SEC Football Scheduling

One of the hot discussion topics during football preseason is who is playing who and who has the toughest schedule in the country.  It’s impossible for every college team to play each other in college football.  To determine the participants in championship games and tournaments, it’s necessary to place a value on a higher win-loss record against stronger competition than weaker competition.  As some of you may have heard, South Carolina’s strength of schedule is ranked highly among several experts.  We’re actually ranked as the toughest schedule in the country by Phil Steele.

Scheduling for football at the BCS level requires balancing what’s fair for student-athletes and coaches as well as for the paying fans.  The Gamecocks’ non-conference schedule has a nice balance to it this season – three 2008 bowl teams as well as a quality FCS team in S.C. State.  I looked around the SEC to see some other schedules and I believe we have one of the better (and stronger schedules).  I did some homework last night (and used more math than I have in years) to compare the schedules for all twelve SEC teams.  For the rankings, I used Jeff Sagarin’s NCAA Ratings from USA Today which includes 245 Division I football teams. Sagarin’s ratings are used by the BCS each year and his basketball rankings have been used by the NCAA selection committee since 1984.  I checked the rating for each team on the schedule and then came up with an average ranking for their opponents.  For example:

South Carolina (Sagarin Rating: 31)
Schedule: N.C. State (58), Georgia (7), Florida Atlantic (112), Ole Miss (43), S.C. State (157), Kentucky (47), Alabama (14), Vanderbilt (54), Tennessee (29), Arkansas (41), Florida (2), Clemson (21).
Average Opponent Rating: 48.8
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 87

What did I find?

  • Only two teams (Georgia and Auburn) had an opponent (overall and non-conference) rating better than the Gamecocks.
  • Georgia had the toughest non-conference rating at 79.3 and toughest overall at 45.9
  • The three worst overall schedule ratings were Ole Miss (69.4), Alabama (67.4), and Florida (60.7).
  • The worst three non-conference ratings were Ole Miss (139.5), Alabama (128) and Kentucky (116.5).
  • Only South Carolina, Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee had non-conference ratings lower than 100.
  • The three toughest opponents for SEC teams this season are Virginia Tech vs. Alabama (9), West Virginia vs. Auburn (11) and Florida State vs. Florida (20).
  • The three “worst” opponents for SEC teams this season are Tennesee Tech vs. Georgia (217), Jackson State vs. Mississippi State (rated 214) and Charleston Southern vs. Florida (201).

For details about each team’s schedule, see below.

Alabama (Sagarin Rating 14)
Schedule: Va. Tech (9), Florida Int. (147), N. Texas (165), Arkansas (41), Kentucky (47), Ole Miss (43), S.C. (31), Tennessee (29), LSU (6), Miss. State (76), UT-Chatt. (191), Auburn (24).
Average Opponent Rating: 67.4
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 128

Arkansas (Sagarin Rating 41)
Schedule: Missouri State (180), Georgia (7), Alabama (14), Tex. A&M (60), Auburn (24), Florida (2), Ole Miss (43), Eastern Michigan (141), S.C. (31), Troy (70), Miss. State (76), LSU (6).
Average Opponent Rating: 54.5
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 112.8

Auburn (Sagarin Rating 24)
Schedule: LA Tech (107), Miss State (76), West Virginia (11), Ball State (81), Tennessee (29), Arkansas (41), Kentucky (47), LSU (6), Ole Miss (43), Furman (122), Georgia (7), Alabama (14).
Average Opponent Rating: 48.7
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 80.3

LSU (Sagarin Rating 6)
Schedule: Washington (80), Vanderbilt (54), UL-Laf (123), Miss. State (76), Georgia (7), Florida (2), Auburn (24), Tulane (134), Alabama (14), LA Tech (107), Ole Miss (43), Arkansas (41).
Average Opponent Rating: 58.8
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 111

Miss. State (Sagarin Rating 76)
Schedule: Jackson State (214), Auburn (24), Vanderbilt (54), LSU (6), GA Tech (42), Houston (66), MTSU (106), Florida (2), Kentucky (47), Alabama (14), Arkansas (41), Ole Miss (43).
Average Opponent Rating: 54.9
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 107

