Monday, January 15, 2007


Now that the game's been joined, we're going to go a bit deeper into non-conference scheduling in the next several days. According to the Mayor (who by the way runs a first-rate site that we aspire to in our wildest fantasies), there are several proof points:
  • 19 SEC OOC opponents in 2007 went to bowls last year - a fair point
  • The Pac-10 scheduled a lot of gimmes last year - which we'll revisit once we get past 2007 and look at some historical data.
  • He's generally very nice to West Coast teams (we try to reciprocate, unless they pound us in our season opener)
  • The SEC's gotten much better about scheduling good teams - this would seem to be true, though we're not quite ready to dive through years of stats to prove it (at least until after hoops season). Besides, our initial suspicion was that the SEC would have the softest OOC schedule among BCS conferences, not that they've improved their scheduling. It's worth looking into once we get through the '07 schedules.
In this first installment we'll simply compare the Pac-10 and SEC, and later we'll open the lens to look at other BCS conferences.

Average strength of 2007 OOC schedules
We'll take a straight average of the Sagarin ratings for each schools' non-conference opponents - after all, every SEC fan knows that Sagarin's a miserable Pac-10 homer (who lives in the midwest) so this should help Tennessee's strength of schedule. I actually don't think the average ratings is the way to go here, since the presence of one really good opponent and three guaranteed wins can make a team's overall schedule look fairly tough, when in reality it's a guaranteed three wins that will probably qualify you for the Meineke Bowl. But it's a metric, so here goes:

Pac-10: Washington 84.67/UCLA 82/Stanford 78.56/Oregon State 75.69/Oregon 75.293/
USC 72.39/Arizona 70.356/Washington State 67.45/Cal 65.9/ASU 64.26

SEC: Tennessee 69.33/Auburn 67.74/Georgia 64.61/Miss St 63.82/LSU 63.8/Florida 63.4/
Vanderbilt 61.895/Alabama 61.8/S. Carolina 61.59/Kentucky 60.4/Ole Miss 55.84/Arkansas 50.98

Yup, that's what we thought. And mind you - this is before USC kicks Idaho to the curb and replaces them with a superior opponent, and before Oregon State and Auburn add two gimps a piece to round out their schedules. Just for fun we listed the closest team to the Sagarin average - the "typical" OOC opponent for each school:

Washington: Oklahoma/UCLA: TCU/Stanford: UCLA/Oregon St: Utah/Oregon: Navy/USC: Nevada/Arizona: Purdue/Washington State: NC State/Cal: Troy/ASU: Iowa State

Tennessee: Tulsa/Auburn: NC State/Georgia: Rice/Miss St: Iowa State/LSU: Iowa State/Florida: Iowa State/Vandy: Fresno State/Alabama: So. Illinois/S. Carolina: UTEP/Kentucky: UCF/Ole Miss: Richmond/Arkansas: McNeese Fucking State.

But wait, you say - isn't this apples and oranges since the SEC plays one more OOC game than the Pac-10? (Why they do is a mystery in itself, but let's run with it) Fair enough, we'll add a automatic win to each of the Pac-10 OOC schedules to bring them up to four games. Just for fun, we thought we'd add Portland State, since Kyle has dubbed them our Western Carolina. (BTW, your Honor, you should read this before pulling that chestnut out again):

Portland State: Average 2006 Sagarin rating of 64.69
Western Carolina: Average 2006 Sagarin rating of 36.43

So we'll add a mythical team that's even worse than poor, miserable PSU - Chippie State, a small liberal arts school in New Mexico known for its visual arts program, who comes in at a clean 60.0. Here's what happens to those Pac-10 averages:

Washington 78.5/UCLA 76.5/Stanford 73.92/Oregon State 67.8/Oregon 71.47/
USC 69.29/Arizona 67.76/Washington State 67.45/Cal 64.37/ASU 63.19

Even with the burden of a fourth gimme against Loser U, the worst Pac-10 schedule would still be in the middle of the SEC.

* * * * * * * *

OK, enough with the math. Let's look at our three biggest (historical) pet peeves about SEC scheduling.

Complaint #1: You never leave Dixie. We've got to give the Mayor his props here - the SEC still isn't where the Pac is and has been historically, but they are better: LSU tripped to the desert to play ASU; Tennessee is coming to Berkeley in September - good stuff. Let's look at the 2007 schedule:
  • 16.6% of SEC OOC games are on the road. These include two trips to Tulane, a trip to Temple, a trip to Memphis, and one to North Carolina. The only difficult road trips are Cal, WVU and Ga Tech (maybe, but don't you drive to the game?).
  • 36% of Pac-10 OOC games are on the road. The worst (easiest) road trip is Cal's to Colorado State. Pac 10 schools visit Notre Dame (twice), Wisconsin, Nebraska, BYU, Utah and TCU.
  • Eight of ten Pac-10 teams leave their home state to play a road game. Five of twelve SEC teams leave their home state to play a road game.
  • The SEC would seem to have made some strides here, but we'll have to look at the historical data.
* * * * * * *

