SEC Strength of Schedule

AUBURN AL - SEPTEMBER 18: Head coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers leads his team onto the field to face the Clemson Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18 2010 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Every SEC schedule is tough, but not all are created equal. Which teams you play in cross-divisional games, which teams you play at home and on the road, and how many tough teams you play in consecutive weeks has a huge bearing on the outcome of a particular season. With the high level of competition in the SEC, getting a "lighter" schedule can make a good team look great - or it can make a good team look mediocre if it's on the harder side.

To do this, I have to create a set of power rankings. I won't try to create my own and pass them off as the truth - so I'll average out Chris Low (ESPN) and Phil Steele's. Here they are...

*the first number is where ESPN has them, the second is where Steele has them ranked (page 331 of his mag).

1. LSU (1, 1)
2. Alabama (2, 2)
3. Georgia (4, 4)
4. Florida (6, 3)
4. South Carolina (3, 6)
6. Arkansas (5, 5)
7. Auburn (7, 9)
7. Missouri (8, 8)
7. Tennessee (9, 7)
10. Mississippi State (10, 10)
11. Texas A&M (11, 11)
12. Vanderbilt (12, 12)
13. Kentucky (13, 14)
13. Ole Miss (14, 13)

If you need a look at the schedule, here's a link to a helmet one. Now that we've determined who the best teams are going into the year...next up we need to come up with a number to find out who straight up plays the toughest teams. So I'll just add up the above rank of all the teams they play and average it out. Here are the results (lower the number, tougher the sked)...

1. Texas A&M - 6.25
2. Ole Miss - 6.5
3. Kentucky - 6.62
3. South Carolina - 6.62
5. Tennessee - 6.875
6. Missouri - 7
7. LSU - 7.125
8. Auburn - 7.25
8. Florida - 7.25
8. Vanderbilt - 7.25
11. Mississippi State - 7.5
12. Arkansas - 7.625
13. Alabama - 7.75
14. Georgia - 8.375

Now for the toughest road schedules (didn't count the cocktail party either way)...

1. Ole Miss - 3
2. Alabama - 5.25
3. Kentucky - 6
4. Missouri - 6.5
5. LSU - 7
6. Mississippi State - 7.25
7. South Carolina - 7.5
7. Tennessee - 7.5
9. Georgia - 7.75
10. Texas A&M - 8
10. Arkansas - 8
12. Vanderbilt - 9
13. Auburn - 9.25
14. Florida - 10

Finally, how many times each team plays back-to-back weeks (not games, but weeks) against a team that Vegas has set the under/under to at least 7.5 wins in 2012. My reasoning for this is that if Vegas expects these teams to win at least 3 SEC games and make it to a bowl game - they are a tough out. The point of placing emphasis on the back-to-backs is because of (1) how hard it is to get up emotionally in consecutive weeks which leads to let-downs, (2) the physical toll of playing tough SEC teams right after one another, and (3) the 'look-ahead' factor. For this I subtracted one point for every time they played a back-to-back.

1. Kentucky -5
2. Ole Miss -4
2. Alabama -4
4. Arkansas -3
4. Florida -3
4. LSU -3
4. Mississippi State -3
4. South Carolina -3
4. Texas A&M -3
10. Tennessee -2
10. Vanderbilt -2
12. Georgia -1
12. Missouri -1
14. Auburn 0

Now I'll add up the schedule difficulty and road schedule, then subtract the back-to backs to get the final score. Here's my list ranked from toughest to easiest...

1. Ole Miss - 5.5
2. Kentucky - 7.62
3. Alabama - 9
4. South Carolina - 11.12
5. LSU - 11.125
6. Texas A&M - 11.25
7. Mississippi State - 11.75
8. Tennessee - 12.375
9. Arkansas - 12.625
10. Missouri - 13
11. Florida - 14.25
11. Vanderbilt - 14.25
13. Georgia - 15.125
14. Auburn - 16.25

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