The SEC has gotten a reputation for being the most chicken schedulers in the country. People claim they will never leave home or play difficult non-conference games and hence why they often have so many bowl eligible teams. So, just which programs in the SEC actually do schedule tough and which ones have earned the “chicken” moniker? Well, below I have ranked the 12 teams (Mizzou and Texas A&M not included after just 1 year of evidence) by their non-conference games against other BCS and major programs over the past 7 seasons. Things taken under consideration where total games, games played at true road sites, and games scheduled outside of natural rivalries. These are my rankings, tell me where I am wrong:
2013: at #8 Clemson, at Georgia Tech
2012: Georgia Tech
2011: #5 Boise State (neutral), at #25 Georgia Tech
2010: at Colorado, Georgia Tech
2009: at #9 Oklahoma State, Arizona State, at #7 Georgia Tech
2008: at Arizona State, #22 Georgia Tech
2007: Oklahoma State, at Georgia Tech
Why: UGA could just take the UK approach and say their natural rival (GaTech) is enough a challenge on the schedule and leave it at that. But besides 2012, they have also scheduled another BCS opponent every year AND in 3 of the 6 years they have played a ranked BCS opponent. While many argue that this kind of scheduling is suicide in the SEC, Georgia proves you can flourish. The biggest cajones in the league.
2013: Virginia Tech (neutral)
2012: #8 Michigan (neutal)
2011: at Penn State
2010: #18 Penn State, at Duke
2009: #7 Virginia Tech (neutral)
2008: #9 Clemson (neutral)
2007: at Florida State
Why: There is no doubt that Alabama schedule a bunch of cream puffs in their non-conference. But what elevates them to the top here is the fact that every year they schedule a STRONG BCS opponent. They don’t just put Wake Forest or Kansas on the schedule. They take on Top 10-15 opponents year in and year out. In their case, it’s quality over quantity.
2013: #20 TCU (neutral)
2011: Oregon (neutral), at West Virginia
2010: #18 North Carolina (neutral), #22 West Virginia
2009: at Washington
2007: #9 Virginia Tech
Why: Another team who has shown the ability to take risks, especially in early season games. They also travel on the road cross-country to Washington, which has doomed many a team. They also went to West Virginia when that program was rolling, as well at taking on Oregon and TCU in recent years. Funny how they can keep an elite program while taking risks in the non-conference.
2013: at Miami (FL), #12 Florida St
2012: at #10 Florida State
2011: Florida State
2010: South Florida, at #22 Florida State
2009: Florida State
2008: Miami, at #20 Florida State
2007: Florida State
Why: Well, on the one hand they try to play all their rivals. But the fact they have not scheduled a non-conference road game outside of the state since 1991 kinda makes you question their scheduling. Even still, the non-conference teams in their state are tough, and they have kept the FSU series for many years now.
2013: Washington St.
2012: #14 Clemson (neutral)
2011: at Clemson
2009: West Virginia
2008: at West Virginia
2007: Kansas State, South Florida
Why: I bet when they scheduled the games against Clemson and West Virginia, they thought they would be Top 20 teams, but those 2 programs have slumped. Still, they travel on the road and have at least attempted to schedule tough games.
2013: at #3 Oregon
2012: NC State (neutral)
2010: #7 Oregon
2008: at UCLA
2007: at #12 California
Why: They schedule one tough non-conference game a year and are willing to travel west. Although they have been beat in every game listed except NC State, so maybe they should reconsider their scheduling methods. Even still, they schedule tougher than those below them.
7. SOUTH CAROLINA
2013: North Carolina, #8 Clemson
2012: at #12 Clemson
2010: at Clemson
2009: at NC State, #18 Clemson
2008: NC State, at Clemson
2007: at North Carolina, Clemson
Why: Have a yearly series with Clemson, which is an up and down program, plus they have schedule a couple of mid-level BCS games. All in all, not very risky scheduling.
2013: at Rutgers
2011: Texas A&M (neutral)
2010: Texas A&M (neutral)
2009: Texas A&M (neutral)
2008: at #7 Texas, #18 Tulsa
Why: When Texas A&M was in the Big 12, they had a 10-year contract with the Aggies. Obviously that contract went by the wayside when they joined the league. Even still, the Razorbacks have included Rutgers, which is a decent opponent at best, as they try and rebuild that program.
2012: Wake Forest
2011: UCONN, at Wake Forest
2010: Northwestern, at UCONN, Wake Forest
2009: #11 Georgia Tech
2008: Duke, at Wake Forest
2007: Wake Forest
Why: Vandy schedules a ton of BCS games, but they are all against mediocre programs. I kinda wish UK would schedule this way because despite the fact that Wake Forest and UCONN don’t get your loins excited, they are still better than Miami (OH) and Samford.
10. OLE MISS
2103: at #15 Texas
2012: #14 Texas
2008: at #20 Wake Forest
Why: Before beginning a series with Texas, the Rebels had some pretty awful scheduling tactics. Maybe the Longhorn series will improve that, but overall, still a pretty weak record of scheduling games.
2012: at #25 Louisville
2010: at Louisville
2008: at Louisville
2007: #9 Louisville
Why: Sigh. It would be nice to at least see Kentucky try and take a risk ONCE. But, they have stuck with this method and it has, in theory, helped them get to a bowl. Still, it shows a program that doesn’t think it can play with the big boys if it won’t even try and play the big boys.
12. MISSISSIPPI STATE
2013: #14 Oklahoma St (neutral)
2009: #25 Georgia Tech
2008: at Georgia Tech
2007: at West Virginia
Why: Weak, weak, weak. Dan Mullen took his scheduling methods from Florida and brought them to Starkville. Actually fairly stunning they are playing Oklahoma State considering they hadn’t left the state in the non-conference since Dan Mullen took over. At least Kentucky takes on a decent/good Louisville squad every year.