Complaint #2: Even if the SEC is slowly adding the occasional top-tier opponent, those good games are surrounded by creampuff schools who should probably abandon the sport. Back to the numbers - here's a distribution of the Sagarin scores for each conferences' OOC opponents (divided by 5 % increments):

Sagarin Scores

SEC Opponents

Pac 10 Opponents


1 (2.1%)

3 (10.7%)


2 (4.2%)

4 (14.3%)


3 (6.2%)

4 (14.3%)


6 (12.5%)

3 (10.7%)


2 (4.2%)

3 (10.7%)


3 (6.2%)

1 (3%)


3 (6.2%)

4 (14.3%)


10 (20.8%)

3 (10.7%)


4 (8.3%)

2 (7.1%)


6 (12.5%)

1 (3%)


4 (8.3%)



2 (4.2%)


Basically, our gimps are better than yours. If a Sagarin rating below 60 can be considered a guaranteed win for a pretty good team, then 21% of the Pac-10's '07 games are guaranteed wins. 54% - a clear majority - of the SEC's '07 OOC games are guaranteed wins.

Complaint #3: Lastly, and this is just to rub it in - we find it hard to give the SEC lots of credit for even these rankings, since a fair amount of their 'elite' OOC games aren't discretionary. Let's look at the list:
  • Georgia plays Georgia Tech - rivalry game, could not be discontinued under any scenario
  • South Carolina plays Clemson - ditto
  • Kentucky plays Louisville - mandated by the State of Kentucky (as I understand it)
  • Florida plays Florida State - every year since 1958
Take those four automatics out of the mix with their Sagarin scores of 79.29, 93.89, 80.18 and 78.73 and the SEC's discretionary OOC average is, well, it's even worse. On the Pac-10 side, there's only one automatic OOC game - USC v Notre Dame. Everything else is discretionary - so Pac-10 ADs have to seek out tougher games.

* * * * * * *

We hope this doesn't come across as gratuitous (and we also hope our math works out). We're not at all SEC haters - the SEC is what's good about college football, and a trip to Knoxville confirmed that (in every painful way you can imagine). Georgia's always been a secret favorite ever since Lindsay Scott caught that pass - also, I loved the white on silver as a kid.

We'll run the numbers for the rest of the BCS conferences (after some initial discussion), and have something out this week. Our suspicions are that Kyle's right, and the SEC will not claim the Conference Cupcake Crown this year. Though Arkansas ain't helping, fellas. We'll also have a Bottom Ten of the nation's most gutless schedules, which will be highly subjective and lots of fun.


At 6:29 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

Your analysis using Sagaring scores is very convincing. Although like you said, it's not a perfect metric, it's good enough.

It's unfortunate, though, that the SEC gets so much flack for not leaving its region that much. The fact is, when you've got co-located BCS conferences (SEC & ACC, less so but also Big East), there's going to be substantial interplay. I can't guarantee it, but I imagine if the Pac-10, Big XII or Big 10 had another BCS conference with essentially the same footprint, the teams would be playing constantly.

Also, as you mentioned, GT/UGA, SC/Clemson, etc., are played every year. The Pac-10 has the benefit of most (maybe all, I don't know) of it's big rivalries being intra-conference. FSU had their hands freed a bit when Miami joined the ACC, because that was a rivalry game they then wouldn't have to "waste" an OOC game on... and they still had to "waste" one on UF every year. Although I love all the ACC/SEC interplay, it tends to mess with scheduling bigger-time intersectional games.

I agree with your post in spirit, and I'm definitely convinced that the Pac-10 has very solid OOC scheduling. I just think that having big-time schools in-region should be a mitigating factor when asking "Why don't SEC teams ever leave Dixie?"

At 6:59 AM, Blogger Tightwad said...

Jeff, you're right about the regional interplay, and I tried to give the SEC some credit for traveling more in recent years (though again, I haven't looked at enough data to prove that).

As for the Pac, all the big rivalries are indeed intra-conference, save for USC/Notre Dame.

At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pac 10 had only one team worth mentioning this year in USC. The Big 12 seemingly did not even have a team worth mentioning this year. and the Big 10 really did not field a team worth mentioning in retrospect to the national championship game. No OOC game is needed when your conference is that tough. Maybe the BCS keeps the SEC from playing such tough games so SEC teams can keep overrated conferences from playing for the national title undeservingly. Let us know when teams from the Pac10 are any good with the exception of USC so that there might be a reason for all this banter that you put up.

