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Wednesday, February 13, 2013
SEC should follow Big Ten schedule plan

By Edward Aschoff

There's no question that the Big Ten has been playing catchup to the SEC for the better part of the past decade. While the SEC has claimed seven straight national championships, the Big Ten has watched as its football brand has been hurt and taunted along the way.

The SEC has spent plenty of time looking down on its northern brothers, but the Big Ten is planning something that the SEC should seriously consider following. Actually, the league shouldn't just consider it, it should just do it.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said on his radio show that Big Ten athletic directors have agreed to stop scheduling FCS opponents.

You hear that, SEC? For once in your life -- and I know this sounds bizarre -- follow the Big Ten's lead. Rid your schedules of all FCS opponents! Sure, feasting on cupcakes hasn't hurt the SEC's national championship dominance in the past seven years, but with a playoff coming next year, strength of schedule will finally matter again.

Now, the SEC champion probably won't be left out of the four-team playoff, even with an FCS darling on the schedule, but if SEC commissioner Mike Slive wants to get two teams in the playoff (and recent history tells us it's very possible), he'll need his teams to beef up their nonconference slates. You just can't risk it with a human selection committee dissecting everything about a team. Will an 11-1 SEC team not in the SEC title game be left out over the ACC champ? It might with an FCS team on its schedule. And maybe a Big Ten team slips in past an SEC team because it doesn't have that FCS team on its schedule and the SEC team does. That would really sting, I'm sure, so there's no point in taking the risk.

Also, let's be honest, FCS opponents don't bring in fans or viewers. We saw attendance numbers go down in college football last fall and scheduling cream puffs doesn't help. Plus, fans and selfish media members like myself are owed more exciting, high-profile games involving more competitive non-SEC opponents.

Slive won't ever let the SEC get caught looking in the college football arms race, but here's a chance to stay ahead. Better matchups on the field attract more people and will help the SEC even more come playoff time.

So, the SEC, which has made a killing with its not-so-tough nonconference scheduling tactics, should actually follow the Big Ten here and end future relationships with FCS opponents.