An early look at the SEC’s 2011 schedules

Strictly for yuks, I took a glance at this season’s conference scheduling (note:  Auburn moved the Samford game to the week before the Iron Bowl after the link was posted) to see which schools might get an advantage/disadvantage over how the 2010 schedules laid out.  Here’s my team-by-team, not-even-out-of-February best guesses about that:

  • Alabama. The early season slate is similar to last year’s, other than that the Tide travels to Happy Valley to play Penn State.  As for conference games, ‘Bama drops South Carolina for Vanderbilt, which is a plus.  Arkansas and LSU have to travel to Tuscaloosa (and Alabama’s bye week comes before the LSU game).  Florida is a road game.  They’ve scheduled Georgia Southern the week before the Iron Bowl, which could be a minor pain in the ass.  Overall assessment: slightly more difficult.
  • Arkansas. The first three games are a breeze.  And they’ll have a good shot at winning five of the last six, as two of the road games are at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.  It’s the three games in between – at Alabama, vs. Texas A&M and Auburn – that will make or break the season for the Hogs.  They swap Tennessee for Georgia from the East which, arguably, is slightly better.  Overall assessment:  unchanged.
  • Auburn. Last year’s schedule was soft enough that I thought before the season Auburn was looking at nine wins, for sure (Cam and Fairley made a potentially good season into one for the ages).  This year’s?  Not so much.  The Tigers have five road games and Kentucky drops off the schedule, replaced by Florida.  Just from the personnel losses, you’d figure that Auburn was going to find much tougher sledding in 2011, and the schedule doesn’t do them any favors.  Overall assessment:  significantly more difficult.
  • Florida. The Gators draw Alabama, LSU and Auburn from the West this season.  As daunting as that sounds, it’s even worse:  they pay play those three on consecutive weekends and LSU and Auburn are road games.  South Carolina is a road game.  Last season showed FSU isn’t a patsy anymore.  This may be the most difficult schedule any SEC team plays in 2011.  Welcome back, Coach Muschamp.  Overall assessment:  more difficult.
  • Georgia. If Georgia returns to being a competent, competitive team in 2011, they’ll have the potential to go a long way on this schedule.  Getting past the first two opponents (yeah, I know, but remember they don’t leave the state to play either) sets things up nicely for an early season run going into the Cocktail Party, prior to which the Dawgs will enjoy a bye week.  And dodging Alabama, Arkansas and LSU from the West certainly doesn’t hurt.  Biggest negative is that the Dawgs are tied with Alabama for the most conference opponents which have bye weeks before playing, with three.  Overall assessment:  less difficult.
  • Kentucky. The non-conference slate is the yawner we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the ‘Cats play; the only rub is that Louisville looks to be a team on the rise under Charlie Strong.  Still, Kentucky gets that rivalry game in Lexington.  They drop Auburn, but add LSU on the road.  They finish the season with five straight conference games, which no other SEC school matches.  Overall assessment:  slightly more difficult.
  • LSU. The schedule rivals Florida’s as the conference’s toughest, but for a different reason.  These Tigers are the only SEC team with two non-conference opponents from Big Six conferences.  And both are credible – Oregon and West Virginia.  The East rotation isn’t any more daunting than last year’s, though, as the Tigers switch from Vanderbilt to Kentucky and get Florida at home.  Still, if LSU winds up being a national title contender in 2011, as some predict, they’ll have earned it.  Overall assessment:  more difficult.
  • Mississippi. The Rebels have a road game at Fresno State.  Why?  And they play BYU to open instead of Memphis.  The conference schedule is relatively mellow, as they draw Vanderbilt, Georgia (which replaces Tennessee) and Kentucky from the East.  The bye week is before Alabama, which can’t hurt.  Overall assessment:  slightly more difficult.
  • Mississippi State. These Bulldogs won’t sneak up on anybody this year and the schedule doesn’t really do them any favors.  For some reason, MSU plays two of their cupcake games (Memphis and UAB) on the road, which is weird.  Florida is replaced with South Carolina, which isn’t particularly helpful, although SC has to travel to Starkville to play.  And the season plays out tough over the last three games:  ‘Bama, at Arkansas and the rivalry game with Ole Miss.  Still, it’s pretty similar to what they dealt with in 2010.  Overall assessment:  unchanged.
  • South Carolina. Eight home games is good.  The ‘Cocks drop Alabama for Mississippi State, which is a plus.  Given the way they usually sell out to prepare for Georgia, the Navy game could be tricky, but other than that, things lay out pretty nicely.  Overall assessment:  slightly less difficult.
  • Tennessee. They should start 3-1, as there’s no one on the non-conference slate remotely comparable to Oregon.  Having to travel to Arkansas will make the Vols’ November slate more difficult, but they’re likely to finish 3-1, too.    It’s the middle four games – Georgia, LSU, at Alabama and South Carolina – when the rubber will meet the road.  Still, you have to like their overall chances to improve with only four away games.  Overall assessment:  less difficult.
  • Vanderbilt. Your first impression – does it really matter? – isn’t exactly unfair.  Vandy opens with Elon instead of Northwestern, which should help, and Connecticut is a home game.  LSU is replaced with a game at Alabama.  And the bye week comes before that game, for what that’s worth.  In the end, though, it strikes me as being the same as it ever was.  Overall assessment:  unchanged.
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40 Comments

