The truth about the SEC

Though proponents of the Southeastern Conference brag that they are without doubt the toughest conference in the land and are ready to prove it anywhere, anytime; I have done a little research and come to a rather stunning conclusion.  Despite the conference's reputation as the power league, this boast is a load of horse manure.  After reading a recent post on the Internet about the horrible weekend for the SEC teams who played away games, I began to do a little digging.  What my research uncovered surprised – even shocked me.  Truly.  What I found was that despite bragging they are the best league and prepared to play anyone, the teams in the SEC rarely play a game outside of their region.  When they do, the results are mixed at best and embarrassing at worst. 

I have listed the 12 SEC teams below along with the number of games they have played outside of their region since 1991.  The score of the individual games as well as the composite record during that period is provided.  The states I have included in the "SEC region" are those in the Southeast United States – Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

SEC West

Alabama – Alabama ventured outside of the deep South only one time between 2001 and 1991.  They were rewarded with a 35-24 defeat by UCLA in 2000.  The prideful Tide reflects a 0-1 mark outside the Southeast since 1991.  I would not count them out this weekend against Oklahoma, but Norman is a tough place to walk out of with a victory for the visiting team.

Arkansas – The Razorbacks started the decade in the Southwest Conference, joining the SEC officially in 1992.  In 1991, they played at TCU, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M and lost all three contests (by the respective scores of 22-21, 38-21, and 13-3).  They played at SMU in 1993 (winning 10-6), 1995 (losing 17-14), and 1999 (winning 26-0).  They played in the Cotton Bowl (once the traditional bowl for the champions of the Southwest Conference) in Dallas twice between 1991 and 2001.  Arkansas defeated Texas 27-6 in 1999, but they lost last year to Oklahoma 10-3.  Arkansas' other foray outside the region ended unhappily for them with a 31-14 loss to UNLV in the Las Vegas Bowl.  Their record outside of their geographic region since 1991 is a woeful 3-6.

Auburn – This past weekend, USC 24-17 edged out Auburn on the scoreboard in Los Angeles.  It was the first time they had played USC since the 1930s!  The only other games Auburn played outside of its area was in 1991 when it managed a 14-10 victory over Texas in Austin and last season when they lost to Syracuse 31-14.  Auburn stands at 1-2 within the timeframe we are examining.

Louisiana State University – Louisiana State has not won a game outside of the Southeastern region since 1987 when they defeated Texas A&M at College Station.  Since 1991, LSU has been defeated three times by Texas A&M (33-17 in 1995, 24-0 in 1993, and 45-7 in 1991).  They also lost in South Bend to Notre Dame, 39-36 in 1998.  LSU was 0-4 when playing outside the Southeast, and their record stands at an even more embarrassing 1-6 since 1987…

Mississippi – The Rebels played SMU in 1998 and won 48-41, and they defeated Marshall at the Motor City Bowl in 1997 34-31 (the same year Marshall jumped from I-AA to I-A).  Though the teams were not exactly the best on the block, Ole Miss stands at 2-0.

Mississippi State – Since Sherrill took over in 1991, Mississippi State is 70-57-1 (not bad considering their all-time mark is still under .500 as a program).  Sherrill and his boys have played a total of 6 games (including bowls) outside of the Southeast.  In 2000, they defeated BYU in Provo 44-28 (not an easy task for any team).  In 1998, they lost to Oklahoma State 42-23 and were crushed by Texas 38-11 in the Cotton Bowl.  The Bulldogs defeated Baylor 30-21 in 1995 (an upset considering Baylor went 7-4 that year while MSU managed only a 3-8 mark).  In 1992 Mississippi State defeated Texas in Austin 28-10.  Finally, last weekend Oregon took them out behind the woodshed and wore the ‘Dogs out to the tune of a 36-13 beating.  MSU stands at 3-3.

SEC East

Florida – They have scheduled only one team outside of the Southeast since 1991.  Not coincidentally it was in 1991, and they lost that game to Syracuse 38-21.  The other contest they played outside of the Southeast was the 1995 Fiesta Bowl against Nebraska.  Who can forget that game?  That was perhaps the most dominating game I have ever seen by a college football team.  Nebraska won by a margin of 62-24, but the Cornhuskers could have scored 100 had they not had pity on the overmatched SEC champion Gators.  Thus, the mighty Gators are 0-2 outside their region since George H. W. Bush was in the White House. 

Georgia – They have not played a scheduled game outside of their geographic region in the Southeast since at least 1991.  In fact, the last time Georgia scheduled anyone out of their region was in 1967 when Vince Dooley took the Bulldogs to Houston and lost 15-14.  The only possible game you could point to as outside of the Southeast since 1991 is their bowl game in 2000 in Hawaii where they beat a sub-par (6-5 that season before the bowl) Virginia team 37-14.  I guess you could say that leaves them at 1-0. 

