This is going to sound really nasty bearing in mind that this is a blog on the SEC and the fact that we are read by SEC fans, but we’ve been looking for the ‘juiciest’ (trust me, there aren’t very many) quotes from the SEC Media Days, and we struggled to get anything that kept us particularly awake.

However, like the ghost that haunts us and never seems to give up, we couldn’t help but think: Why on earth did NO-ONE ask either Commissioner Slive or any of the SEC head coaches about Non-Conference scheduling?

Here is why: When the 2014 play-offs come along and the Committee -whoever they might be – are deciding ‘strength of schedule’, they hopefully will not just think about how good a team’s in-conference schedule is.

You see, you can’t decide in-conference schedules: They are given to you year in, year out. There are no choices. The ADs don’t negotiate them. You play who’s in front you, be it non-conference, fixed clashes, or one non-conference team.

But you CAN decide out-of-conference schedules. In his press conference, Mark Richt basically said that powers-that-be at Georgia preferred a joke non-conference home schedule rather than play BCS conference teams year in, year out. “After living it out a little bit, went to Arizona State, Oklahoma State, those are long road trips. It takes a lot out of you just to prepare for a team like that, then it also takes it out of you on the traveling part of it. All of a sudden you’re flying home in the middle of the night, your guys are trying to find a place on the floor on the plane to sleep. You get behind the eight ball that way. I love having seven home games.”

OK, Mark (and Nick Saban, who refused to play a home-and-home against Wisconsin recently), so what happens if 2014 comes along, and you are still playing the likes of Buffalo, New Mexico, and Coastal Carolina? Are you going to argue that you’ve got one big non-conference game of the season and brush the three terrible games under the table? And what happens – and this could well happen with Georgia Tech (or in South Carolina’s case, Clemson) – if the rivals are having a down year? Won’t that make the philosophy of ‘play nobody’ look a little stupid?

And we know: You Alabama and LSU fans will look at us and say: “Heck! We scheduled Michigan and Oregon in successive seasons! We’re great!”. Actually, you’re not that much better, either. Here’s why: It was on NEUTRAL TURF, which takes out home field advantage. What makes college football so great are the games when a No.1 school walks into their big-time rival. Just ask Missouri about the time they hosted No.1 Ohio State, or LSU fans about the time when they went into West Virginia. Or the home-and-home rivalries that continue with Clemson and South Carolina, or Georgia Tech and Georgia? Are you telling me that the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in a neutral venue is more special than a road win at a hated rival? And more’s the case, what happens to your season ticket holders? I can bet that the tens of thousands of Alabama season ticket holders would rather see their team play Michigan in person in Tuscaloosa that in Dallas, Texas – and they would probably LOVE travelling to The Big House for the return game in 2013 (Alabama fans inform us that the Penn State home-and-home was a great experience).

The Bottom Line: SEC teams NEED to start playing big-time non-conference rivals (two if possible), because if they don’t, they’ll get punished by The Committee come 2014. Or they should.

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