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How Does USC's Out-of-Conference Schedule Stack Up against the Rest of the SEC?

Streeter Lecka

Interesting breakdown here of the SEC's out-of-conference schedules. (H/T Get the Picture.) A couple of things jump out at me. First of all, outside of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, no one in the SEC has what could be described as a truly daunting OOC schedule. Many teams only have one decent OOC opponent, and some have absolute cake walks lined up. That's not to blame anyone. SEC schools have good overall strength-of-schedules regardless of OOC scheduling, and if a school thinks it's defensible to impose a bunch of games against Sun Belt and FCS programs on its fan base, then I suppose that's its right. One can certainly understand why a school like Vandy or Kentucky, for whom any bowl bid is a solid achievement, might want to include some built-in wins in the schedule. It's a bit harder to make that kind of case for Alabama, but then again, it's been reported in the past that the Tide's schedule isn't always its fault. Understandably, good OOC opponents aren't exactly beating down the doors to get their teeth kicked in by Saban's team.

On the subject of Carolina's schedule, I think a case could easily be made that the Gamecocks face the toughest OOC slate of the bunch. Georgia is getting a lot of credit in the writer's view because its games against Clemson and GT are on the road. While Georgia's game at Clemson is certainly a premier OOC matchup, there's not really any reason to believe that the game at Georgia Tech is going to be a barn burner. The Dawgs routinely pack a ton of fans into Bobby Dodd stadium for this game, so calling it a road game is a bit misleading. Regardless, GT simply doesn't have what it takes to make things interesting against a good Georgia team. It's been a few years now since the Yellow Jackets have made this game interesting. On the other hand, while I definitely think it's a game we should win, UNC may have a pretty good team. On the subject of the ACC-SEC matchups, then, I think USC and UGA are about even, with UGA getting points for playing Clemson on the road, and USC getting points for playing UNC instead of GT. The tiebreaker is the Gamecocks' road game against UCF, which makes Carolina the only school in the SEC to play three BCS-level OOC opponents. Florida also plays a good OOC schedule with a road game at Miami and a home game against likely ACC favorite Florida St., but again, it's two BCS-level opponents to Carolina's three, although one could make a case that playing Toledo is very comparable to playing UCF. In any event, because of a very impressive OOC slate, Carolina should have an excellent overall strength-of-schedule rating despite avoiding the best teams from the SEC West.