Kentucky – They schedule a regional game each season with Indiana and for the last 11 years are 3-3 playing the Hoosiers in Indiana.  They also played at Cincinnati twice, losing both times.  For the decade, the Wildcats were 3-5 against rather questionable teams.  However, since Kentucky itself has never been a football power either – they deserve some credit.  Furthermore, they appear to have more guts than Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Auburn because they are willing to play "away" games outside of the Southeast.  3-5 stinks, but at least they have some guts.

Tennessee – Since 1991, Tennessee has played a number of games outside the Southeastern region with decidedly mixed results.  In 1998, they won 34-33 at Syracuse on a now infamous call (absolutely horrible officiating) that was brought up again on national television by commentators just the other day.  In 1997, they defeated UCLA 30-24, avenging an earlier loss (25-23) from 1994.  They have played Notre Dame in South Bend twice in the last 12 seasons, and have walked away with victories both times (35-34 in 1991 and 28-18 in 2001).  In four bowl contests outside of the Southeastern region (which means they give up the home field advantage routinely enjoyed by Southern teams), they are only 1-3.  They were humiliated in the 2000 Cotton Bowl by Kansas State, 35-21, and embarrassed by Nebraska in 1999's Fiesta Bowl, 31-21.  Don't be fooled by just looking at the deceptively close scores because if you watched them, Tennessee was never even in either game.  They did manage a national title against Florida State in Tempe in 1998 (winning 23-16), though it should be mentioned that Florida State was starting their third string quarterback…  Finally, Penn State crushed Tennessee 42-17 in Tempe in 1991.  For the decade, Tennessee was 5-4 in games outside of their region.

South Carolina – Though they only joined the SEC in 1992, since we are going back to 1991 for the rest of the teams, we might as well for the Gamecocks as well.  In 1991, they played @West Virginia, losing 21-16.  In the last 11+ seasons, they are 0-1 outside the Southeast.

Vanderbilt – In 1991, they played at Syracuse (losing 37-10) and at Army (winning 37-10).  In 1994, they played at Cincinnati and won 34-24.  In 1995, they played at Notre Dame and were shellacked 41-0.  In 1996, they played North Texas and won 19-7, and in 1997 they played Northern Illinois and won 17-7.  1998 saw them play Texas Christian and lose 19-16.  In 2001 they played Middle Tennessee State in Indiana (don't ask me), and lost 37-28.  So, in the last 11+ seasons, Vanderbilt is 4-4 outside the Southeast with its only wins being against a 2-8-1 Cincinnati, an 0-11 Northern Illinois, a 5-6 North Texas squad (that lost by a combined score of 107-7 to Texas A&M and Arizona State that same season), and a 4-7 Army team that dropped games to powerhouses like Rutgers and Citadel (not even division I-A). 

Once you sit down and do the math by adding up all of the wins and losses, the vaunted SEC is only 23-34 outside of its geographic region since 1991.  I have to tell you that this shocked me a great deal because like it or not, the Southeastern Conference has had its share of incredible teams this past decade plus.  Florida (pick almost any year), Tennessee in 1998 (they did go undefeated even if it took some serious luck), Alabama (91-94 with a national title in 1992), and even possibly Auburn in 1993 (unbeaten though on probation and ineligible for a bowl).  The bottom line is that home field advantage is critical for any conference, and that the SEC is not only human when forced to play without that advantage (in bowls as well)…they are mediocre.  Seeing these kinds of numbers for a league like the Big Ten, Pac Ten, ACC, Big East, and even the Big Twelve would not be all that amazing considering the amount of negative publicity each has received in recent years.  

However, what amazes me is they have managed only 24 wins in 58 games when not enjoying the home field advantage (that is a 40% win to loss ratio).  Understand, I do not think the Big Ten would fare much better, and it might even fare worse.  What is baffling is that while the Big Ten and other major conferences have been repeatedly ripped by everyone with a pen or a computer as over-hyped, under-performing leagues, the Southeastern Conference has escaped the cries of "OVER-RATED" that have dogged everyone else.

Perhaps it is time for some of the statisticians and media types to take note instead of merely blathering on about how great the SEC is and how tough they are to play at any location…  Do I expect to see that happen (especially with the new TV contract between CBS and the SEC)?  Nahhhhhhh.  That might mean that the talking heads have something in their noggins besides air. 

23-34 since 1991…


What is that old saying?  I believe it goes something like, "The Truth Hurts."

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