx AM||Aub||Ala||LSU||OM|
|South Carolina (1)||Aub||Ark||OM||MSU||Ala|
|Tennessee (10)||OM||LSU||Tx AM||MSU||Aub|
|Mississippi State (2)||VU||Geo||UT||SC||UF|
|Ole Miss (4)||UT||UK||Geo||SC||Mizz|
|Texas A&M (14)||Mizz||UF||UT||UK||Geo|
It’s doubtful fairness can be exactly accomplished in this format. Good luck, SEC!
Then again, as long as we get a safe, complete 2020 college football season, I’ll close my personal complaint department and instead say…’Thank you, SEC!’
Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net.