Friday, October 5, 2012

Somebody in SEC Is Going to Have to Lose

Is the SEC a great con or the real deal?

That question is posed nearly every season and in the past six years the SEC always claimed the high ground at the end of the year. But this gets repeated every year because of the absolute sham of a schedule most SEC powers play.

Five SEC teams are ranked in the top nine in the latest simulated BCS standings, very impressive indeed. Then take a look at whom they got on their respective non-conference schedules:
Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, Western Carolina (No. 1 Alabama), North Texas, Idaho, Towson (No. 3 LSU), Buffalo, Florida Atlantic (again?), Georgia Southern (No. 4 Georgia), East Carolina, UAB, Wofford (No. 6 South Carolina), Bowling Green, UL-Lafayette, Jacksonville State (No. 9 Florida).

None of these are BCS conference teams, and each school faces at least one FCS team. Not exactly a murder's row, is it?

At least Alabama and LSU have played - and resoundingly beaten - the one BCS conference foe they each have on their nonconference schedules. And Michigan and Washington look like competitive teams in their respective conferences. But how legit are the three SEC East frontrunners, since each of their one BCS nonconference game won't take place until the end of the regular season?

We'll get some ideas this Saturday, even if they still lead to simply a circular argument. Two major SEC conference games will finally create some separation at the top of the SEC, as four of those five top-ranked teams go head-to-head.

First up, LSU visits the Swamp (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) in perhaps the most important game to-date for the Gators in the post-Urban Meyer era. Florida might be 4-0, but it's not beaten a ranked team and has looked listless and vulnerable in some of its wins. The Tigers have been even less impressive aside from their home rout of the Huskies.

In the short term, this game is more important for LSU. A loss might effectively end the Tigers' hopes of a return trip to the BCS title game, a bitter disappointment for a team that was ranked No. 1 in some preseason polls. But in the longer view, this game will be a huge referendum on the Will Muschamp regime at Florida.

A loss to LSU will instantly squash all the "Florida is back!" talk and consign it as just another also-ran in the SEC. But a victory not only sets the Gators up for a promising run the rest of the season - Florida will have just one more true road game at the end of the season at Florida State after next week's game at Vandy - it will give Muschamp the breathing room he needs from the fickle Florida faithful to restore the program to the heights established by Steve Spurrier.


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