Last week I wrote a few things about the SEC, the "Big Six," and scheduling. I intended on getting to this particular article earlier this week, but it proved to be a lot more work than I wanted it to be to get it to look right, and as I can't really work on these during my normal work day, it took a while longer because I just really didn't want to work on it.
However, it's an interesting thing to see which teams in the SEC have played each other the most. I hope I got all of this data right. I tried my best to get it all nice and proper in my spreadsheet, but the total number of games played against certain teams may be off by one or two here or there. I'm 99% certain I double-checked it enough to get it right, though. Edit: As a commenter pointed out, I did miss South Carolina and Texas A&M's game from last season. If that's the only mistake, I'm happy.
Comments Up Front:
Of the Big Six, Auburn is the only school to have all five of the other Big Six teams in its Top Six most-played. That is part of the reason why Auburn has one of the historically tougher schedules in all of college football. It's one thing that makes Auburn's place on the all-time winning percentage chart look even better.
Auburn also holds the highest number of total games played against the other Big Six teams at 379 games. Georgia and Alabama aren't far behind. LSU and Tennessee are definitely on the low end as the only teams with less than 300 games against the other Big Six.
The easiest slate of the Big Six teams seems to belong to UGA. I'm trying to reconcile that with their historical strength of schedule, and I can only guess it's because of the number of games they've played against out-of-conference foes like Clemson and Georgia Tech.
Outside of the Big Six, the toughest SEC slates - just in terms of the number of times they've played Big Six teams - belongs to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have five of the Big Six in their Top Six. The only Big Six program they haven't played very often are those other set of Bulldogs from Athens.
So, without further ado, here are all of the teams in the SEC and how many times they have played every other team in the conference:
Total Against Other Big Six: 357
Alabama has three of the Big Six in their Top 5 most-played teams. It goes to four if you get to the 6th spot. The Gators are all the way down in the lowest spot for teams that were in the SEC prior to 1992. It's funny to think the number of times the Tide played the Gators would be lower without all of those SECCG appearances in the early 90s.
The Razorbacks, like the Gamecocks, Mizzou Tigers, and Aggies, will be a bit of an anomaly in this exercise. They haven't been in the SEC near as long. Arkansas has played a large number of games against SEC foes, though. Just from looking at their numbers, you would think they'd been a part of the conference all along. You could even be tricked into thinking Texas A&M has, as well, but the large number of games played between the Razorbacks and Aggies is due to their old conference affiliation pre-SEC.
Arkansas has two of the Big Six in their Top 5 most-played. LSU with 60 games, and then Alabama all the way down at 23 (Auburn is next with 22). That's where you can really see that Arkansas is a recent addition to the SEC.
Total Against Other Big Six: 379
The Tigers are the Big Six team with the most other Big Six teams on their past schedules. Four of the Top Five teams are from the Big Six. One place further down will find LSU as the 6th most-played SEC team for Auburn. That means the Tigers have had a pretty tough schedule year after year.
If you want to know why so many Auburn fans pine for the Florida game, just look at how often the Tigers and Gators have played. It is only recently that Mississippi State passed Auburn on the list of games played.
What's amazing is that Mississippi State still has a few seasons before they surpass Georgia Tech as the team Auburn has played second-most in its history. That's why many older Tigers fans want to see the Georgia Tech game played again.
Total Against Other Big Six: 318
No shock here at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is the most-played SEC game for Florida. They have three other Big Six teams in their Top Five. I'm shocked at how low Tennessee is on their list. We think of that as such a fixture because of how good they both were in the 90s and early 00s and they've played every season since 1992. It's hard to believe they only played just over 20 times prior to that season.
Total Against Other Big Six: 351
Georgia only has two of the Big Six in their Top Five most-played. It goes to three if you go to six spots with Alabama, and four if you go to seven spots (Tennessee). They've played the Tigers and Gators the most, but then their most games have been against Vandy, Kentucky, and South Carolina.
And you wonder why we always talk about UGA having the easier conference schedules.*
*(Yes, I know, they have one of the tougher historical SOS)
Well. It's easy to see why Kentucky hasn't won that many SEC titles. Four of their Top Five all-time SEC Opponents are out of the Big Six. It's not terribly surprising that the two who aren't in their Top Five are SEC West teams. That's a tough slate for a team that has never been a traditional power in SEC football.
Total Against Other Big Six: 250
Only two of their Top Five are Big Six teams? Come on, LSU. I'm actually shocked that Tennessee and Georgia are as low as they are in number of times played. They haven't played very often since the split, but it's also obvious how rarely they played before the split, as well. That's a pretty easy slate of schedules for the Bayou Bengals at first glance.
Ole Miss only has two of their Top Five from the Big Six, as well. It's amazing to me how few times Auburn and Ole Miss have played.
Mississippi State - like Kentucky - has had one one of the tougher goes in the SEC. Four of their Top Five (and five of their Top Six) are Big Six teams. The only one they've rarely played (and very rarely at that) is UGA. They've played LSU, Alabama, and Auburn quite a large number of times in their history. It's no wonder that they've struggled to build or maintain a strong presence in the conference when they're playing three of the traditional power houses year in and year out.
I'm going to gloss over Mizzou. They're just too new to things.
South Carolina is similar. They've only been in the conference since 1992, and just haven't really played many of the teams very often. UGA was on their schedule quite a bit due to proximity, but other than the Bulldogs, South Carolina rarely played any other SEC teams since joining the conference. They've only made one run to the conference championship game, where they ran into the buzz saw that was Cam Newton.
Total Against Other Big Six: 271
Tennessee only has Auburn and Alabama in its Top Five. Georgia and Florida aren't far below, but it's still pretty low. I'm trying to figure out just who Tennessee played in its SEC history since only four teams are above 60 games played. Georgia, Florida, and LSU are pretty far down the list (LSU in particular) of the Big Six teams.
Yeah, we really don't care about Texas A&M. Not because we don't like you, Aggies, but because you're brand new.
Vandy has three of their top four from the Big Five and then the other three are in positions six, seven, and eight. That's pretty rough, honestly. Vandy was a pretty good program back in the early days of the SEC. That's the reason they own the series lead over Auburn, still. Similar to Kentucky, it's easy to see how your program can struggle to maintain consistent success when they're constantly playing the top of the conference.