The third weekend in November will bring an annual chorus of anti-SEC sentiment.
“Alabama is playing WHO?”
Chattanooga, Louisiana-Lafayette, University of Texas at San Antonio, South Alabama, Alabama A&M, Presbyterian, Austin Peay and Western Carolina will be paying visits to SEC campuses on Nov. 19.
People hate this, because it happens right in the thick of the College Football Playoff race. By then, a Week 1 full of high-profile matchups will be forgotten, and those who dislike Southeastern football will be hollering for justice.
(NOTE: People were somehow already doing this last week.)
In order to nip that talk in the bud, we figured some data would be helpful. Here are the number of FCS opponents each Power 5 conference will play this season:
|Conference||Games vs. FCS schools||Schools w/ no FCS games|
|Big Ten||0.57 per team (8 total)||6|
|Big 12||0.80 (8)||2|
Hmm… were we wrong? The SEC and ACC are the biggest offenders here, with every SEC team scheduling an FCS game, and all but one ACC team scheduling an FCS game (Louisville, while North Carolina scheduled two).
But this is not the only way to look at schedule strength, as “FBS” and “FCS” can sometimes fail as an optimal cutoff point. For instance, the Big Ten might do a good job of avoiding FCS teams, but bottom-feeding FBS teams are often just as bad or worse than the best FCS squads.
In other words, just because a conference does not schedule FCS games does not mean it’s picking risky substitutes.
We want to know which Power 5 contingency rolls the dice most, so we’ll count up each team’s Week 1 games against ranked nonconference opponents (using the preseason AP Top 25 poll), and then each remaining nonconference game against ranked opponents (using the current Week 2 AP Top 25 poll):
|Conference||Noncon games vs. Top 25||Schools w/ no Top 25 games|
|ACC||0.86 per team (12 total)||3|
|Big 12||0.50 (5)||6|
|Big Ten||0.36 (5)||9|
We have, essentially, an inverse order of the first table, and we think we know why: The ACC and SEC both have four nonconference slates to fill every season, while the other conferences have three. This has led to a wide spectrum of opponents for the ACC and SEC — plenty of FCS schools and a healthy mix of Top 25 teams — while the other three conferences take few scheduling risks as they prepare for nine-game league schedules.
Our conclusion: This is all a wash. No conference has a superior nonconference schedule.
So, when supporters of the Big Ten or other major conferences call out the SEC on the third week of November, point them back to these tables, shrug your shoulders and feel free to count up those recent national championships.
Check out what we liked and disliked about the SEC in Week 2, and make sure to follow SEC Country and Alex Martin Smith (@asmiff) on Twitter.