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40 responses to “An early look at the SEC’s 2011 schedules

  1. How many of Alabama’s opponents have byes? I would think that mitigates some of the increase in difficulty.

    A better question, could Auburn be the 2nd team in as many years to go from BCS championship game to no bowl at all? They have four would-be gimmies in Utah State, FAU, Samford, and Ole Miss. The rest of their home games? Mississippi State, Florida, and Alabama. They would need to win one of those and one of their road games (at Clemson, at South Carolina, at Arkansas, at LSU, at Georgia) to be bowl eligible.

    If Chizik gets this team to 9 wins, I take back everything I’ve ever said about his coaching acumen, and I nominate him as the best coach in the state of Alabama.

    • BAMAPERRY

      AUBURN
      2011 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
      DATE OPPONENT
      9-3-11 UTAH STATE – W
      9-10-11 MISSISSIPPI STATE – L
      9-17-11 at Clemson – L
      9-24-11 FLORIDA ATLANTIC – W
      10-1-11 at South Carolina – L
      10-8-11 at Arkansas – L
      10-15-11 FLORIDA – L
      10-22-11 at Louisiana State – L
      10-29-11 MISSISSIPPI – W
      11-5-11 SAMFORD – W
      11-12-11 at Georgia – L
      11-26-11 ALABAMA – L

  2. Thinking Bulldog

    Great breakdown Bluto. Definitely worth bookmarking for future reference.

    Note how not one West team is assessed to have an easier schedule, while only one East team is judged more difficult. This may figure into a return to parity of records and bowl successes between the divisions this fall.

  3. Jack

    Off the topic: Please offer Mrs. Blutarsky my best wishes for the day.

  4. Go Dawgs!

    Someone needs to remind Mississippi State that they’re in the SEC. I have no idea why they negotiate their schedules like they do. If UAB gets a game with an SEC team, they’re going to be the road team with no return trip, and they’re going to have to be happy with that. I bet UAB’s AD brought up the idea of a home-and-home as a joke, and then was shocked when MSU went for it. Heck, in 2009, Missy State went TO Middle Tennessee State. I bet that game reminded their guys of high school.

    Seriously, Mississippi State, you’re one of the big boys. Act like it.

  5. Irwin Fletcher

    Great breakdown. General observations…

    #1- I certainly hope the Dawgs can win 2 “home” games to start the season. The GA Dome should be loud. I mean, LOUD. For someone that often laments UGA doesn’t have the stadium noise of a Bryant-Denny, Neyland, or a Tiger Stadium because of the aesthetic appeal of a lower grade bowl and open end, the Dome really gives the UGA fan an opportunity to create a hell hole of noise. And as ‘good’ as South Carolina was last year, this is a team that played evenly with most of Georgia’s common opponents last year. Look at UK, UT, and Vandy….UGA went 3-0, Carolina went 2-1…you can check the score differential, but it is a heavy UGA advantage. Carolina got kilt by the same Auburn team UGA hung with for a half…neutral site vs. away game. Carolina got a lot of mileage out of beating a very good, but not great Bama team. That was their only win of the year over a top 25 team at the end of the season.

