Dooley: SEC's schedule will change way we look at season
The Back Nine comes at you following a pretty low key weekend after a midweek that was a few days in Destin and included a wonderful trip to Crab Island. I needed that.
10. One thing we all have to do is change our expectations for what it is going to take to win the divisions in the SEC. Of course, by now, we should be used to things not being normal. But it used to be that you went into a season feeling like you needed to run the table or — at worst — go 7-1 to win either of the two divisions in the SEC. Now we have this jam-packed 10-game season where every game just matters more. Here is a look at the 56 division winners in the SEC (since they split them up in 1992), all of whom played eight-game conference seasons:
One-loss — 27 times.
No losses — 15 times.
Two-losses — 11 times.
Three-losses — three times.
So, 75 percent of the teams who advanced to the SEC Championship Game had one conference loss or fewer while 19.6 percent had two losses. Three teams — LSU in 2001, Arkansas in '02 and South Carolina in 2010 — had three losses.
11. The point is that with 10 games this season, you could easily see one of the divisions having a three-loss champ, which means fewer teams would be out of it with early losses. There won't be teams that lose a game or especially two and feel like they're playing for the Outback Bowl (as if there will be an Outback Bowl this year). Again, at best this football season will be strange. At worst, well, I don't want to think about it. But with a conference-only schedule, perhaps the SEC should change its slogan to "It Really, Really Means More."
12. And, as we all know, we're going to hear the shouting from the rooftops — if everything goes well — that this needs to be the norm in the SEC. Why not 10 games all the time? Tap the brakes on that because there are reasons that the SEC has been resistant to go to even nine games. One of them is that the coaches who aren't winning 10 games a season and their administrators will stand in the way of more conference games because they want to make sure they get into bowls at the end of the year and will schedule appropriately. And the truth is that the SEC wants as many teams in bowls as possible and don't mind if they have to step over NE Louisiana and The Citadel to get there. The other reason that we hear so often is that the SEC has had so much success with 10 national titles in the last 14 and the biggest crowds and the most NFL draft picks every year, why bother messing with a good thing?
13. There is also this — we have seen aggressive scheduling by many SEC teams (Georgia, Florida and Alabama at the top of the list) because of anticipation of an eight-team playoff, there might be some resistance to jettisoning the one or two games a year that should be cakewalks. We'll see. If I was to bet, it would be that if this season is special with 10 conference games, the league will go to nine within two years.
14. This is another thing that has me thinking, which can be dangerous. Because the Big Ten and Pac-12 and some other conferences aren't playing anything in the fall, we assume they start playing basketball at the start of 2021. They probably limit it to conference games with a few others thrown in. But let's say things do go well on the football side and basketball cranks up in these three Power 5 conference in November. Can you imagine being on a committee that has to evaluate a 26-9 Auburn team against a 14-5 Michigan State? On the other hand, as long as we have a March Madness, does anybody care where anybody is seeded?
15. After all, things have worked pretty well in the NBA in terms of seeding without advantages. It has been a fun watch here in Coronaville, nothing more fun than Luka Doncic looking like a bigger version of Larry Bird with his 43-points, 17-rebound, 13-assist game on a sprained ankle. The best thing about watching these playoffs is that all the teams are playing hard. Some just aren't any good despite having a lot of good players (I'm looking at you Philadelphia). I've said this before that we could be heading into a wonderful stretch in a few weeks for the couch potatoes, which now probably make up a majority of this country, with all of the sports options we will have in October and November.
16. Thanks so much Dustin Johnson for making the golf unwatchable Sunday. Johnson hit as many greens as I do in a month and finished 30-under. To show you how fickle golf can be, our man Billy Horschel was an eyelash or two away from winning the previous week and missed the cut this week. He's 30 in the FedEx Cup standings and needs to play reasonably well to make the final. Among those who won't be advancing are Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler. And Tiger Woods will have to play really well to survive into the final round or get voted off the island.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Ralph Russo, who covers college football for the Associated Press but is a big baseball guy — "Since baseball is making itself look stupid today, which it does so well, seems like a good reminder: There is no running up the score in professional sports. They're all elite athletes. You want somebody to stop beating your ass, that's on you to be better." Of course, this had to do with Fernando Tatis Jr. swinging at a 3-0 pitch with his team up seven runs. If he missed, no big deal. But he hit a salami. If the game is over, the team that feels it is over should call game and walk off the field. Otherwise, you keep playing. So silly. Someone also Tweeted this week that the reason baseball has so many unwritten rules is because if you wrote them down it would look stupid. I concur.
18. I will tell you this after a trip to Northwest Florida. The further west you go in this state, the fewer masks you see. And that's all I have to say on that. Here's a playlist I hope you enjoy:
• "There Goes Angela (Dream Away)" by Tom Petty. Recently brought out by his estate, it was supposed to be on the Wildflowers album. Please enjoy.
• "Hannah Sun" by Lomalda.
• "Freakin' Out On the Interstate" by Briston Marony.
• "Where The Dreams Run Dry" by The Killers.
• And for an old one, I can't remember what movie I heard this playing, but it made me listen a few times on walks, "Us and Them" by Pink Floyd.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.