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Wow, is the SEC running scared?

Probably not.

But the league is intent on protecting the lofty records of its best teams, and it’s hard to argue with the results. Six straight national championships. A good shot at a seventh with No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia in the thick of things this season.

“If we keep playing the top teams from other conferences, our record isn’t going to be near as good,” Spurrier said bluntly. “In our business, it’s all about the record. There’s no playoff, so it’s whatever your record is. If you play all the best teams around the country and only beat four of them, everybody is going to be mad at you. But if you play some people you can beat and win nine or 10, everybody is happy.

“It’s whether you want to be happy or want to play a whole bunch of tough teams.”

Granted, no one is taking on any and all comers.

A case can be made that the Big 12 is just as guilty of this gimme mentality, with only seven non-conference matchups against BCS opposition this season. But that’s a 10-team league that plays nine conference games, one more than the SEC, leaving far fewer chances and less flexibility to pick up quality opponents.

The Pac-12 (11 games against other BCS teams) is in a similar situation, with a nine-game conference schedule and two fewer members than the SEC. The Big Ten also has two less schools (for now), which means its 14 out-of-conference games against BCS opposition carries more weight than the same number from its counterpart to the south.

The two weakest leagues have by far the toughest non-conference schedules. The ACC is taking on 21 BCS opponents, while the eight-member Big East has 15 such games. Much of that is out of necessity, since hardly any of those schools can just throw open the doors and expect 90,000 fans in the stands no matter who the home team is playing _ which is the case at SEC powerhouses such as Alabama, Georgia and LSU.

Perhaps the most troubling thing about the SEC is the unwillingness to venture very far from home.

Vanderbilt is the lone school going outside the conference’s 11-state footprint, and one of those trips is for Saturday’s game in neighboring North Carolina. The September trip to suburban Chicago to face Northwestern is the only time an SEC team has ventured north of the Mason-Dixon line or, for that matter, west of Dallas (Alabama faced Michigan in the season opener at Cowboys Stadium).

This is nothing new, either.

Florida hasn’t played a non-conference game outside the sunshine state since a trip to Syracuse _ in 1991! Georgia went more than four decades without playing a regular-season game outside the confines of old Confederacy (if Kentucky is included) until a 2008 game at Arizona State.

No other league comes close to being that provincial. The Big Ten, for instance, has nine games outside its state boundaries this season. The ACC plays 13, the Big East 11.

This is not meant to cast doubt on the SEC being the strongest conference of all.

Story Continues →