Supremacy Chatter: A solution for other conferences who hate Cupcake Week
You saw them all weekend. You know what I’m talking about, those screenshots of the SEC scores that have opponents like The Citadel and Chattanooga.
You saw the anti-SEC crowd like Danny Kanell cry foul about Cupcake Week. If you had access to non-SEC Power 5 commissioners this weekend, you probably would’ve caught them saying some not-so-nice things about the SEC’s late-season advantage of Cupcake Week. It’s a week in which the Playoff selection committee copy-and-pastes SEC résumés from the prior week because nothing changes.
It’s not entertaining, or at least it’s not as entertaining as a conference game that could decide a division title. Everyone outside the SEC complains and argues why Cupcake Week shouldn’t exist.
But there’s one teeeeeeeny, tiny problem to that solution. It’s not a solution.
The SEC doesn’t have a problem to solve. Until it misses out on the Playoff — something that isn’t happening in 2018 — and goes multiple years without playing in a national championship, Cupcake Week will continue to exist in its current state.
So instead of basically yelling at a wall, other conferences should do something that seems so simple that only a columnist with a year of high school football experience could come up with.
Why doesn’t everyone just have their own Cupcake Week?
By “everyone,” I’m of course referring to the Power 5 conferences. And before you assume I hate quality competition, I don’t. I love headliner games as much as anyone. It bums me out when I look at the Week 12 schedule every year and don’t see a game that gets me excited.
But the SEC isn’t hurting for TV revenue with its current schedule format, so any argument that the conference is robbing its fans of entertainment is overshadowed by that. Besides, SEC fans are more concerned about the end result, which is usually a national championship.
If other conferences really are under the impression that Cupcake Week is the key ingredient in the SEC’s 21st-century postseason dominance, wouldn’t the obvious solution be to, you know, use that ingredient?
To be fair, the ACC already has a Cupcake Week. It’s just in Week 2 when everyone is used to nonconference dud matchups (the ACC actually had seven FCS opponents that week while the SEC only had three in Week 12).
We’re programmed as college football fans to think that the regular season is meant to follow this rising action and climax. That’s why non-conference games are mostly played in September and rivalry week ends the season. The fact that the SEC does something outside of that unwritten flow of the season is why other conferences have a problem with it.
As easy as it would be for the ACC to simply shift its Week 2 slate to Week 12, the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 are going to argue that the nine-game conference schedule prevents them from having their own Cupcake Week. By the way, nobody forced them to do that. It’s not a coincidence that the nine-game conference schedules have yielded just a 50 percent Playoff invite rate (5-for-10) compared to a perfect 10-for-10 for the eight-game conference schedules.
Should everyone have the same amount of conference games? Absolutely. Is the ACC or SEC going to change that when it has yet to miss the Playoff? Absolutely not.
That’s why this change has to come from the other conferences. If there is really no way they can make it work with the nine-game conference schedule, all the more reason to go down to eight. I think the Big 12 will survive if it comes one team short of a full conference round-robin every year.
To be clear here, I’m not advocating for Power 5 teams to schedule FCS foes. If I had it my way, the round-robin would be matchups against each other Power 5 conference. I’m just more willing to accept the reality that the SEC isn’t going to change its format unless it has to. Nothing suggests that’ll happen.
A “cupcake” can still be a Group of 5 team. Instead of playing two Group of 5 teams in September, everyone could just move one of those matchups to Week 12. Yeah, conference play will start a little earlier, but so what? Teams across the country — especially the SEC — schedule plenty of season-opening headliners. I don’t buy the argument that moving up conference play a week is going to hurt teams that “aren’t ready” for the big-time matchups yet. That philosophy hasn’t hurt the SEC.
You know what has hurt other conferences? Standing by this current schedule format and claiming it’s the best.
I was baffled at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago this past summer when I listened to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany rave about how the conference had a historically successful year and that the league’s competitive out-of conference scheduling contributed to that. He made no mention of the fact that the Big Ten missed out on the Playoff, or how since the conference moved to a nine-game conference schedule, it has yet to even score a point in the Playoff.
If this really is just about having a mid-September game on Fox instead of ESPN2, congrats. Delany and other conference commissioners are doing a fantastic job of squeezing every last dollar out of the growing regular-season TV market.
But if this is about doing whatever it takes to put teams in position to compete for national titles, it seems like the SEC has that blueprint drawn out for everyone.
It’s time for others to start taking note.