Previewing the Preview: The SEC's 2013 Nonconference Schedules are Actually Fairly Strong

Streeter Lecka

If your complaint about the SEC is that they don't play a strong nonconference schedule, you're going to have to find a new line of criticism in 2013

As we move toward our annual preview series -- which will this year be called "SEC 2013," because that's what it is, and will hopefully kick off next week -- I took some time over the last couple of days to start sketching out each team's season. And part of that is writing out each team's schedule, then figuring out which team is going to win each of those games.

This year, I noticed something as I started with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, etc. (I started with the West.) Other BCS teams from outside the SEC started showing up. And not just of the first-week neutral site variety. Arkansas will travel to Rutgers for its fourth game. Auburn starts out playing Washington State. Ole Miss goes to Texas. Florida renews its on-again, off-again rivalry at Miami (FL). And I could go on.

That seemed to run a little bit counter to the constant refrain we hear from fans outside the SEC that our teams don't play the kind of stout nonconference competition that their teams play. So let's take a look at 11 schedules, arranged at random. There are four SEC schedules, two each from the B1G, Pac-12 and ACC (one per division), and one from the Big 12. I didn't make much of an effort to "find" these teams, just picked teams that could win each division or conference. See if you can guess which of the four are SEC teams.

Team A Team B Team C Team D Team E Team F Team G Team H Team I Team J Team K
Mid Mid FCS Mid BCS NC vs BCS NC Mid Mid at Conf vs BCS NC vs BCS NC
Mid at BCS NC at BCS NC Mid at Conf at Conf Conf at BCS NC Mid FCS Mid
at BCS NC Conf BCS NC BCS NC Conf Mid Mid Mid FCS at Mid Mid
FCS at Conf Conf FCS at BCS NC Conf at BCS NC at Conf at Conf Midm Conf
Conf Conf at Conf Conf Conf Mid Conf Conf Conf at Conf at Conf
at Conf at Conf at Conf at Conf at Conf at Conf vs Conf at Conf at Conf Conf at Conf
Conf at Conf Conf at Conf at Conf Conf at Conf at Conf Conf Conf Conf
Conf vs Conf Conf Conf at Conf Conf Conf Conf Conf Conf at Conf
at Conf Conf at Conf at Conf Conf Conf at Conf at Conf at Conf at Conf FCS
at Conf at Conf Conf Conf Conf at Conf Conf Conf Conf at Conf at Conf
Conf FCS at Conf at Conf FCS FCS at Conf Conf Mid Conf Conf
at Conf BCS NC Conf Conf BCS NC at Conf at Conf at Conf at BCS NC at Conf Conf

So, you got it? No peeking yet. The answers are the in the next paragraph.

The SEC teams are B, E, F and K. The entire list goes: (A) Ohio State, (B) Florida, (C) Oregon, (D) Nebraska, (E) South Carolina, (F) Alabama, (G) Oklahoma, (H) UCLA, (I) FSU, (J) Virginia Tech, (K) LSU.

The point of this exercise is not to say that the SEC's nonconference schedules are far superior to the other BCS leagues' nonconference schedules. Nor is it to say that the SEC's nonconference schedules are as strong as they should be. It is to say that there's not a great deal of difference between the conferences. There might have been at one time, but not now. Most teams do one or so BCS nonconference opponents, one or two midmajors and an FCS game.

In fact, if you count the Big East American Athletic Fighting for Its Existence Conference as a BCS conference -- and I will until they're no longer one of the AQ conferences -- every SEC team will play at least one BCS nonconference opponent this year. (Texas A&M is helped out by the fact that SMU is joining the American Athletic this year.) Three (Florida, Georgia and South Carolina) are facing two BCS schools from outside the SEC, and South Carolina will actually play three now that UCF has entered the American. And while it's still a MAC opponent, Vanderbilt will go to New England to play UMass this year.

So let's put the "SEC has weak nonconference schedules" meme to rest this year. It might have been true at one point and might yet be true in the future, but it's just not the case in 2013.

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