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College Football Analysis: Is Georgia's Schedule Easier than South Carolina's?

Two weeks ago Coach Spurrier was quoted on the Finebaum Show saying the reason Georgia is being picked to win the East is the Bulldogs have an easier schedule.  "…they got the easiest schedule, so that's why they got picked.  They play Ole Miss.  We play LSU."

This coming season most people seem to agree Georgia's schedule appears easier than South Carolina's schedule.  Extra attention is being paid to the schedules because the regular rotation has been changed.  The addition of Texas A&M and Missouri required the cross divisional schedules to be changed, and that change benefitted Georgia.

South Carolina was scheduled to play Mississippi State, Arkansas and LSU.  Georgia was scheduled to play Auburn, Ole Miss and Alabama.  South Carolina had the weakest team on their schedule eliminated, and Georgia had their strongest team eliminated.  Obviously that didn't sit well with Spurrier.

This sudden schedule switch along with USC defeating everyone in the SEC East but not being crowned East champion last season prompted Coach Spurrier to suggest that perhaps only divisional games should be counted.  His suggestion was roundly rejected at SEC meetings, and many assumed his sole purpose was to avoid 2011's result.  Many others, especially large parts of the Bulldog fanbase, thought the suggestion was barely more than whining from a coach whose team couldn't get the job done on the field.

Perhaps Spurrier was onto something.  South Carolina played a harder schedule than Georgia in 2011.  Not many people argue otherwise.  South Carolina also played a harder schedule in 2010.  That's not often brought up or acknowledged.  It was also USC who played a harder cross divisional schedule in 2009.  In fact, the Gamecocks have never played an easier schedule than Georgia in any season Steve Spurrier has been Carolina's coach.  Never.

It's not an arguable point; the numbers bear it out.  The inequities in South Carolina's and Georgia's schedules have always been the result of cross-divisional foes.  Both teams always play every other team in the East.  The difference has been Georgia always plays teams having less successful seasons out of the West.

To evaluate the schedule difficulty, one cannot look at overall record or even conference record.  Both metrics reflect too many differences in schedule to be an accurate measure of the teams.  The most telling way to compare teams within a division is to compare their intra-divisonal records.  The SEC West teams play a round robin format.  Their records in those games is as good a proxy as exists for ranking them against one another.

We took the total intra-divionsal wins for Georgia's and South Carolina's western divisional opponents and aggregated them.

Every year under Steve Spurrier (except 2008) South Carolina plays teams with more intra-divsional wins than Georgia does.  Put another way: South Carolina has played a harder conference schedule than Georgia every year of the Steve Spurrier era.  In 2008, the lone exception to the rule, the two teams played an even schedule, more or less.

Every year South Carolina's schedule is as hard or harder.  That's not one year, or two.  It's over the course of seven years.

Now, the Gamecocks don't really have a complaint with the SEC office for these past years.  The schedule was drawn years in advance before the quality of teams could be reasonably predicted.  It looks like South Carolina has been incredibly unlucky.

The complaint they do have is with 2012's schedule.  It appears Georgia is being given an easier schedule when the quality of teams can be reasonably forecast.  What irks USC more is that this happens almost every year.  Perhaps Coach Spurrier isn't as crazy as most think when he says only divisional games should be counted.

A few points:

* The most wins a teams opponents could total is 12.

* The fewest wins is 3.

* Neither South Carolina nor Georgia has ever played opponents with 12 total wins.

* South Carolina game closest in 2010 when its opponents had 11 wins, and 2007 when its opponents had 10.

* Georgia has played the easiest possible schedule.  They played it in 2011 when their Western opponents combined for 3 total wins.

* Georgia opponents: 45-60 42.857%

* South Carolina opponents: 62-43 59.048%

* Hardest year for South Carolina was 2010, year they won the East.

Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.


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