With the Southeastern Conference winning seven straight BCS national championships, that incessant “S-E-C” chant has echoed throughout college football every season since 2006.
Florida State was kind enough to end the streak with a 34-31 victory over Auburn last year's title game, but this month's debut of the conference’s new television network once again has “S-E-C” still has ringing in our ears.
Undeniably, the SEC has an impressive collection of football programs with superb traditions and gobs of atmosphere. However, SEC teams habitually counter the degree of difficulty in their top-heavy conference by playing embarrassing non-conference schedules. This season is no different.
No other conference’s upper echelon can compete with the SEC, but as Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops correctly pointed out last year, when conference's are evaluated top to bottom, this gap narrows considerably.
According to a formula from Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, West Virginia and Texas of the Big 12 have the nation’s two most difficult non-conference schedules this season.
Defending national champ FSU will have to earn a second straight crown, playing the fourth most difficult non-conference schedule, which includes an Aug. 30 season-opener against Oklahoma State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Seminoles also have home games against Notre Dame and Florida.
Coming in at No. 5 is Tennessee, the lone SEC team in the top 10 of most difficult schedules. The Volunteers play at Oklahoma on Sept. 13.
According to SB Nation, four of the nation’s top six non-conference schedules this season are in the Big 12 – 1. Texas (North Texas, BYU, UCLA), 2. Iowa State (North Dakota State, at Iowa, Toledo), 3. West Virginia (Alabama, Towson, at Maryland) and 6. Oklahoma State (Florida State, Missouri State, UTSA). This was calculated taking an FBS team's non-conference schedule according to its opponents' average in the 2013 Sagarin ratings.
Former Big 12 member Missouri (South Dakota State, at Toledo, UCF, Indiana) has the only SEC non-conference schedule ranked in the top 10. However, the SEC does boast four of the nation’s five easiest non-conference schedules -- 2 . Vanderbilt (Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern, Old Dominion), 3. Mississippi State (Southern Miss, UAB, at South Alabama, UT-Martin), 4. Alabama (West Virginia, Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss, Western Carolina) and 5. Florida (Idaho, Eastern Michigan, Eastern Kentucky, at Florida State).
Last season, Clemson and Florida State of the Atlantic Coast Conference played the nation’s most difficult non-conference schedules, while the Big 12 came in with No. 5 Texas, No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 Oklahoma State.
2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS