Category Archives: SEC Football

An early look at strength of schedule

Phil Steele breaks it down according to the NCAA rankings, which is just a raw analysis based solely on opponents’ won-loss records from the prior season, regardless of quality.  Steele calls it a “good starting point”, but that may be a little generous.

The returning National Champion Ohio St Buckeyes play 4 non-conference opponents in Virginia Tech, Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan this year. These 4 teams finished last season 7-6, 4-9, 11-3, and 8-5 for a combined 30-23 record. Add that to the record of 56-46 which is the combined total for Ohio State’s  2015  Big 10 opponents from last year giving you a total of 86-69. In the chart below you will find that OSU ranks #42.

Meh, in other words.  But it’s a list!  And it’s early March!

So note that Georgia’s 2015 schedule ranks tenth on that list.  The only SEC East team facing a tougher opponents’ winning percentage is Kentucky, at number five.

Steele does make a good effort to shed a little more illumination on the list, by compiling the number of games each team has against schools that had winning records last season, schools that were bowl eligible and schools that were ranked.  Here’s how the East looks with those, in descending order of NCAA SOS:

  • Kentucky – 10/9/5
  • Georgia – 9/8/4
  • South Carolina – 8/9/5
  • Tennessee – 9/8/4
  • Vanderbilt – 10/9/4
  • Florida – 8/8/5
  • Missouri – 8/8/2

Roughly comparable, except for Missouri’s low number against ranked teams.  (Which is another reason to consider the Tigers one of the favorites in the East this season.)

By the way, no team in the SEC West plays less than five games against 2014 ranked teams, and three – Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn – play seven of those.

Now of course the usual caveat of past performance not being a guarantee of future results applies here, so the real question about how meaningful these numbers are depends on whether the East improves this season from its collective 2014 showing.  And we won’t know that for a while.

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Always be closing.

Sigh.  Dude, why you gotta bring that up?

That’s sort of like saying a fourteen-team conference has his full support.

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The SEC’s new commissioner: bidness as usual

In picking Mike Slive’s number two man, the conference presidents have embraced “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Hell, even if it’s breaking, don’t fix it.

At the Ed O’Bannon trial last summer, Sankey was an NCAA witness called to defend college sports’ current model. The NCAA lost the case and is appealing the decision, which includes allowing football and men’s basketball players to be paid about $5,000 per year. Sankey reportedly became emotional on the stand while telling the judge a story about his baseball coach and a life lesson learned when Sankey was not in the lineup.

Sankey testified that paying athletes would have far-reaching ramifications and that the incentive for players to stay in school and graduate would be weakened if they’re paid. “It has great potential to take away from the academic core,” Sankey testified. “There’s no attachment to the education of the student like there is with a scholarship.”

Sankey described four other potential problems of paying players for use of their names, images and likenesses:

• Colleges could recruit players away from other schools

• Overzealous fans could disguise payments to athletes as being for use of their name, image or likeness

• Teams that don’t offer payments would be more hesitant to play teams that do

• The divide between college athletes and the general student body would continue to grow

Well, at least the SEC has plenty of money coming in to pay for the judgments.  Besides, for the presidents, this is probably Sankey’s more important job qualification:

Sankey is currently chairman of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions. One of the biggest reasons the SEC won seven straight national titles in football was that it avoided major NCAA penalties that could have hurt championship contenders.

Hire a former NCAA compliance officer to help Sankey out and the conference ought to be set.

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Meeting of the minds

Remember when we heard that Jere Morehead and Greg McGarity would like to see the SEC set a standard as far as cost of attendance stipends go?

The campaign for that doesn’t sound like it’s gotten off to a promising start.

That sounds like just enough time for Jay Jacobs to laugh and say, “you gotta be kidding, right?”

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Filed under Recruiting, SEC Football

Run the damn ball.