    #2- It always seems like the 3 game stretch of tough opponents is the killer in the hopes of a truly great season. Georgia avoids any brutal 3 gamers this year.

    #3- Georgia’s longest trip of the season is to Oxford. That mirrors Auburn in 2010, who traveled as far as Lexington last year; Bama, who also went all the way to Lexington in 09; and Florida, who win the prize for going all the way to Fayetteville.

    #4-However, note that neither Florida or Auburn had back to back away games*(unless you count the cocktail party as an away game for Florida). Bama did back to back against Ole Miss and Kentucky in 2009. Georgia hasn’t had a season without a THREE game stretch away from home since 2003. We get that back next season in 2012…but have a 4 game stretch away from home in 2014.

    If you want to talk about ‘fixing’ our scheduling, look no further than that. Everyone that wants the Cocktail Party to stay in Jax needs to recognize that the teams that are winning the SEC are not playing three game stretches away from home, and should encourage McGarity to make that a priority no matter who they have to bring in to Athens. (FWIW-2002…no 3 game stretches away from Athens, 2003 no 3 game stretches away from Athens, 2005…3 game stretch away from Athens, but over the course of 4 weeks b/c of the bye)

    • Hobnail_Boot

      Bryant-Denny isn’t loud. Granted, I haven’t been there since they expanded last year, but that place is louder than only Kentucky when it comes to SEC stadiums. (note: haven’t been to a game in Gainesville)

      • Go Dawgs!

        I had a sideline pass to the game in 2007 when we beat them in OT. From that perspective, the stadium was incredibly loud when John Parker Wilson ran the ball in to either tie us or pull within one score (can’t remember which it was). I’ve been on the field at Neyland, too, and while Neyland was louder, it was close.

  6. Apparently, Tennessee, Auburn and Florida all have bye weeks before playing us. Which Nick Saban says may or may not mean anything.

  7. Comin' Down The Track

    … they pay those three on consecutive weekends…

    Freudian slip?

  8. Macallanlover

    Agree with your analysis Senator, too many people don’t factor the schedule into their thinking. Then there are those UGA fans who are so whiney about our scheduling, every single year, that they lose all credibility: the Cocktail Party issue, traveling more than a one hour plane trip away from Athens, etc., etc. Give me a break with that excuse making.

  9. sUGArdaddy

    It’s not an excuse, but UGA fans need to realize that we will NEVER, NEVER, EVER, EVER have 8 home games like many of our SEC brethren regularly have.

    That’s a fact. Whether that makes a difference of the course of history, who knows? But I know that we were 5-1 and home and 1-6 away from the Classic City this year…so you do the math.

    It’s not that I want the Cocktail Party to move, but we just can’t put ourselves behind the 8-ball so much w/ the Cocktail Party, Tech away every other year, and another BCS-level opponent away every other year. It’s just not conducive to winning championships.

    • Irwin Fletcher

      I want it to move. Maybe that makes me a jerk…but I sure do want it moved. I want a 4 game rotation of JAX-GA Dome-Home and Home.

      “Give me a break with that excuse making.”

      You can call it whatever you want, but here are the facts…feel free to argue the correlation.

      #1- Here are the last 5 SEC/National champs and their longest road trip during their championship season.
      2010-Auburn- Kentucky.
      2009-Bama- Kentucky
      2008-Florida-Fayetteville
      2007-LSU-Lexington
      2006-Florida-Knoxville!

      #2- Bama is the only team on that list that played back-to-back away games in those seasons (again, assuming you don’t count the cocktail party as an away game for Florida)

      #3-Jacksonville is not a neutral site. Dallas is a neutral site from Austin/Norman…it is 200 miles each direction. Jacksonville to Athens compared to Gainesville? Not so much. The weather in early October is relatively the same in Norman, Dallas, and Austin. In late October in Athens and Jax? Not so much.

