Mississippi State has avoided playing a BCS conference team as a non-conference opponent for the past 3 years, and after this season that number will be 4.
MSU Athletic Director Scott Stricklin defended the Bulldogs scheduling preferences by saying that State has an incredibly tough conference schedule.
“Our overall strength of schedule, if you look at the computer rankings, I think is usually pretty high.”
Not only that, but Phil Steele has Mississippi State’s 2012 schedule ranked as the 38th toughest in the country. **State fans will argue that this should be enough to prove their worth even though Steele also has 10 other SEC schools schedules ranked ahead of them, including the current powerhouses of Ole Miss and Kentucky.
Just playing in the SEC and more specifically the SEC West appears to be enough for the Bulldogs for now.
“We’ve had 16 straight sellouts and we have a waiting list for tickets, so whatever we’re doing right now seems to be working from a fan perspective,” Stricklin said. “And we’ve been to two straight bowl games, so it’s working from trying to produce a consistent winner perspective.”
Two straight bowl games? The Bulldogs unwillingness to step out of a comfort zone hurts the SEC overall. Most SEC schools face at least one tough non-conference opponent every year.
Here is how the rest of the conference stepped up last season and what they have scheduled this season.
|Alabama at Penn State||Alabama vs Michigan|
|Arkansas vs Texas A&M||Arkansas vs Rutgers|
|Auburn vs Clemson||Auburn vs Clemson|
|Florida vs Florida State||Florida at Florida State|
|Georgia vs Boise State – while not a BCS team, still a GOOD team||Georgia vs Georgia Tech|
|Georgia vs Georgia Tech||Kentucky at Louisville|
|Kentucky vs Louisville||LSU vs Washington|
|LSU vs Oregon||Missouri vs Arizona State|
|LSU at West Virginia||Missouri vs Syracuse|
|Ole Miss vs BYU – good enough program||Ole Miss vs Texas|
|South Carolina vs Clemson||South Carolina at Clemson|
|Tennessee vs Cincinnati||Tennessee vs NC State|
|Vanderbilt vs Connecticut||Vanderbilt at Wake Forest|
|Vanderbilt at Wake Forest|
The exception this season is Texas A&M, who would normally be playing Arkansas out of conference but will now be facing them in the SEC West.
Now why is it that Mississippi State is afraid to schedule BCS conference opponents outside of the SEC? From 2006 to 2009, the Bulldogs have faced only one non-SEC BCS opponent and the last time the Bulldogs beat a non-SEC BCS team was Oklahoma State in 1999.
Not only that, the Bulldogs schedules through 2016 do not contain any BCS schools outside of the SEC.
“When the day comes when strength of schedule is used to determine – I guess it’s kind of used right now in the BCS formula – when we get to the point where that’s a concern for us, we’re going to make sure we take care of that piece of it,” said Stricklin.
Yes, Mississippi State will face a decent in-state school in Southern Miss in 2014 and 2015, but the Golden Eagles are not in a BCS conference.
The SEC proves to be the toughest conference year in and year out, but when schools don’t face one non-conference BCS opponent, it doesn’t seem to help those arguments.
Cupcakes taste good.
** Phil Steele’s 2012 overall strength of schedule rankings for SEC – 2. Ole Miss, 5. Florida, 8. Texas A&M, 10. Kentucky, 13. South Carolina, 17. Auburn, 18. Arkansas, 19. Missouri, 28. Alabama, 29. LSU, 38. Mississippi State, 46. Tennessee.
UPDATE: Apologies to Bulldog nation, Mississippi State did face Georgia Tech in 2009. Make that two years, 3 after this season and 7 after 2016. Carry on.