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CFN Analysis - The 2011 SEC Schedule
Florida QB John Brantley
Florida QB John Brantley
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 10, 2011


Thoughts and analysis from the CFNers on the 2011 SEC Schedule.

CFN Analysis   

The SEC Schedule


East Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

SEC Composite Schedules 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
SEC Team-By-Team Breakdowns 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007

- 2011 SEC East Breakdown & Analysis
- 2011 SEC West Breakdown & Analysis
- 2011 SEC Composite Schedule & Week Rankings 

By Pete Fiutak

Something has to be done about the interdivisional scheduling, and I’m not exactly sure what the answer is.

I’ve mentioned this for years when it came to the SEC, ACC and Big 12, and I wrote about it with the new Big Ten and Pac 12 schedules coming up, that I’d love to see an 11-game, round-robin schedule that crowned a true champion. Ditch the conference title game, make it a 13-game regular season for everyone with two non-conference games, and do it right. Of course, that won’t happen.

However, while no one is going to be able to change anything as long as every SEC team misses out on playing three other conference teams, it has to be acknowledged that some teams are getting completely and totally screwed. Considering the SEC is the player in the national title discussion, and considering that every year at least two conference teams, often three, are good enough to win any other league title, there has to be some semblance of fairness.

It’s not right that Florida has to play Alabama, Auburn, and LSU, going on the road for the games against both Tiger teams, while Kentucky’s games against the West are at LSU, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss. Even more unfair, Auburn’s games against the East are Florida, at Georgia, and at South Carolina, meaning the defending national champions have to play what appear to be the three best teams from the other division, while Ole Miss gets Georgia at home and goes on the road to face relative lightweights Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

Yes, what goes around, comes around. Auburn was certainly helped last year by a relatively favorable schedule with South Carolina and Georgia coming to Jordan-Hare and getting a road trip to Kentucky, while Alabama got Florida and went to South Carolina and Tennessee. Ole Miss didn’t take advantage of its slate, but it got the biggest break in the book getting Vanderbilt and Kentucky at home and going on the road to face Tennessee, meaning Florida and SEC East champ, South Carolina, didn’t have to be dealt with, while the Gators got tagged with LSU, a resurgent Mississippi State, and a trip to Alabama.

So how can this possibly be fixed?

Schedules get put together over a year in advance, but maybe there can be a way to base the interdivision games based on the standings from the previous season. For example, if Florida has to play Auburn, the No. 1 team from the West the previous year, it’s offset by also getting to play No. 6 Ole Miss. Maybe, after some sort of tie-breaker is used to rank the teams from the previous year one through six, there’s some formula based on the finishes. For example, Auburn =1, Arkansas = 2, Mississippi State = 4 for a total seeding score of 8 for one East team’s schedule.

One loss isn’t a deathblow to national title hopes for an SEC team, but two make it next to impossible to win it all. Schedule means everything in college football, and considering its status, the SEC should take a longer look at how it can make its slate work better.

By Richard Cirminiello 

If LSU is going to claw its way back to the top of the SEC West and remain in the BCS title discussion, it’s going to earn it this fall.

Save for the Sept. 10 visit from Northwestern State, the lone equivalent of a scrimmage, where are the layups in 2011? While most other national powers are easing into the season on Sept. 3, the Tigers will be facing Oregon at Cowboys Stadium in one of the most appetizing non-conference games of the year. As if the Ducks won’t already have enough motivation, this will be a homecoming of sorts for a pair of Texans, RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas. After Week 2, the true breathers are virtually non-existent. Not only will Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas visit Baton Rouge, but there are prickly road trips to Mississippi State, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama. If these Bengals can somehow navigate this schedule unscathed or with even one loss, they’ll truly have nine lives.

The upcoming season is a pivotal one for Les Miles and his new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe, who’ll both be asked to raise the bar. On a campus where that bar is unusually high, three consecutive years without a conference title or BCS bowl game has begun to make the locals restless. With so much riding on 2011, LSU is going to need a phenomenal offseason on the practice field and in the weight room in order to be ready for one of the country’s most unforgiving schedules.

By Matt Zemek

The fascinating element of college football conference schedules is that in leagues with a certain degree of stability from season to season (a dynamic that is subject to change but which gains traction for several years at a time), the fate of a given program can depend on how its roster fluctuations mesh – or don’t mesh – with the quirks of the schedule.

This is particularly true in the Southeastern Conference.

In 2009, the odd-year schedule rotation gave Alabama a home game against both Arkansas and LSU and a road game at Auburn. Two of the Tide’s three biggest enemies had to come to Tuscaloosa; Alabama made the most of its home-tilted slate and won the national title.