      This isn’t an excuse. It is freaking reality.

      #4- As far as, it didn’t stop us from beating Florida before Spurrier…that’s absolutely right. But…and this is a HUGE but….Florida ISN’T THE SAME PROGRAM AFTER SPURRIER. They fundamentally changed in 1990 from being a middle of the road/lower tier school to being THE dominate program in the SEC for close to 20 years.

      If you are free market person, you believe competition creates benefits..i.e. competition will create a better football team…but you also know that those who don’t adjust to competition and try to entrench in the old ways of doing things are often the ones that are made irrelevant.

      It is a matter of priorities. If you’re priorities are to compete, there should be no sacred cows.

      • Macallanlover

        It is a neutral game, period. It meets all the requirements of neutrality (except those involved hundreds of years ago in putting an imaginary line at a spot somewhere between Brunswick and Jacksonville which has zero impact.) All schools in the PAC 10 and Big 12/10 travel distances far greater than any of those mentioned, don’t whine about the effects, and seem to do just fine.

        I am absolutley a free market believer, and agree very much that competition is far preferable to meaningless contests; that is one of the reasons I would like to see more home and homes with schools across the nation….especifially like the ASU, OSU, CU, and (now cancelled) Oregon games. I love the scheduling of the Ohio State series, just hope I live to see it happen.

        • Irwin Fletcher

          “It meets all the requirements of neutrality”

          Pray tell, what are the requirements of neutrality?

          Equidistant from the team’s home location? Can’t be that.
          Same amount of travel for game day? Nope, can’t be that.
          Same practice schedule during the week b/c of similar travel commitments? Nope, not that either.
          Similar climate at the time of the game to the team’s home location? Can’t be that either.
          hmmmm….
          Equal number of fans at the game and a painted endzone a piece? I guess that’s the one.

          So, by those definitions of neutrality, the game could actually be in Gainesville, FL so long as we get 40K tickets and an endzone painted with Georgia and it would still be neutral?

          Rubbish.

          Also, I’m not against scheduling marquee matchups. I’m also not against traveling to an extent….but the fact remains that if winning championships is the goal, the last 5 years have proven you don’t need either and in fact you might be putting yourself at a disadvantage by doing so.

          (Side note…road trip to Columbus, OH, which is the same time zone and practically the same trip as Lexington is an entirely different animal than traveling to Eugene or Tempe.)

          • Equidistant from the team’s home location? Can’t be that.
            Same amount of travel for game day? Nope, can’t be that.
            Same practice schedule during the week b/c of similar travel commitments? Nope, not that either.
            Similar climate at the time of the game to the team’s home location? Can’t be that either.
            hmmmm….

            Hmmm, indeed.

            Can you point me to a Georgia loss that you can specifically attribute to one of those factors?

            • 69Dawg

              Oh come on Senator that’s like asking if you can point to the mosquito that gave you malaria, well no I can’t but guess what I’ve got it. Steve forever changed the mind set of the UF folks about Jacksonville. I have been to that game for 30+ years and before SOS Jacksonville was South Georgia but after SOS’s domination of us it is now ask much of Gatornation as Gainesville.

              • Sorry 69, but that’s a cop out.

                If Georgia was losing consistently because of being tired or because of conditioning, I might buy the argument, but the consistent theme I see in the disappointing losses (and I’ve been attending the WLOCP since 1979) are brain farts and mental mistakes.

                Spurrier was a master at getting in Georgia’s head and no Dawg head coach has been able to do anything to get the Gators out since. Moving the game won’t change that a bit.

                • Irwin Fletcher

                  I’d disagree.

                  I think having a home crowd/home field every other year might just be the boost they need to ‘get the Gators out’ of our head.

                  If we are talking correlations, home field advantage is a very real thing. I assume we can agree that over the history of college football, we can be relatively certain that playing at home is more advantageous than playing on the road.

                  Maybe a home game every other year or a home game and a game at the Dome under my preferred 1-2-1 scenario, is exactly what we need to shake loose.

