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USC’s Anyone, Anywhere Attitude

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Guest Post by Zack Jerome/Special to LAist

This morning ESPN.com posted a chart containing some very telling team-by-team statistics that certainly confirm a belief many West coast college football fans have had for years: the SEC is in the “cupcake” business when it comes to out of conference opponents.

The chart is essentially a simple listing of nonconference games versus ranked opponents. Bear in mind the vast difference between a team ranked 25th and a team ranked 5th. This list basically is a reading of how many times a team voluntarily challenged themselves when they didn’t have to.

USC comes in with an impressive six games against ranked out of conference foes. That means more than once a year, USC schedules a game more difficult than they need to. By contrast, Florida has scheduled three such games. LSU, for all Les Miles’ defamation of the Pac-10, has scheduled two. Texas has notched three and Oklahoma has notched two. Ohio State, if you were curious, has logged three of them.

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While teams like UCLA (5), Washington (7), Lousiana Tech (9), and Fresno State (7) have out scheduled USC, there are a few dubious differences to be noted. The most obvious would be that none of the aforementioned teams have honest National Championship aspirations, at least not in the last five years. Additionally, for teams like Louisiana Tech, these games are easier to come by as the ranked team they are scheduling usually gets a home game against a weaker team out of the transaction. What does Louisiana Tech get for taking a beating? Money. Cold hard cash.

The SEC, more so than any other conference, hides behind their claim that their conference schedule is the most grueling. Therefore, they need to schedule the menu from Sprinkles in order to not unfairly squander their chances of winning a National Championship. This is laughable. Besides the “truism” that the champion should be able to put down all comers, scheduling Red Velvet State and the University of Carrot Cake is just flat out bad for the fan.

USC fans get treated to games against Ohio State, Arkansas, Auburn, Boston College, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech on a yearly basis. If you happen to be an SEC fan and are reading this, there will be a moment where you will argue Notre Dame has been down, VaTech fell from grace of late, and so on and so forth. Before you do so, would you mind telling me what game on Florida’s schedule this year you are more excited for, their opener with Charleston Southern or their week two bout with Troy?

Some SEC apologists will also claim that schedules are made years in advance. Fair enough. That said, do you think Les Miles and LSU thought Louisiana-Lafayette would be a Sugar Bowl contender when they scheduled the game? Probably not.

It’s easy to admire Pete Carroll, Mike Garrett and USC’s desire to play top flight opponents. I wish more teams would. Credit is due to other Pac-10 teams for going east to find some tough games, but in the end, only USC has so much to lose. When USC runs out onto the field at the Horseshoe in a few weeks to take on Ohio State, remember that great college football is a privilege, not a right.

We’re all very lucky to have Pete Carroll doing his best to make us forget that we were forgotten by the NFL.