At 12:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is another look at SEC vs Pac-10 scheduling (from

Arizona - too early to tell how difficult:

2007 - New Mexico
2008 - Toledo, @New Mexico
2009 - @ Iowa
2010 - @Toledo, Iowa, The Citadel

ASU - Nothing special in 2007 (but no Div-1a), 2008 - UGa and UNA wash out.

2007 - San Jose State, Colorado, San Diego State
2008 - Northern Arizona, UNLV, Georgia
2009 - Brigham Young, @Georgia
2010 - @ Wisconsin

California - Very respectable and solid OOC. No gimme games with exception of LA Tech

2007 - Tennessee, Colorado State, Louisiana Tech
2008 - Michigan State, @Maryland, Colorado State
2009 - Maryland, @Minnesota
2010 - Louisiana Tech, Colorado

Stanford - Too many SJSU games, but respectable overall. No home OOC games in 2008

2007 - San Jose State, TCU, Notre Dame
2008 - @ San Jose State, @ TCU, @ Notre Dame
2009 - San Jose State, @Wake Forest, Notre Dame
2010 - Wake Forest, @Notre Dame

Oregon - follows a simple pattern. 1 game vs very strong (or reputable) BCS team, 1 game vs top mid-major, 1 vs respectable mid-major. The only exception is Utah State

2007 - Houston, @Michigan, Fresno State
2008 - Boise State, Utah State, @Purdue
2009 - @Boise State, Purdue, Utah
2010 - @Tennessee, Fresno State,

Oregon State - too early to tell. IMO, the AD @ OSU is an idiot who short-sells the school. Why give return games to such powerhouses as Idaho / UNLV / SDSU? Also, OSU AD would give SEC team an away game with no return game (LSU, Auburn).

2007 - Utah
2008 - @Utah, @Idaho
2009 - Idaho, @UNLV
2010 - @San Diego State, Louisville

Washington State - So far so good. It's hard for them to schedule a game so scheduling Idaho is not too bad. Should try to play more vs BCS teams at home or in Seattle

2007 - @Wisconsin, San Diego State @Seattle, WA, Idaho
2008 - @Baylor, @Hawai'i,
2009 - Hawai'i
2010 - @ Minnesota

Washington - No 2008 data is available so I included 2011. One of the best OOC schedules in Pac-10. Every team is very respectable, although Syracuse not as good recently.

2007 - @Syracuse, Boise State, Ohio State
2009 - @Notre Dame, Nevada,
2010 - Nebraska, Syracuse, Brigham Young
2011 - @Nebraska, @Syracuse, Brigham Young

UCLA - Also, solid scheduling. Even mid-majors (except SDSU) are respected teams with championship/BCS histories. 2010 is brutal

2007 - Brigham Young, @Utah, Notre Dame
2008 - Tennessee, @Brigham Young, @San Diego State
2009 - San Diego State, @Tennessee, Kansas State
2010 - @Kansas State, @Texas

USC - 2007-2009 - as good as it gets. USC OOC formula for near future ND + 1 top BCS team + 1 mid-major / mid-level BCS team

2007 - Idaho, @Nebraska, @ Notre Dame
2008 - (Most likely @Syracuse), Ohio State, Notre Dame
2009 - San Jose State, @Ohio State, @Notre Dame
2010 -@Hawai'i, Most likely Syracuse (at home)

NOTES: Only 2 Div-1aa teams in 4 years (could be more as the schedules work out). No extra OOC game to add an easy W due to 9 conference games. Can't pick one pathetic schedule. More rewards for winning through such OOC, but very little chance of going through underfeated for practically all teams.

For starters. SEC has 4 OOC games instead of 3 for Pac-10 which means that they could easily add a W across the board for the whole conference by scheduling a patsy. This plays in overall better record and better rankings. What's up with playing Troy in 2007??? Here is detailed look:

Alabama - we see signs of improvement with @FSU game. Houston is decent team (ala Boise/Utah/BYU), but the other 2 in 2007 are crap teams. The rest of the years - too early to tell, however we recognize familiar trends (NIU, FIU)

2007 Western Carolina, Florida State @Jacksonville, FL, Houston, Louisiana-Monroe
2008 Northern Illinois
2009 Florida International
2010 Penn State, @Duke

Auburn - 2008 is much better than People's national championship year OOC so lets give them credit. Still early to tell how the schedule will shape out. 2007 looks easy, USF is a good team.

2007 - New Mexico State, South Florida, Tulane
2008 - West Virginia, Southern Miss
2009 - @West Virginia

Arkansas - No more USC means no more 70-17. Instead, Hogs will beat up on the other Trojans - of mighty Troy. 2007 schedule is DISGRACEFUL with 4 automatic wins (unless Troy vastly improves). 2008-09 shows some signs of improvement

2007 - Troy, North Texas, UT-Chattanooga, Florida International
2008 - @Texas, Utah State
2009 - Texas, Troy

Florida - Not too bad. Might want to reconsider Citadel?