                  It seems to flow directly from your argument… IF JAX is actually neutral and but their truly is a mental advantage, THEN the logical solution would be to introduce a solution that removes that mental advantage…namely moving the game out of Jacksonville on a regular basis.

            • Irwin Fletcher

              My point wasn’t correlation. My point is that Jacksonville isn’t neutral and we should dispense with the sacrosanct notion that it is.

              Having said that, I would say that the team that travels less, has less disruption to its schedule, is better adjusted to climate conditions, etc. would seem to have a competitive advantage, but I certainly don’t have the tools or the knowledge to be able to point out any correlation to winning or losing, let alone any specific result attributable to those factors.

              I know this…there is about an 8-15 degree difference in temperature on average in Florida compared to Georgia in October and November and that Florida’s winter humidity doesn’t kick in until November (according to the NOAA).

              Again, I’m not saying that I have specific examples where practicing in temps and humidity conditions that are similar to the same as gameday conditions lost/won a specific game, but I think common sense dictates that it is an advantage to practice in 80 degree/70% humidity for 80 degree/70% game conditions compared to practicing in 65 degree/40% humidity for the same set of game conditions.

              • Macallanlover

                Good Lord. No, it doesn’t make you a jerk but it is definitely whiney. Neutral game, neutral field, same rules, same officials, equal number of tickets. Let’s grow a pair and get behind our team.

                All the fans that become apologists for the poor record of the past 20 years regarding “neutral field” and UF getting in our head contribute to the defeatist attitude. Step up and play, a different result on one single play in several games during that period would make this a non-issue. It isn’t about location, it is about not liking the outcome which is unrelated to travel, weather, or GPS coordinates. Said I wasn’t going to get into this insanity again but it is frustrating to see us act like little kids not getting our way.

                • Irwin Fletcher

                  Little kids? “The poor record of the past 20 years regarding “neutral field”…” that you are citing is almost statistically impossible if the field were actually neutral.

                  I’ll tell you one thing, my assumption is that there is no way our record would be worse against Florida over the past 20 years if we played the games home and home. I’d even bet that it be almost statistically impossible not to have a better record.

                  Tell me I’m wrong…but don’t use the words ‘whiney’ and ‘excuses’ as a cover for you not having any real support for the field being ‘neutral’ beyond your theory that UGA needs to grow a pair.

                  • Macallanlover

                    It is you have not made ONE single fact to show it isn’t neutral, and that is expected since it is neutral. As to the little, whiney kids reference: because you have done everything but say “not fair”. What could that possibly remind everyone of? I remember this same conversation with Spurrier and also with several Texas fans. It isn’t about neutrality, it is about attitude and who wins. Losers make excuses, and that is what SOS basically told the UF fans who told him they had to move the game out of Jax, and what he told his team. This subject is one of two complaints I have about Richt, he has whined about it too. I think his attitude, and that of some of our fans have contributed much more to the recent losses than the neutrality issue.

                    My opinion, not saying you can’t have a different one, but I do think you are terribly wrong.

                    • Irwin Fletcher

                      You’re right. Not one fact…
                      Except…
                      Distance traveled
                      Different travel schedules/practice schedules
                      Different climate

                      Not one fact.

                      Look…feel free to say that those factors have no real correlation to the game, but don’t say that they don’t hurt the concept of ‘neutrality.’

                      And anyway, by your argument, the GA Dome would also be neutral. Why wouldn’t it be o.k. to play 1 in the Dome and 1 in Jax? We aren’t running scared or not having balls because they are both neutral, right? So splitting between neutral sites shouldn’t have any affect on our manhood.

                      My guess is that this solution doesn’t work for you because you want the game in Jacksonville. That is fine. It is a great trip and a unique experience.

                      [Aside- citing Spurrier's support of keeping the game in Jacksonville probably does more to hurt your claim of neutrality than help it. Spurrier's no dummy. He knew what he had and wanted to keep it.]

