The Folly of ‘SEC Bye Week’

by JDCam 11.30.14

Thanksgiving. A time of gratitude, family, great food and of course a glut of ever clumsily constructed nationally televised sporting events designed to limit family conversation on Thanksgiving Day. A prime example of this is ‘The Battle for Atlantis’ an 8 team college basketball tournament in the Bahamas played over three days designed to give some of the nation’s top programs an early season litmus test which has beefed up a typically dull non-conference schedule. These mini-tournaments have been affectionately dubbed as part of ‘feast week’ on ESPN in 2014.

While college basketball tries to increase its early season relevance and viewership this weekend is a HUGE weekend of college football, rivalry week. This week sees a number of critical matchups which will impact the formation of the NCAA selection committee’s inaugural football ‘final four’ including the Iron Bowl, The Egg Bowl, no 11 Arizona vs no 13 Arizona State, no 6 Ohio State vs Michigan, no 16 Georgia Tech vs no 9 Georgia and even the resurrection of a Minnesota vs Wisconsin rivalry that has been meaningless in recent years but this year pits the 18th ranked Gophers against the 14th ranked Badgers, with a spot in the BIG10 Championship game on the line. This is what a week in college football SHOULD look like, conferences on the line with the fiercest rivalries being played out. An amazing weekend resulted.

Having lived in BIG10 country (Ann Arbor) for the last 5 years before moving to Dallas this fall, there is ONE undeniable truth about college football which BIG10 fans are painfully reminded of year after year from the latter part of November through early January…The SEC rules the college football roost. Since the National Championship Game became a named entity and not simply a rotation of the major BCS bowl games in 2006 an SEC team has been represented in or won the NCG EVERY SINGLE YEAR (incidentally winning 7 of those 8 contests). This is news to no one, part of an ever perpetuating recruiting beat down the SEC puts on every other conference, year after year (SEC teams landed 49 of ESPNs top 100 football recruits in 2014)

The SEC does have one practice that has emerged in recent years that is a discredit to their teams, fans, school and the premier college football conference in the country. I like to call it SEC bye week. In week 13, the weekend before rivalry week, some of the top teams in the SEC pitted their wits against the following stellar opposition. Week 13 matchups included no 1 Alabama vs Western Carolina, no 10 Georgia against Charleston Southern and no 14 Auburn hosting Samford. No, not Stanford, Samford. Unlucky for us I guess. The finest from the Southern Conference and Big South did their part, dutifully showing up, getting resoundingly beaten by absurdly superior opposition and collecting their huge paydays. I have no problem with these teams seizing these amazing opportunities for their players, fans and for their coffers. The SEC needs to step in here and keep non-conference games and sub-par opposition in the first third of the season during tune-up time, where they belong.

Georgia's season ended in disappointment against rival Georgia Tech on Saturday

Georgia’s season ended in disappointment against rival Georgia Tech on Saturday

Alabama came off an incredible 4 week stretch where they put away then no 21 Texas A&M by 59 and followed this up with impressive back to back wins against then no 16 LSU and no 1 MSU, catapulting themselves (deservedly so) to the no 1 ranking in the nation and they follow this amazing stretch up with a 34 point pasting of Western Carolina?! Georgia, coming off their best performance of the season where they ran all over no 9 Auburn, drubbing them 34-7, precede their big rivalry game with Georgia Tech with a 55-9 win over Charleston Southern. Georgia Tech had a bye week but the previous week had impressively dispatched no 19 Clemson 28-6.  Boy did it make the SEC scheduling look foolish this weekend when Georgia Tech topped Georgia in Athens (incidentally the ACC went 4-0 vs the SEC this weekend). No one in their right mind can deny that the SEC is and has been the most dominant and impressive conference in the country for a significant period of time. Have a little respect for the integrity of the season SEC, keep the cupcakes where they belong…in September. Playing these types of games in the penultimate regular season game just makes you look soft, when we all know you’re anything but.

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