Part 2 of this million-part series explaining how the Pac-10 is better than the SEC focuses on the overall strength of schedule.
I have heard the sentiment that SEC fans think they don't "need" to play a tough school every week because it will be made up in conference play. The SEC faithful seem to believe that all the Top 25 teams within their conference will boost their schedules.
They believe that playing in the so-called "Toughest Conference in America" makes up for a weaker non-conference schedule.
As my main man Jordan Coleman so inaccurately states, "So it all equals out. The SEC plays the best conference schedule in the nation while the Pac-10 plays in a lesser conference with a couple good out-of-conference games. Actually, it still doesn't equal out."
However, they would be wrong.
Let our first order of business be to look at the cold hard facts rather than base our argument off blind conference pride.
I think that everyone that follows college football agrees that USA Today's Jeff Sagarin's method of rankings is one of the most accurate we have today. So let's take a look at Sagarin's final strength of schedule rankings for the 2007 season.
SEC (average = 20)
South Carolina 8
Ole Miss 13
Mississippi State 33
Pac-10 (average = 10.7)
Washington State 12
Oregon State 16
Arizona State 19
When you look at objective facts, it is clear who played the tougher schedule: the Pac-10. It features the first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh, and 10th toughest schedules in the country—six out of the top ten, compared to the SEC's three.
The argument that only playing able in-conference foes makes little sense to me. If you want to show you're the best, play the best teams. Don't have the blindness to say that your conference is the best, so to hell with the rest of the schools.
The reason the Pac-10's strength of schedule is so much better than the SEC's is because it is a similar conference (I will concede a bit less talent top-to-bottom than the SEC) that schedules tough non-conference games. The SEC is a slightly better Pac-10 that schedules virtually nobody non-conference.
On that note, there have been several points made about the SEC scheduling some "tough" non-conference games over the years. Some examples include:
Arkansas: Texas, USC
Auburn: USC, WVU, USF
Tennessee: Syracuse, Notre Dame, Miami, Cal, UCLA
The problem here is that these games are over A COUPLE OF YEARS. Plus, I don't see any big time teams from name-brand conferences with the exception of USC, WVU, Cal, and VT. All the others are struggling schools at this point in time.
We took a look at some of the "big" non-conference games that the SEC scheduled over the last couple of years—now let's take a look at some of the tough games the Pac-10 has scheduled for THIS YEAR.
Washington: Oklahoma, BYU, Notre Dame
Washington State: Oklahoma State, Hawaii
Oregon: Purdue, Boise State
Oregon State: Penn State, Hawaii, Utah
Stanford: TCU, Notre Dame
Cal: Michigan State, Maryland
USC: Virginia, Ohio State, Notre Dame
UCLA: Tennessee, BYU
Arizona State: Georgia
They play all of these games in addition to a rigorous conference schedule. The Pac-10 shows us that to be the best, you have to play the best.
THE LIST IS BUILDING:
2. The Pac 10 plays a better overall schedule.