Adams: Strength of schedule key to SEC in BCS

You probably have noticed the SEC is becoming more partial to a playoff in college football. That's worthy of applause, if not an "amen" from the rest of the BCS.

Last year, University of Florida president Bernie Machen spoke out in favor of a playoff. This season, after he felt his Bulldogs had been slighted by the BCS, Georgia president Michael Adams did the same.

And just a few weeks ago, SEC commissioner Mike Slive proposed a four-team playoff at the BCS meetings. Although the proposal went nowhere, it reflected the SEC's forward thinking on the subject.

The SEC is doing just fine under the current system. It has won back-to-back national championships, and national champion LSU and Georgia finished one-two in the final Associated Press poll last year. Moreover, the league is sending more teams than ever to bowl games, and it's winning most of them.

So why change a system in which your teams are flourishing?

Answer: Because the conference leaders have figured out a couple of things: (1) The SEC is clearly the strongest football conference in the country; (2) Despite its recent success, the SEC still has a lot to lose by not having a national championship playoff.

Slive's playoff proposal wouldn't diminish the SEC's bowl presence. And it would virtually assure the conference members of having a shot at the national title.

But that's a moot point. The current system is in place for at least another five years.

The relevant question: What can the SEC do to enhance its chances of playing for the national title? It's certainly a question worth discussing at the conference's spring meetings this week.

First of all, the SEC should insist that strength of schedule count for more in determining which teams play for a national championship and in the most prominent bowls. If it needs video evidence, I would highly recommend the Georgia-Hawaii Sugar Bowl in January.

Hawaii, which played one of the easiest schedules in the country, had no business playing in a BCS game. And that opinion was expressed long before Hawaii was embarrassed by the Bulldogs. Slive called the match-up "frightening," as if to express concern for the Hawaii team's safety - and I think quarterback Colt Brennan would back him up on that - against an opponent whose physical superiority was so apparent.

Strength of schedule applies to BCS teams as well. Aside from national championship game opponent LSU, Ohio State played only three teams ranked in the final top 25. Michigan, at No. 18, was its highest-ranked regular-season opponent. Yet the Buckeyes ended the regular season No. 1 in both polls based on their inflated 11-1 record.

In addition to stressing the merits of schedule strength, the SEC should be advocating that the NCAA make two open dates the rule, not the exception as in the case of the 2008 season. The tougher your conference, the more significant a second bye week becomes during a 12-game, regular-season schedule.

Also, the SEC office and its schools should schedule with care. Otherwise, you could end up like Georgia, which has a team presumably talented enough to challenge for a national title, yet burdened with a ridiculous schedule.

Georgia is scheduled to play what should be the top six teams in the SEC, and only two of those games will be played in Athens. It also must play a non-conference road game against Arizona State between conferences games against South Carolina and Alabama.

Who made that schedule? Jeremy Foley?

Florida, which has national championship potential as well, has a more manageable schedule than Georgia. Yet Ohio State, Oklahoma and Southern Cal play schedules more conducive to winning a national title.

Georgia and Florida might have the two best teams in the country. But that doesn't mean they will be good enough to overcome their schedules.

Until there's a playoff, qualifying for the national championship game is a risky proposition for the nation's best football conference. The SEC's challenge is to reduce that risk.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 19

murrayvol writes:

Well said.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Are DTs necessary for entrance into the BCS?

imw8n4u writes:

I like that a playoff is being discussed more, but I still don't see it happening anytime soon. We all know the real reason the big 12, big "can't count past 10" and pac 10 don't want a playoff is because they would be at home watching 2 SEC teams go at it almost every year.

newtonrail writes:

Mr Huff, buy an issue of Football Time in Tenn. We have a few. Whether they were 5** or Parade AA's is another matter. But frankly you've ridden that horse to death. If they can't perform in Sept., get back on the horse.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

I think until we get a playoff, the NC game should be determined by a basketball-style selection committee.

At some point, I could advocate the SEC, Big 12, Big East, and ACC forming a new 'alliance' that kicks out the Big 10 and Pac 10. Who gives a damn about them anymore??? I think the kids and coaches in the Pac-10 and Big 10 want to play, but he presidents and that a-hole Jim Delaney want NOTHING to do with competition.

99gator writes:

this man is an idiot.

"The relevant question: What can the SEC do to enhance its chances of playing for the national title?"

uhhh. a team from the conference has played for the title in three of the last 5 years.

by reputation, if all records are equal the sec will be given first consideration to play for a title (which would prevent what would happen to auburn in 2004) and is why lsu got a shot in 07. they were put ahead of everyone else with 2 losses.

i think a playoff would give the league a greater advantage, but the league seems to be doing just fine.

