The SEC and Dealing From the Bottom of the Deck

Alabama's MVP - Kelly Lambert

The SEC schedule is rigged. And surprise! It decided the SEC race this year.

The SEC has 6 teams in the BCS top ten. SIX. And, I'd like to remind you, it's been popular to say that the SEC is down this year. Which begs the question, what the hell would happen if we were up?

The amazing this is that the top six teams have not lost a single game to any team other than each other. Also, it's a bit of a stroke of good fortune that the teams are balanced evenly between the two divisions: three in the East and three in the West. The SEC isn't just the dominant conference in college football, it also has balance. There's no one team padding their record against the Sisters of the Poor.

That said, there is a huge difference in the quality of schedules of the top teams. There are six elite SEC teams, divided equally between the two divisions. Given that the SEC only has two cross-divisional games, the most "elite level" games a team can play is four (two in the division, two cross-division). The least number of elite level games a team could play is two (two in the division, zero cross-division).

By some bizarre luck of the draw, Florida and LSU each had to play four of the other five top teams, the maximum possible under SEC scheduling rules. Alabama and Georgia each only had to play two, the minimum.

Shock of all shocks, look who is going to win each division. OK, Bama hasn't won it yet, but losing to Auburn seems about as likely as Saban announcing he's leaving the head coaching job to become a judge on American Idol.

It would be one thing if this was just the way the schedule rotated, and there was nothing the SEC could do. Hey, sometimes you get lucky. No, what's most galling is that Alabama and Georgia were scheduled to play each other this year in the three cross-divisional system and the SEC met to make a new schedule, which they assured us would not set the rotation going forward. Well, we know what happened.

The SEC offices admitted these were essentially a one-off schedule until they figure out what to do with 14 teams, so they were making a schedule for only one or two years. This meant they had a pretty good idea of the relative strengths of each team while making the schedule. Somehow, LSU ended up playing two of the East juggernauts while Alabama played none, including getting out of their game against Georgia. I'm sure that was just a coincidence. It's not like Alabama has any political clout in the conference or anything.

I love the annual LSU-Florida game. I like playing the best of the best, proving yourself against the stiffest of competition. What I do not like is that LSU gets a murderer's row schedule, while our biggest competition for the division title gets to avoid the toughest teams. It's one thing to lose on an even playing field, like we did last week, and quite another to lose in a game that is tilted in another team's favor.

LSU has played four teams currently in the top ten, and has a 2-2 record. Alabama has the same winning percentage against teams in the top ten, going 1-1. There isn't just a gap in the quality of our schedules, there is a chasm. The SEC is a lot easier when you don't have to play any of the top teams in the other division for two straight years.

It would be one thing if it was just the luck of the draw. But it wasn't luck of the draw. The SEC intentionally designed these schedules this season to give Alabama an easier ride and LSU an even tougher one. That's just the way it's going to be.

Life isn't fair. Neither is the SEC. I know this. Rules is rules, and that's just the way things go. But don't pretend that the thumb isn't on the scales, because it is. We just have to be that little bit better to get to the same place.

I don't want LSU to play an easier schedule. It's supposed to be hard. I just want the supposedly great team to have to play a schedule that is not the easiest schedule they could have possibly gotten under SEC rules. I want Alabama fans to demand the same excellence and challenges for their team that we LSU fans demand of our team.

I think I'll be waiting a long time.

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