Did SEC create a competitive schedule? SOS ranks before and after games added; winners & losers

Marlon Davidson (3) takes the ball from Ark qb Ben Hick in the first half.
Auburn football vs Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019 in Fayetteville, AK.
Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

The SEC announced the two additional SEC games to the 2020 season’s conference-only schedule.

“We made every effort to create a schedule that is as competitive as possible and builds on the existing eight Conference games that had already been scheduled for 2020,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “This schedule is a one-year anomaly that we have developed under unique circumstances presented by the impact of COVID-19.”

So how did the SEC do in it’s quest for scheduling competitiveness?

Below is the strength of schedule rankings before the additions. Those two games are listed next to each team for perspective. Then below that, you can see what the 10-game schedule conference ranks adjusted to after adding the two extra games. I’ve also included my winners and losers, along with what it all means.

8-Game SEC Opponent Record/Win % in 2019 Games With 2 Adds
1. South Carolina 37-27 (58%)     Aub 5-3   OM 2-6    (7-9)
2. Arkansas 33-31 (52%)             Geo 7-1   UF 6-2     (13-3)
Vanderbilt 33-31 (52%)                LSU 8-0   MSU 3-5  (11-5)
Alabama 33-31 (52%)                  UK 3-5     Mizz 3-5   (6-10)
Auburn 33-31 (52%)                    UT 5-3     SC 3-5      (8-8)
Ole Miss 33-31 (52%)                  SC 3-5     UK 3-5     (6-10)
7. Florida 32-32 (50%)                 Ark 0-8    TxAM 4-4  (4-12)
Georgia 32-32 (50%)                   MSU 3-5   Ark 0-8   (3-13)
9. Mississippi St. 31-33 (48%)     VU 1-7     Geo 7-1   (8-8)
10. Kentucky 30-34 (47%)           OM 2-6    Ala 6-2    (8-8)
11. LSU 29-35 (45%)                   Mizz 3-5   VU 1-7   (4-12)
Tennessee 29-35 (45%)             TxAM 4-4   Aub 5-3  (9-7)
13. Texas A&M 28-36 (44%)       UF 6-2     UT 5-3   (11-5)
Missouri 28-36 (44%)                  Ala 6-2    LSU 8-0  (14-2)

8-Game Overall Opponent Record/Win % in 2019 Games With 2 Adds
1. South Carolina 71-34 (68%)  Aub 9-4   OM 4-8   (13-12)
2. Mississippi St. 68-36 (65%)  VU 3-9    Geo 12-2  (15-11)
3. Auburn 66-39 (63%)               UT 8-5   SC 4-8      (12-13)
4. Ole Miss 65-39 (63%)            SC 4-8    UK 8-5     (12-13)
5. Arkansas 63-40 (61%)          Geo 12-2   UF 11-2   (23-4)
6. Alabama 63-41 (61%)           UK 8-5     Mizz 6-6   (14-11)
7. Vanderbilt 61-41 (60%)        LSU 15-0   MSU 6-7   (21-7)
8. Georgia 60-41 (59%)            MSU 6-7   Ark 2-10   (8-17)
9. Florida 60-43 (58%)             Ark 2-10   TxAM 8-5   (10-15)
10. Tennessee 57-44 (56%)     TxAM 8-5   Aub 9-4   (17-9)
11. Kentucky 56-46 (55%)        OM 4-8   Ala 11-2   (15-10)
12. LSU 55-46 (54%)                  Mizz 6-6   VU 3-9   (9-15)
13. Missouri 54-48 (53%)         Ala 11-2   LSU 15-0   (26-2)
Texas A&M 54-48 (53%)           UF 11-2   UT 8-5   (19-7)


The rankings listed below are the 2020 preseason coaches poll.

10-Game SEC Opponent Record/Win % in 2019 Games
1. Arkansas 46-34 (58%)
2. South Carolina 44-36 (55%)
Vanderbilt 44-36 (55%)
4. Missouri 42-38 (53%)
5. Auburn 41-39 (51%) #11
6. Texas A&M 39-41 (49%) #13
Alabama 39-41 (49%) #3
Ole Miss 39-41 (49%)
Mississippi St. 39-41 (49%) RV
10. Kentucky 38-42 (48%) RV
Tennessee 38-42 (48%) RV
12. Florida 36-44 (45%) #8
13. Georgia 35-45 (44%) #4
14. LSU 33-47 (41%) #6

10-Game Overall Opponent Record/Win % in 2019 Games
1. Arkansas 86-44 (66%)
2. South Carolina 84-46 (65%)
3. Mississippi St. 83-47 (64%) RV
4. Vanderbilt 82-48 (63%)
5. Missouri 80-50 (62%)
6. Auburn 78-52 (60%) #11
7. Alabama 77-52 (60%) #3
Ole Miss 77-52 (60%)
9. Tennessee 74-53 (58%) RV
10. Texas A&M 73-55 (57%) #13
11. Kentucky 71-56 (56%) RV
12. Florida 70-58 (55%) #6
13. Georgia 68-58 (54%) #4
14. LSU 64-61 (51%) #6

