Those from the lower right corner of the country would have us believe that the fabled SEC gauntlet provides no rest for the weary warriors, as they battle their way through one formidable SEC foe after another. Top to bottom, the SEC is just the toughest thing going in college sports, or so the story goes.
The SEC’s recent decision to keep their teams’ schedules open to accommodate at least three out of conference cupcakes, reaffirms their determination to maintain this myth. But is the SEC really that tough, top-to-bottom?
To measure the validity of the argument, FishDuck.com decided to compare the bottom third of the SEC to the bottom third of the Pac-12. Here are our observations on the ‘gauntlet’ theory based upon 2013, starting at the top of the bottom third for each conference:
#4 — Washington State (6 – 7) vs Florida (4 – 8) or Tennessee (5 – 7)
Washington State had an impressive 10 – 7 win against Lane Kiffin’s USC Trojans. This dominant offensive output by the Trojans against one of the Pac’s weaker teams apparently led to his landing the position of offensive coordinator at SEC powerhouse Alabama. The Cougars also took eventual SEC champion Auburn deep into the fourth quarter, before finally losing by a single touchdown.
Florida, on the other hand, had wins over Toledo, Tennessee (see below) and Arkansas (see below) before losing seven in a row. Tennessee pulled off an impressive win against South Carolina to add to their victories over Austin Peay (yawn), Western Kentucky (yawn), South Alabama (zzzzzzz) and Kentucky (see below).
But they also lost to Oregon, a top-tier Pac-12 team, 59 – 14, in a game that was not nearly as close as the final score would indicate — not quite the show Wazzu put up against SEC top-tiger Auburn.
Nod goes to: Pac-12. Washington State played the top of the SEC tough. Tennessee did not return serve against the Pac. Florida — seven losses in a row?
#3 — Utah (5 – 7) vs Arkansas (3 – 9)
Utah had a signature win against Pac-12 Champion Stanford and lost only in overtime to a tough Oregon State team, missing bowl eligibility by that single OT loss. Arkansas beat Louisiana – Lafeyette, BCS Stamford (Note: That’s StaMford, not StaNford) and 1 -11 Southern Miss, before losing nine in a row.
What was Bret Bielema thinking when he left Wisconsin for that? Was it the opportunity to buddy up with Nick Saban to find help in trying to slow down the game to where he could keep up with it?
Nod goes to: Pac-12. Nine losses in a row vs upending Stanford and missing a bowl game by an overtime loss? Not even close.
#2 — Colorado (4 – 8) vs Kentucky (2 – 10)
Colorado didn’t exactly light ’em up (even if it is legal to do so in that state now), but it did beat a respectable (and bowl-bound) Colorado State team, to go along with wins over Central Arkansas,
Charleston Southern and California (see below). Though a step up from their performance in 2012, it was not an impressive outing, but it was still better than …
Kentucky beat 0 – 12 Miami of Ohio and BCS Alabama State. Period.
Nod goes to: Pac-12. Neither team would strike gauntlet-level fear in the hearts of top-dwellers, but Colorado’s win over Colorado State was more impressive than anything Kentucky did.
#1 — California (1 – 11) vs Little Siblings of the Poor
We are being politically correct leaving the Little Sisters out of this, and that’s important to do when anything relates to Berkeley. Even still, SEC fans may scream about including the Little Siblings of the Poor in their gauntlet. But the simple fact is this: The Pac-12 schedules nine conference games per year while the SEC schedules eight.
Based upon the SEC’s decision to retain an eight-game conference schedule, it’s obvious that they ain’t about to change. It’s not just that they schedule one more patsy than the Pac-12 — they routinely schedule them strategically toward the end of their ‘gauntlets’ where they are most needed to provide a breather.
By this, I mean Alabama’s November 23 showdown against Chattanooga; Auburn vs Florida Atlantic and LSU vs Furman on October 26; Georgia vs Appalachian State on November 9; and South Carolina taking a breather against Coastal Carolina on November 23.
While we’re at it, Florida State is not in this power conference, but they’re geographically close enough to learn from them and take advantage of the ACC’s eight-game conference schedule to feast on the nobody-wants-us-in-their-conference Idaho Vandals (1 – 11, yes, they beat Temple!) on November 23.
California was not a tough draw in 2013, but two things can be said for the Bears. First, they were not a deliberate soft spot in the schedule, as was the case for the Little Siblings of the Poor for the SEC. Second, in their one win, they did pull out a win over Portland State (6 – 6).
Nod goes to: Pac-12, based upon California’s 1 – 0 record against the Little Siblings of the Poor.
Final Results of Our Evaluation: Pac-12 – 4, SEC – 0. The SEC gauntlet has some sharp uppers, but the teeth for the lower gums are in the jar on the night stand.
Main photo by dentalcarematters.com