                    • Macallanlover

                      You are right Irwin, I assign zero value to your factors’ (travel, weather, practice routine) impact on the game. Only advantage is every other year when you could be in Athens which is MUCH MORE than offset by UF’s advantage the next year in the Swamp. I truly hope you don’t think UGA’s homefield edge would outweigh Florida’s. So going home and home is a net loss.

                      As to playing half the game sin the Ga Dome, why the hell would we do that? Give up one of the great traditions in CFB to play a game in Atlanta just to say “we got you”? Atlanta is a great location for the SECCG, and the Chick-Fil-A bowl, but Atlanta indoors versus Jax that time of year? No contest for travel, setting, and certainly not worth giving up the unique tradition. If the game were in September in the heat, maybe, but that is usually pleasnt weather for anything outdoors.

              • I take it that means you’d be against moving the game to the Georgia Dome, since the temperature there is virtually the same as it is in Jax that time of year.

                • Irwin Fletcher

                  No…I’d like a GA Dome, JAX, home and home alignment.

                  #1- I don’t think the GA Dome environment and Jacksonville are the same. Humidity/Heat Index/Sunshine are all non existent in the GA Dome. GA Dome stays at a relaxing 65-67 degrees. When was the last time it was 65 with zero humidity at kickoff in Jax?

                  #2- Assuming that there is more than just a climate advantage, the dome equals out the travel advantage and probably helps assuage the mental advantage.

                  • Mayor of Dawgtown

                    Here is the real problem with playing the Gators in Jacksonville every year: In those years when UGA is the “home” team in Jacksonville the Dawgs only get 3 SEC games in Athens and have to play 5 SEC games on the road. You don’t think that means anything? last season UGA was 5-1 at home and 1-5 on the road in the regular season. Also in those same years the Gators get 4 SEC games in Gainesville plus the UGA-FLA game in Jacksonville (which most would acknowledge is tantamount to another home game for the Gators). That is an advantage to FLA in trying to win the SEC East. They are pretty good usually anyway. Why give them such an advantage? It’s crazy. I am amazed that other SEC East teams (UT particularly) haven’t complained to the league about it. It gives FLA an advantage over every team in the SEC East, not just UGA.

  10. Hobnail_Boot

    I’d have labeled UGA’s schedule as “significantly easier” before the Boise game was announced. They drop Arkansas for Ole Miss and get an improved MSU at home instead of on the road. Playing Boise in Atlanta is significantly harder than playing at Colorado, but then again, we lost that game.

    Florida, Tech, and Auburn look to be down. The iron is hot, so to speak.

  11. W Cobb Dawg

    Dawgs should win a minimum 9 games. Losing to scu and msu occaisionally is typical in the sec, but two years in a row (and at home) would be a fiasco. At this time last year I’d have said we’d be a contender to go all the way with a schedule like this. But my expectations have taken a severe beating. I think CMR has a great opportunity to show what he’s made of, because a championship coach could take UGA all the way with this schedule.

    • Macallanlover

      That would be a heckuva year given all the questions about our defense. Hate to settle for any losses, but 9-3 looks pretty good considering the difficulty of the opening two games.

  12. D.N. Nation

    Vanderbilt should be shipped to C-USA. They serve absolutely no purpose.

    • Except raising the overall conference’s academic ranking. What do the Mississippi schools bring to the table?

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      If anywhere other than the SEC, Vandy ought to be in the ACC. They might even be competitive there. The other alternative would be a ” Major College Ivy League” that has been batted around for years. Vandy, Duke, Wake Forest, Northwestern, Stanford, Tulane and Rice, if one wanted to keep it to just private schools. But you would never get Duke or Wake out of the ACC because of basketball. Nor would Stanford leave the PAC-10+2 as that team is winning in that league already–besides it would have to travel too much. Same with Northwestern. Plus Vandy is addicted to the SEC bowl and TV money.

  13. THANK YOU
    Finally somebody acknowledges that LSU’s schedule this year is tougher. CFN didn’t even think it was top-4 in the West.

  14. BAMAPERRY

    We had to play 6 straight SEC games to end the season with all 6 teams having a bye week before playing us. Our schedule is significantly less difficult.