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Column: SEC needs to be flagged for soft schedule

Wednesday - 11/21/2012, 8:05pm  ET

AP National Writer

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Christian Robinson is a competitor. Naturally, the Georgia linebacker would like to see how the Bulldogs stack up against the best teams from around the nation.

Not to mention, he loves checking out new places.

But, when you play in the Southeastern Conference, those experiences don't come along very often. You see, the nation's top football league is content to sit on its laurels, scheduling a bunch of cupcakes instead of behaving like a champion.

Its motto could be, "Have bus, will travel," because outside the conference there's rarely any reason to break out a plane.

"There are a lot of guys who've never flown on a plane before," Robinson said. "I remember going out to play Colorado a couple of years ago, seeing the mountains. I had never been out there before. There's more than just football on the line in those kind of games. There's a lot of different experiences that _ who knows? _ you may never get to experience again."

Enough already.

It's time for the SEC to be penalized in the rankings.

Personal foul, refusing to play enough tough teams.

This season, the 14-team SEC has a grand total of 14 non-conference games against opponents from the other so-called major conferences. And four of those are pretty much mandated by in-state rivalries _ an early season meeting between Kentucky and Louisville of the Big East, plus Saturday's games against three Atlantic Coast Conference opponents: Georgia hosting Georgia Tech, Florida traveling to Florida State, and South Carolina playing at Clemson.

Mississippi State and Texas A&M didn't schedule anyone from another Bowl Championship Series conference. The only SEC teams that played more than one were Vanderbilt, which lost to Northwestern (Big Ten) and travels to Wake Forest (ACC) on Saturday, and newcomer Missouri, which apparently has yet to learn how the game is played since it met both Arizona State (Pac-12) and Syracuse (Big East).

Last weekend was downright embarrassing, a Saturday full of games that passed for an SEC-FCS Challenge. The biggest, baddest conference in the land beating up a bunch of lower-division schools that don't have the athletes, scholarships or funding to make it anything close to a fair fight:

Alabama 49, Western Carolina 0. Georgia 45, Georgia Southern 14. Auburn 51, Alabama A&M 7. Texas A&M 47, Sam Houston State 28. Kentucky 34, Samford 3. Florida 23, Jacksonville State 0. South Carolina 24, Wofford 7.

The whole day was a spectacle unbecoming of such a mighty league.

But the SEC is making no apologies.

"Our conference schedule is tough enough," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Wednesday. "We don't need to go play Oregon and Stanford and those kind of teams unless we want to lose a bunch of games."

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.

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