Ed Aschoff discusses what he calls the SEC’s “Year of Finding the Quarterback”:

At least five teams — Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina — will be breaking in new quarterbacks, while three others — Florida, LSU and Vanderbilt — could potentially have new signal-callers under center thanks to intriguing quarterback battles. Then, you have Arkansas and Missouri, which must have better play at quarterback if those teams are going to make championship runs in 2015.

Ten SEC teams have some sort of serious quarterback question, but there’s good news for most: There are quality running backs to help carry the load. Those backfield bulls are back to help push when quarterbacks can’t. There are safety nets all around the league that could help quarterbacks needing a boost this fall.

To use a criminal justice analogy, a lot of SEC programs have both motive and opportunity to rely on strong running games to get through next season.  I expect them to take advantage of what they’ve got.

The interesting question will be how SEC defensive coordinators who have slowly been gearing up to handle spread passing attacks manage to deal with this.

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Give the committee what it wants.

Bob Bowlsby said something to Heather Dinich about nonconference scheduling that bears repeating.

“I really do believe that nonconference scheduling should reside with the institution,” Bowlsby said. “They know best what they think it takes to get their team ready for the regular season. Having said that, we have talked about the very real circumstance of a situation where you have a weak schedule and you’ve got two teams that are about the same, and one played a good nonconference schedule and one played a poor nonconference schedule. I don’t think there’s any question the one with the good nonconference schedule is going to get in.”

Talk is cheap.  Control is real money.

Compare Bowlsby’s laissez faire attitude with Mike Slive’s on SEC nonconference basketball scheduling.

For as much as the SEC is seen as a football-driven conference, the people who run the conference have long felt strongly about their basketball reputation. So when things hit rock bottom two years ago, being called a glorified mid-major, they sprung to action.

The commissioner hired a basketball czar and also retained an outside expert. They sat down with their coaches and hammered away at the same message: Improve your scheduling to get those RPI numbers up.

It didn’t end there, though.

But lack of knowledge with what the NCAA tournament selection committee wants figured into it, too. Slive couldn’t quite get it through to his coaches, so he called on Whitworth and Shaheen to re-emphasize it.

One of the first things Shaheen did in 2013 was produce a 20-page document analyzing each team’s non-conference schedules during the 2012-13 season. The SEC also instituted a rule saying that every school had to send its non-conference schedule to Birmingham for approval.

That’s paid off, as this season the conference is widely expected to reverse an alarming trend.

Between 1999 and 2008, the SEC never had fewer than five teams receive NCAA bids. Then the drop-off began: Only three made it in 2009, followed by four apiece in 2010 and 2012, and three apiece the past two years.

As Shaheen puts it,

“These are institutions that are used to playing at a high level,” Shaheen said. “Sure, there’s an extraordinary amount to be proud of here. But the issue in response has to be: ‘What do we need to do to make sure the rest of America knows that?’ ”

Shaheen emphasized the need to “play anyone, anywhere, anytime.” And that led to what he called a “healthy dialogue,” with the coaches, and they proceeded to improve their schedules the last two years.

“The schools have done all the heavy lifting here,” Shaheen said.

Now SEC football has the luxury of banking on a reputation that SEC basketball doesn’t have.  That’s why it’s been able to get away with avoiding the hard choices of going to a nine-game conference schedule in football and doing away with games against FCS cupcakes without doing any damage to its reputation.  But nothing lasts forever.  A few more seasons of the SEC West falling flat on its face and other conferences whining about the SEC’s strength of schedule, and who knows what the selection committee will think of SEC schools’ nonconference scheduling?

If that day should come, I doubt we’ll see whoever’s running the SEC share Bowlsby’s attitude.  The question will be how stubborn the member schools will be in response.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Big 12 Football, SEC Football

You ain’t alone.

If you’re fretting about Georgia’s quarterback situation, at least you can take comfort in the fact that there are plenty of other SEC teams in the same boat.  Message to SEC defensive coordinators – you’d best be gearing up to stop the run, especially early in the season.

(Musical accompaniment to the header follows.)

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