Whatever Les Miles says about the issue, it’s going to come across as whining.
But at this point, who cares?
So I’ll say it for him: The SEC schedule during what the league has termed a “bridge” format to accommodate the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M has stacked the odds squarely against LSU.
Yes, you’re supposed to play the schedule you’re dealt. But if you’re looking at it from the LSU perspective, you can’t help but wonder if somebody’s doing some dealing from the bottom of the deck.
Last season, the Tigers drew Florida and South Carolina from the East, a pair of top-10 teams in the final polls. Next season, they get Georgia and Florida, both of whom will start the 2013 season in the top 10.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s opponents in the East last season were Missouri and Tennessee, a pair of teams that managed a combined three SEC wins. In 2013, the Crimson Tide get Kentucky and Tennessee, who combined for one SEC victory a year ago. That one win came when Tennessee beat Kentucky.
What’s more, Texas A&M also avoids Florida, Georgia and South Carolina from the East next season, although the Aggies did open the 2012 SEC season against the Gators.
“I really don’t care what they do as long as they come up with a scheduling formula that’s balanced,” Miles said. “There has to be a way to do that.”
The real rub is that LSU faces Florida every season, which obviously isn’t ideal for the Gators, either. They’re permanent cross-divisional opponents.
And as Miles correctly points out, nobody else in the league is going to be opposed to those two teams playing every year. One of them has to lose, and they’ve both been top-10 teams more times than not over the past seven to eight years.
Whereas Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia are long-standing rivalries and filled with tradition, there’s no real tradition with Florida-LSU, at least not the kind of tradition that would make it one of those “must-save” games.
The league plans to have a long-term scheduling format in place starting with the 2014 season. The 2012 and 2013 seasons are a short-term fix, to make due after Missouri and Texas A&M joined the league.
It’s doubtful that the “permanent” cross-divisional opponent will go away when the regular rotation kicks in for the 2014 season. But the landscape has changed with Missouri and Texas A&M joining the league (and will change again when further expansion invariably occurs), so it might be time to go the route of two rotating cross-divisional opponents instead of one permanent opponent and one rotating opponent.
Miles even said he wouldn’t be staunchly opposed to going to nine conference games down the road.
“I’m for doing whatever we can to make it balanced for all teams,” he said.