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The East Coast Bias (Part I): Pac-10 v. S.E.C.

As I have said before, I don't believe in the East Coast bias. However, Bruins Nation's Nestor made his disagreement known and now he has offered a thorough explanation of the reasons why.


Bulldog Nation has heard back from Bruins Nation.

Right here, right now, I'm going to tell you . . . go read Nestor's posting on the East Coast bias. I will quote it liberally, but you need to read the whole piece to get the full flavor of it. Nestor makes many good points that deserve our attention and I encourage you to read what he has written in its entirety.

Because he has covered the subject so thoroughly, I anticipate that it will take multiple postings for me to address his points comprehensively. From the outset, I would like to thank Nestor and his readers, who took a reasonable and measured tone in laying out their case without whining or rancor.

Nestor steered clear of the debate over whether the Pac-10 or the S.E.C. is the better conference and I agree with his perspective upon that question. Since some of his readers took the time to confront that subject, though, I believe the topic warrants mentioning, if only to dispense with it before moving on to more substantive and significant considerations.

Admittedly, Arkansas didn't do the pro-S.E.C. argument any favors in the Hogs' game against U.S.C. last year. . . .

One commenter compared the Pac-10's scheduling to the S.E.C.'s, noting that Southern California will play 12 opponents from B.C.S. conferences this season, while, for instance, Georgia will play 10 teams from B.C.S. leagues and one Division I-AA opponent. (I freely concede that there is no excuse for the 'Dawgs ever scheduling a Division I-AA team . . . but, if a B.C.S. conference team is going to schedule such opponents, the least the home team could do is beat them.)

Another commenter said the S.E.C. was overrated, observing:

The likes of Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Florida get to pick on the likes of Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt on a yearly basis. Their nonconference schedule is an absolute joke. . . .

As far as Pac 10 vs. SEC, Pac 10 wins hands down, at least as recent results have shown. I believe over the course of the last several years, the Pac 10 is 8-4 or something like that against SEC schools. I am proud to say that UCLA whooped Alabama not once but twice, once with the Crimson Tide ranked #3 nationally and one with the game in Tuscaloosa.

It is true that the Bruins beat the Crimson Tide in 2000 and 2001. Moreover, it is accurate to state that Alabama was ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll at the time the first of those contests was played.

It is also the case, however, that the Red Elephants' top five ranking did not hold up; in fact, 'Bama went on to post a 3-8 record that year before going 7-5 the next. I hardly think it is a conference point of pride to "whoop" a team that went 10-13 in the two seasons the two leagues faced one another.

All right, so you beat this guy. You know what? So did Louisiana Tech . . . in his best year!

Beyond that, the commenters quoted above are trying to have it both ways. One of the 12 B.C.S. conference opponents U.S.C. will face this season is Arkansas . . . the very squad my alma mater was demeaned for "get[ting] to pick on" "on a yearly basis."

Well, which is it? Does a team get credit for playing the Razorbacks (as the Trojans seem to do) or does a team get criticized for taking on the Hogs (as the Bulldogs seem to do)? It has to be one or the other; it can't be both. That's called cognitive dissonance . . . or, maybe, a West Coast bias.

Furthermore, it is time to put to rest all that business about the S.E.C.'s out-of-conference scheduling being "an absolute joke." Many S.E.C. fans claim that the Pac-10 can't play defense and many Pac-10 fans claim that the S.E.C. grows fat off of weak scheduling. These expressions of long-accepted conventional wisdom, while once true, are true no longer; Pac-10 defenses are better than they are given credit for being and the S.E.C.'s non-conference scheduling is improving.

Besides, can you really argue that the S.E.C.'s "nonconference schedule is an absolute joke" while simultaneously noting that "the Pac 10 is 8-4 or something like that against SEC schools"? If Southeastern Conference teams have taken on Pacific-10 squads with such frequency in recent years, doesn't that indicate that the league's non-conference scheduling is anything but "an absolute joke"?

You must be confusing the S.E.C.'s scheduling with Texas Tech's.

In the 21st century, there have been games pitting Arizona against L.S.U. (in 2003), Arizona State against L.S.U. (in 2005), Oregon against Mississippi State (in 2002 and 2003), Oregon State against L.S.U. (in 2004), Southern California against Auburn (in 2002 and 2003) and Arkansas (in 2005), and U.C.L.A. against Alabama (in 2001). The 2006 season features scheduled clashes between Arkansas and U.S.C., Auburn and Washington State, Louisiana State and Arizona, and California and Tennessee.

Georgia's future schedules are replete with Western opponents and, in the last third of a century, the Volunteers' regular-season slates have included the likes of Cal (in 1977, 1987, and 2006), Oregon State (in 1977 and 1978), Southern California (in 1980 and 1981), U.C.L.A. (in 1974, 1975, 1978, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1994, 1996, and 1997), and Washington State (in 1980, 1982, 1984, 1988, and 1994).

The regular-season schedule has included 13 clashes between Pac-10 teams and S.E.C. squads in a six-year period and Tennessee alone has scheduled 21 games against teams from the West Coast's B.C.S. league in a 33-year span. You cannot simultaneously call such scheduling a "joke" and laud the league that has appeared regularly on S.E.C. slates despite the fact that a continent divides the two conferences.

Finally, although the Pac-10 is 6-3 against the S.E.C. in regular-season meetings in the 21st century, there is little to be learned from those recent head-to-head mismatches. In the nine regular-season confrontations between the two conferences from 2001 to 2005, the team that lost the game finished with seven or fewer wins seven times and the team that won the game finished with nine or more victories six times, with four of the losers finishing below .500 and five of the winners winning at least 11 games over the course of the campaign. Outside of the Bruins' win over 'Bama in 2001, none of those games truly pitted anything like equally-matched opponents.

Granted, Oregon beat Mississippi State once in Eugene and once in Starkville. Then again, the Bulldogs went 5-19 those two years. Who didn't beat them?

For what it's worth, in the seasons in which those cross-country clashes took place, Georgia was 5-2 against the S.E.C. squads involved in those intersectional meetings, posting a better winning percentage (.714) against the same Southeastern teams in the same seasons than the Pac-10 did (.667). Are "[t]he likes of Georgia" "get[ting] to pick on" those teams? No more so than the Pac-10 is, evidently.

In short, I agree with Nestor . . . it is time to put aside all childish my-dad-could-beat-up-your-dad bickering over which is the better conference. Both are legitimate leagues and each should respect the other.

In that spirit, I will do what I can to address the valid points Nestor has raised.

To be continued. . . .

Go 'Dawgs!