The anti-SEC crowd will hate on Cupcake Week while conveniently leaving out some key facts
You can see it coming from a mile away.
Maybe it’s Danny Kanell or Joel Klatt, but you know that at some point this weekend, you’re going to see the screen shot of the SEC’s Week 12 slate with some sort of jab at Cupcake Week. It’s the lowest hanging fruit that the anti-SEC crowd has each and every November (in non-pandemic years). This year will be no different.
Let’s not put lipstick on a pig here. The slate is weak. Of the 10 SEC games:
- 6 are against non-Power 5 competition
- 3 are against FCS teams
- 0 of the Group of 5 teams have winning records
- 0 of the Group of 5 spreads are less than 4 touchdowns
Arkansas-Alabama is the lone game among ranked teams this week in the SEC, though Alabama had its Cupcake Week last Saturday against New Mexico State and Arkansas had its Cupcake Week in October against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Everyone in the league does it, the difference obviously being that the SEC has just 8 conference games, and it’s the only conference that saves one of those paycheck nonconference games for late-November.
But what those anti-SEC folks fail to reference is the body of work to date so far. They’ll pretend that the league has had nothing but favorable matchups and that it treats nonconference play like exhibition season. That’s simply not the case.
The anti-SEC crowd believes all polls are rigged, so let’s skip the fact that the SEC has more CFP Top 25 teams (6) than any other league right now. Let’s instead look at the record against Power 5 opponents in nonconference play by league:
- SEC — 6-5
- Big Ten — 8-5
- ACC — 5-11
- Big 12 — 4-4
- Pac-12 — 3-7
I’d look at that and say yes, the SEC and Big Ten clearly performed the best in nonconference play. If you’re wondering why those 3 other conferences continue to get slighted by the selection committee, look no further than those numbers.
But there’s more to look at even within those numbers. After all, the whole point of mocking Cupcake Week is for the anti-SEC crowd to flex its nonconference muscles, right?
So take those 6 Power 5 teams that the SEC beat in nonconference play and compare it to the 8 that the Big Ten beat. This is their combined records:
- SEC — 31-29
- Big Ten — 39-41
I’d call that a split. So at the very least, we’ve illustrated that neither league really has a convincing argument for why they were vastly better than one another in nonconference play.
But wait, there’s more!
You see, this entire anti-Cupcake Week is founded on the belief that the SEC has an easier road to reach the postseason by virtue of having 8 conference games compared to 9 for the Big Ten (the Big 12 and Pac-12 also have a 9-game conference schedule). Nobody told the Big Ten that it had to switch from 8 to 9 conference games back in 2016, but it did so because it wanted to boost its teams’ home attendance package.
So let’s look at that road and how difficult it’s been. Just to appease the anti-SEC crowd who says the selection committee favors that conference ahead of the rest, let’s instead look at the current AP Top 25. Specifically, let’s look at the average number of times that each team has faced a member of the current AP Top 25.
Just in case you’re not understanding, what I’m saying, here’s an example. So far, Nebraska played against the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oklahoma, which means that number would be 4. Arkansas played against Georgia, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, so that number would be 3. We wouldn’t count Mississippi State in Arkansas’ favor even though it was an AP Top 25 team at the time of the matchup.
Simple enough? Good.
Do that breakdown and you’ll see the Big Ten has the advantage 2.79 to 2.50. That’s it. The Big Ten teams have played an average of 0.29 more current AP Top 25 teams than the SEC.
If I really wanted to show that the Big Ten doesn’t really have much of an argument, I’d point out the fact that in nonconference play, the league faced 2 teams that are currently in the AP Top 25 (Oregon and Notre Dame), and both of those were losses. But I digress.
This isn’t necessarily just about the Big Ten. This is about pretending like the SEC gets a cakewalk. It doesn’t. And if the league was being propped up by its schedule, surely it wouldn’t have won 11 of the last 15 national championships or won more Playoff games (11) than the rest of the conferences combined.
Should I have led with those stats? Yeah, I probably should’ve. Oh well.
I’m sure that’s all just a byproduct of Cupcake Week.