Vince’s View
My categories for 4 losers and 4 winners  from the added games…

Took It On The Chin: 1. Arkansas 2. South Carolina 3. Missouri 4. Tennessee

Jarrett Guarantano vs. Georgia / Credit: Sam Forman – 99.1 The Sports Animal

Arkansas’ AD referenced the team already having the toughest schedule in the country. How is that relevant to the two SEC games added to a conference only schedule. That 12-game schedule was scrapped a while ago. Despite that, the Razorbacks weren’t treated fairly at all. Teams that had the toughest schedules should have drawn two easier games to allegedly balance things out. Instead, Arkansas drew the perceived top 2 in the East.

The same goes for South Carolina, who had, by far, the toughest schedule in both SEC and overall SOS rankings with the original 8 games. Drawing Auburn was tougher than it should have been.

Missouri had the easiest SOS, so I don’t have as big of a problem with the Tigers getting two tough games (albeit a brutal Bama/LSU duo) to balance things out.

I’ve seen the ‘Vols play five of the Top 13 ranked teams in the Coaches Poll’ narrative. Yes, those five opponents are tough, but it’s a 10-game schedule. The numbers show that adding Auburn and Texas A&M, although both ranked, didn’t really change UT’s strength of schedule much in the SOS rankings. Part of that is that teams below them also added tough games. The other factor to keep the SOS numbers down for Tennessee’s schedule is that the other five SEC opponents combined for just 9 conference wins in 2019. None of them are expected to be much better, if at all. Two of those teams (Vandy and Arkansas) are sure wins, if you’re as good as you expect to be. Plus, Arkansas is historically bad on a 19-game SEC losing streak with a new coach and the toughest schedule in the conference. I still included UT on this list because those two new teams are formidable and UT definitely has a tougher schedule than the two teams UT is chasing in the East, Florida and Georgia. The league helped those two teams more than the Vols. When UT returns to the top of the league, it may get those benefits too.

Never Broke A Sweat: 1. LSU 2. Georgia 3. Florida 4. Alabama

Notice that the four teams that caught a break are the perceived (by many) as the four best teams in the league.

I’m not sure how LSU, who had one of the easier schedules before, got two easily manageable games added. That moved the Tigers down to the easiest schedule in the league and definitely not as difficult as the other top three SEC West teams.

As much as people reacted to Alabama’s two games, I think avoiding a Bama/UF game came down to sparring SEC East and possible CFB Playoff contender Florida.

UGA had a middle-of-the-pack schedule prior and their two games slid them back to one of the easiest schedules.

Summary

The perception of some schedules won’t match the SOS rankings. What’s more accurate? 2019 records where some teams won’t be the same, better or worse? Or the preseason rankings where some schools will be misranked, some significantly? Neither is perfect. The SEC’s SOS model wasn’t done off of a preseason coaches poll, I can assure you of that.

Texas A&M was ranked 11th in last season’s preseason coaches poll. The Aggies finished 4-4 in the SEC, 8-5 overall and outside the final AP Top 25. Texas was ranked 10th in last season’s coaches poll. The Longhorns were 5-4 in the Big 12, ended the season at 8-5 and ranked 25th. Washington was 12th in the 2019 preseason coaches poll. The Huskies were 4-5 in the Pac-12, 8-5 overall and unranked in the end. Minnesota started out unranked and finished 10th.

Some are right. Some are not. You may not get the gauntlet you thought or you may end-up with one you weren’t expecting. I just wanted to present a different perspective rather than the easy narrative that may or may not be right in the end.

As you can see in the rankings with the added games above, there was no rhyme or reason to the finished product. Some with the toughest schedules got tough games added while others didn’t. Some with the easiest schedules got the tougher games they needed for balance while others kept that easy schedule.

It could be concluded that the league took care of the favorites in the East to keep more teams alive for a potential playoff run. Is this a by-product of the toughest conference playing the same number of conference games as the rest of the P5 conferences and one-more than the Big 12? You didn’t think the SEC would make it even more difficult on itself if it didn’t have to right?

In the end, the best teams, for the most part, ended up with the least most challenging schedules in the league. Without transparency (to this point) of the process of crafting the schedule, the SEC makes itself an easy target for criticism.

Look, there was no perfect way to do it in this type of selection process. I tried to match up teams for everyone and that puzzle was a nightmare to accomplish and please everybody. I do think swapping out a few games would have shrunk the gap in SOS rather than increasing it, top-to-bottom, as it did with these announced matchups.

Regardless of who is unhappy and who is thrilled, this season playing out would be fascinating to watch.


Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net.

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