In 2010, the even-year schedule rotation gave Auburn home games against LSU and Arkansas plus South Carolina and Georgia. The Tigers used their home-heavy calendar and escaped the One Big Roadie at Alabama to win a national championship of their own.

On an even more big-picture level, realize this about the LSU Tigers’ own brand of pigskin opportunism: The Tigers reached the BCS National Championship Game in the two years that the game was held in the Louisiana Superdome. Had LSU played for All The Tostitos in Glendale or All The Flowers in Pasadena or All The Vitamin C in Miami, the Bayou Bengals might have been 1-for-2 or 0-for-2 in title tilts. (They don’t play national championship games in Cincinnati or Oklahoma City, you know…) As it was, LSU’s best teams coincided with the ultimate scheduling advantage for Tiger Nation. The convergence of scheduling advantages and peak seasons represents the occurrence of alchemy teams need in order to haul in the crystal at the end of the line. Therefore, with the SEC now riding a five-year national-title streak, how does the slate stack up for member schools?

Simply stated, we’re back to the odd-year schedule rotation. Advantage, Alabama; disadvantage, Auburn. LSU must go to Alabama, but on the other hand, the Tigers host Florida this year. All in all, when the West is won, it’s likely to be decided by the Bama-LSU showdown… in Tuscaloosa.

Over in the East, it’s a more complicated story. South Carolina, which was lucky to win the SEC East last year (but deserved its spoils after thumping Florida in Gainesville), has to play two of the East’s traditional powers (Georgia and Tennessee) on the road. Sure, Tennessee isn’t “Tennessee” right now, but it’s the other half of the UT-UGA road package that has to concern Cocky. The game against Georgia, coming so early in the year, is always a tone-setter for both the Gamecocks and the Dawgs. It’s much more favorable for Carolina to get Georgia at home, even if that means the Florida game is on the road. Yes, South Carolina is a better team than its opponent in each of the SEC East road games it will play this season. However, it’s a more favorable schedule rotation for the Gamecocks when they host UGA and Tennessee and play roadies against Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The even-year schedule is better for South Carolina than the odd-year slate.

Yet, with that said, Carolina might still be okay when the smoke clears. Why? Florida has a beastly schedule to deal with. Will Muschamp will be welcomed to the SEC with an October straight from hell: Bama at home. At LSU. At Auburn. Then the Cocktail Party. Florida’s October and Tennessee’s October (Georgia, LSU, Bama, Carolina) are the two toughest months facing any SEC team this season. What does this all mean in the East? It means that South Carolina-Georgia, on Sept. 10, is going to acquire far more importance than you might initially think.

Georgia and Alabama are both on the bubble in the chase for an NCAA Tournament berth. Could they meet in the 2011 SEC title game on the gridiron? Quite possibly. The schedules give both the Tide and the Dawgs a leg up on their competitors.
   
By: Barrett Sallee

LSU will likely be the preseason favorite to win the SEC. With the schedule that the Tigers have, that’s certainly an understandable prediction. With the exception of the Alabama game on November 5, Les Miles’ bunch gets their tough SEC games in the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium. Sound familiar? That’s exactly what we said about Auburn heading into the 2010 season, and that worked out pretty well for Gene Chizik’s crew. LSU gets a tough test right off the bat with a neutral site game in Dallas against defending Pac-10 champ Oregon. But even if they lose, the Tigers are still set up to make a national championship run. That is, of course, as long as they get that whole quarterback situation worked out.

Georgia’s schedule isn’t very daunting, but it also isn’t set up well for a coach on the hot seat – and that’s where Bulldog head coach Mark Richt finds himself headed into 2011. Georgia became accustomed to losing during last year’s rough start, and another slow start is likely considering Georgia’s early opponents. Boise State is not the same Boise State that came to Athens in 2005 and got walloped before they even got off the bus. The Broncos have shown an incredible ability over the last few years to play at the top of their game when given time to prepare, which they will have before they play Georgia in the Georgia Dome to open the season. Chalk that up to coaching. After the Boise State game, the Bulldogs host South Carolina, which almost always comes down to the last play of the game. If Georgia gets off to an 0-2 start, the culture of losing could take over again and could send the Bulldogs into another tailspin.

For the Auburn Tigers, the entire month of October should be just a bit scary. Try this on for size: at South Carolina, at Arkansas, home vs. Florida, at LSU and home vs. Ole Miss. Good luck with that. Couple that daunting October schedule with road games at Clemson in September and at Georgia in November, and you have the Tigers have one heckuva gauntlet to run if they even want to repeat as SEC West champs. The Tigers will take a step back in 2011, but it won’t be off of a cliff like many are suggesting. They’ll contend, but that schedule will be too much to overcome.