CoverOrange writes:

MParker, the "a-hole" has only one "e" in his last name. I bring it up because it is personal to me.

Strength of schedule should be a factor but not in the way used up til now. If you've played the likes of Florida, LSU, USCw, tOSU, Oklahoma, etc., you shouldn't be penalized for playing The Citadel.

Bigger_Al writes:

John Adams picks his nose at traffic lights.

BigOrangeJeff writes:

mparker 12:29 AM, I agree.

I can't remember what it was called, but there was a very similar system that pre-dated the BCS. The PAC-10 and the Big T-elev-EN both snubbed that system so they could play in the Rose Bowl every year. As their prominence started to wane, they decided to step in and "save" the BCS by joining.

If the other conferences banded together and formed their own playoff system, then those left out would eventually either die or come crawling back - just like they did before.

Oh, and screw Notre Dame.

BOJ

pdhuff#552644 writes:

mparker 12:29 interesting thought, but the powers that be would never exclude those media markets. Too many people and potential buyers for those ads on TV.

The BCS is a flawed system, but the one we have to deal with. Good post.

newtonrail- 11:29, can't afford those magazines and its $12.00 worth of gas to Books-A-Million.

So, I'll just depend on good posters like you to tell me how well we're doing. Thanks.

invisiblekid writes:

This whole article is a moot point. However, I do agree with the increased emphasis on SOS and the second open date.

IMO, there isn't going to be a true playoff because it scares the other conferences and Notre Dame that they could well be shut out of the title game on a regular basis. In theory, if they went with a 16 team playoff based on rankings, the SEC would likely put at least 4-6 teams in on a regular basis. With at least 25% of the field from the SEC, it increases the probability of all-SEC title games.

There are also a couple of factors that I don't see discussed much when this issue comes up. A title game without some of the traditional powers or teams from major media markets could kill the television ratings. The bottom line is that this is still essentially a popularity contest. Another factor that many don't consider is the economic impact on the host cities for the major bowls. The bowl games generated 1.2 billion dollars for these cities last year. You can believe they would be kicking and screaming if there was any chance of them losing that cash.

invisiblekid writes:

Pdhuff, stole my thunder in talking about TV, stepped away before posting to feed the dogs.

TheVolMan writes:

Wow, the Weenies are out again - they really know how to boycott JA's articles. Strange that this group of Weenies are more interested in trash and nose-picking! LOL...

As usual, great article JA. And, excellent comments for this article by non-Weenies.

thesavageorange writes:

The problem is that teams that have no business playing in the title ,via weak conferences and weak OOC schedules, routinely get waxed in the NC game.

In the 10 yrs of the BCS ,6 of the games have been decided by 14 or more points.5 have been decided by more than 17 points, including the 36 point whipping USC gave OK when Auburn was clearly a better match up, and 13-0 coming out of the SEC.Then there was the 2003 debacle when ,again, OK benefited from a weak conference and OOC schedule to get in the NC game when USC was clearly a top 2 team that yr.Ohio State the last 2 yr's......well I think we all know about that.The highest rated team OSU played last yr was Michigan at #18.

UT played the #1 #2 and #13 ranked teams ,beating #2 UGA and handing the #1 LSU team a 7 point win.

Point being?Tennesse had more business in that game than OSU.If they had a 4 team play-off OSU would have lost to USC and USC would have played the LSU UGA winner.

You're right kid, it is moot.I can't believe I just wasted 10 minutes of my life ranting about it.

gohawks1 writes:

Is it just me, or has the big link with the rotating photos/headlines on the GVX homepage gone black for everyone else, too?

murrayvol writes:

IPO: Rotating over here boss. Do you have a dial up connection? That one goes black for me on our antique shop computer (no cable access).

cjraney writes:

Anyone else notice that TheVolMan is hopelessly obsessed with weenies? Just don't understand it...

JWilly writes:

This does not have a lot to do with the thread but...what the heck. Living in Wimp 10 country, I was cycling thru the channels a few evenings ago and I ran across the Big Ten network and found they were discussing next years football prospects. Some of their observations; Felix Jones was not good enough to play for any Big Ten team (they could not believe he was drafted by the NFL before some Big ten running backs). Ohio State is a sure thing for the NC game as it is the dominant team in the country. If things go the way it should go the NC game should be a rematch of OSU-Mich. Man-O-Man, I hope the SEC can keep up with the powerhouse Big Ten (I think I'm going to puke!)

Volfantm writes:

The Rose Bowl usually does best in the ratings, imho because it has the best time slot. So, in order to send a message to the anti playoff Big Ten and Pac 10 perhaps a boycott of watching the game is in order. It's a small way to put pressure on them anyway.

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