Thursday, July 19, 2007

Confusion reigns at Fox sports

Randy Hill at Fox Sports has this article up today, entitled "Time for SEC teams to toughen up". In it, he tells us that the SEC's non-conference opponents, taken together, are just too weak:

So, what's the problem? Well, the problem seems to crop up when those tricky strength-of-schedule programs take a look at the SEC's non-league playmates. From a distance, we're reminded of the Iditarod. A closer look at this year's schedules reveals that SEC teams are prepared to tangle with 10 Division 1-AA teams. It also doesn't help that non-BCS-league foes make up 72 percent of the SEC's non-league schedule.

By comparison, Pac-10 teams will take on just two Division 1-AA teams and have scheduled just 63 percent of their non-league games against teams below the BCS-league level.

Well. I have to admit, this left me speechless. Randy Hill is actually saying that we, the SEC conference, play too darn many division 1-AA pansies, and the Pac-10 is doing it the right way.

OK, well, let's just see what some other experts think about the SEC's schedule. If we go to (via Sports Illustrated), we find that Steve Megaree has considered schedule strength, and sees it thus, from toughest to weakest (top 15 only):
  1. Washington (Div 1-AA opponents - 0)
  2. South Carolina (Div 1-AA opponents - 1)
  3. Florida State (Div 1-AA opponents - 0)
  4. Michigan State (Div 1-AA opponents - 0)
  5. Auburn (Div 1-AA opponents - 1)
  6. Tennessee (Div 1-AA opponents - 0)
  7. Florida (Div 1-AA opponents - 1)
  8. USC (Div 1-AA opponents - 0)
  9. Stanford (Div 1-AA opponents - 0)
  10. Mississippi State (Div 1-AA opponents - 1)
  11. Kentucky (Div 1-AA opponents - 1)
  12. Nebraska (Div 1-AA opponents - 0)
  13. Notre Dame (Div 1-AA opponents - 0)
  14. Georgia (Div 1-AA opponents - 1)
  15. Michigan (Div 1-AA opponents - 1)
Unless my eyes deceive me, the Pac 10 has three teams in the top fifteen, and the SEC has ... uh, let me get my calculator ... wait for it ... SEVEN! Yes, somehow the weak-kneed SEC with all those 1-AA cupcakes on their schedules represent almost half of the top 15 toughest schedules in the country.

Well, maybe those schedule rankings don't mean all that much. After all, they have been persuasively challenged by such worthies as Nico at Roll 'Bama Roll, so the Rivals schedule rankings are by no means holy writ. Still, with so many SEC teams considered to be playing tough schedules, mostly reflecting the toughness of the conference as a whole, the least we can say about Hill's piece is that it isn't exactly timely. In other years, this argument may have had merit. This year, not so much.

The arguments for having a few cupcakes on any schedule are well-worn, and I won't rehash them here. When you are playing in a conference as competitive, top to bottom, as the SEC, news must be pretty thin to force a sportswriter to concoct such a banal and outright flawed article as this one is. I can only suppose he was fed up about hearing how strong the SEC was this year, and set about to write something critical in order to be different. If so, I can relate, but in my opinion the article is foolish and reflects poorly on the author.