Ole Miss (Sagarin Rating 43)
Schedule: Memphis (100), SE Louisiana (190), SC (31), Vanderbilt (54), Alabama (14), UAB (118), Arkansas (41), Auburn (24), N. Ariz. (150), Tennessee (29), LSU (6), Miss. State (76).
Average Opponent Rating: 69.4
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 139.5

Florida (Sagarin Rating 2)
Schedule: Charleston Southern (201), Troy (70), Tennessee (29), Kentucky (47), LSU (6), Arkansas (41), Miss. State (76), Georgia (6), Vanderbilt (54), SC (31), Fla. Int (147), Florida St. (20).
Average Opponent Rating: 60.7
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 111

Georgia (Sagarin Rating 7)
Schedule: Oklahoma State (26), SC (31), Arkansas (41), Ariz. State (32), LSU (6), Tennessee (29), Vanderbilt (54), Florida (2), Tenn. Tech (217), Auburn (24), Kentucky (47), Ga. Tech (42).
Average Opponent Rating: 45.9
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 79.3

Kentucky (Sagarin Rating 47)
Schedule: Miami-OH (126), Louisville (50), Florida (2), Alabama (14), SC (31), Auburn (24), LA-Monroe (127), Miss. State (76), E. Kentucky (163), Vanderbilt (54), Georgia (7), Tennessee (29).
Average Opponent Rating: 58.6
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 116.5

Tennessee (Sagarin Rating 29)
Schedule: W. Kentucky (133), UCLA (51), Florida (2), Ohio (114), Auburn (24), Georgia (7), Alabama (14), SC (31), Memphis (100), Ole Miss (43), Vanderbilt (54), Kentucky (47).
Average Opponent Rating: 51.7
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 99.5

Vanderbilt (Sagarin Rating 54)
Schedule: W. Carolina (182), LSU (6), Miss State (76), Rice (91), Ole Miss (43), Army (130), Georgia (7), SC (31), Ga. Tech (42), Florida (2), Kentucky (47), Tennessee (29).
Average Opponent Rating: 57.2
Average Non-Conference Opponent Rating: 111.3

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “SEC Football Scheduling

  1. Good stuff, keep it up

  2. Britishgmcck

    Why is there a (2) beside Florida? Every single poll has them #1. Also, Phil Steele ranked our schedule as the #1 toughest, not 4th. Sorry, but either you didn’t do your research or you are really bad at math.

  3. britishgmcck

    ok thanks.
    Still, I wonder if Mr. Sagarin knows that Florida won all but two of the AP votes (the highest percentage ever in the preseason poll) and 53 of the 59 coaches votes. Southern Cal recieved only one vote in the coaches poll and none in the AP- a poll he obviously didn’t get a vote in.
    I just want to make it clear that the Gators are the real preseason number one, and I just realized– Ole Miss is ranked at 43! They are ranked in the top ten of both of the real polls! These rankings cannot be for this season. You should redo this whole thing using the real rankings.
    Two other bad mistakes: Auburn at 24 (way too high) and GT at 42 (ridiculously low). I just want to know how he came up with these numbers.

    • The Editor

      Your points definitely have a lot of merit. While Florida certainly received a high number of votes and is a very good team, I would bet that Texas and Southern California fans would disagree with you about the Gators being the “real preseason number one.”

      The Sagarin ratings are quite real and are used as one of the computer rankings to determine the BCS standings. I went with his ratings for this post for a couple of reasons.
      1) The Coaches Poll and the AP Poll do not rank any teams that play in the FCS. Without a ranking to assign to teams like Jackson State and S.C. State, it would’ve been impossible to generate an average.
      2) There’s always going to be debate about which poll is the best. I simply chose one of the polls used by the BCS to create this post.

      Thanks for the responses – this is why we need to get started with the season. All we can do now is debate and wait for kick-off!

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