2007 - UCF, Troy, Florida Atlantic, Florida State
2008 - Hawai'i, Miami (FL), The Citadel, @Florida State
2009 - Troy, Florida International, Florida State
2010 - Miami OH, South Florida, @Florida State

Georgia - Gradual improvement with peak in 2009. Holy $hit - UGA will play 3!!!!!! BCS teams and 2!!!!!! of them on the road. But they won't be UGa if they don't include a Div-1aa team on their schedule.

2007 Oklahoma State, Western Carolina, Troy, @Georgia Tech
2008 - Georgia Southern, @Arizona State, Georgia Tech
2009 - @Oklahoma State, Arizona State, @Georgia Tech, Appalachian State
2010 - @ Colorado

LSU - Strange. Korndogs use to have one of the better OOC's in SEC, but they are giving up playing good OOC teams (only VTech is a top-matchup). What's with 2008 and 2009 letdown?

2007 - Middle Tennessee, Virginia Tech, @Tulane, Louisiana Tech
2008 - Troy, Louisiana Tech, Tulane
2009 - North Texas, Houston, @Tulane, Southern Miss
2010 - Wyoming, Tulane

Mississippi - 2008-2010 too early to tell. 2007 below par with only decent game against Mizzou

2007 - Missouri, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State, @Memphis
2008 - @Wake Forest, Memphis
2009 - @Memphis
2010 - @Georgia Tech, Memphis

Mississippi - Also too early to tell, but at least 1 BCS team each year for 2007-2009. I expect much weaker schedule once dust settles

2007 - @West Virginia
2008 - Houston, @Georgia Tech
2009 - @ Houston, Georgia Tech
2010 - UAB

Vanderbilt - 2007 is a prime example of what I wrote earlier. Padd your W's by playing POS teams. Claim SEC is tough because even Vandy begins SEC schedule with 3-0 or 4-0 record. If not for Wake Forest, would beat Arky for most pathetic schedule. 2008 OOC is battle for Academic cup

2007 - Richmond, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Wake Forest
2008 - Rice, Duke, @Temple, @Wake Forest
2009 - @Eastern Michigan, Georgia Tech
2010 - Eastern Michigan, Wake Forest

Tennessee - The most respected OOC in SEC. No need to bash

2007 - @California, Southern Miss, Northern Illinois, Louisiana-Lafayette
2008 - @UCLA, Wyoming, North Carolina State, Southern Miss
2009 - @Marshall, UCLA, Memphis
2010 - Oregon, Marshall

South Carolina - They have a 4 year rotation between South Carolina State, Wofford, The Citadel and Furman (if you look until 2014). It's like a harem of a mid-eastern prince. With exception of annual showdown with Clemson, nothing special on the schedule yet. NC might become good in 2010

2007 - Louisiana-Lafayette, South Carolina State, @North Carolina, Clemson
2008 - Wofford, @Clemson
2009 - The Citadel, Clemson
2010 - North Carolina, Furman, @Clemson

Kentucky - With exception of annual showdown with Louisville, nothing great. 2007 schedule is weak with 3-1 guaranteed in the OOC

2007 - Eastern Kentucky, @Temple, Louisville, Florida Atlantic
2008 - @Louisville, Temple, Akron
2009 - Louisville, @Akron
2010 - Akron

Lets compare now.

Div 1aa games
Pac-10 - 2 scheduled or 0.2 per team in 4 years
SEC - 13 scheduled or 1.1 per team in 4 year

Bottom feeder (haven't been in a bowl recently, transitional from 1aa to 1a) 1a teams

Pac-10 - 14 times (1.4 per team) including
San Diego State, UNLV, La Tech, Utah State, Idaho

SEC - 27 times (2.3 per team) including:
Louisiana-Monroe, Florida International, Tulane, New Mexico State, North Texas, Utah State, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Temple, Louisiana-Lafayette
(I am not even counting Troy, Wyoming, Miami OH, Memphis, Rice, Marshall, Akron)

OOC @BCS games

Pac 10 - 24 games (2.4 per team)
SEC - 22 games (1.8 per team)

% comparison
Pac 10 plays 1.7% of its OOC games vs Div 1aa
SEC plays 6.9% of its OOC games vs Div 1aa

Pac 10 plays 11.7% of its OOC games vs Bottom feeders
SEC plays 14.4% of its OOC games vs Bottom feeders

Pac 10 plays 20% of its OOC games on the road vs BCS teams
SEC plays 11.3% of its OOC games on the road vs BCS teams

At 5:51 PM, Blogger Tightwad said...

Wow - thanks Anon for doing that research. We're also adding OSU for a home and home starting 2011.

At 4:03 AM, Anonymous site said...

Well, I don't really think it may have success.


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