Whomever had July 28 in the "which national columnist will make the first ill-reasoned crack about SEC teams not playing challenging non-conference games" pool wins a prize thanks to John Walters.
Specifically, how in the world does he get off making this statement: "Shame on Auburn, Florida and LSU for playing it safe." Yeah, Florida, with Florida State, Tennessee, Georgia, and LSU - four perennial top 15 teams - on the schedule on an annual basis needs to be traveling to Columbus or Norman. LSU plays Arizona State; what's not intersectional about that? (If they don't return the trip, then maybe he has a point, although I'm sure that Tiger fans would retort that they are still waiting for Virginia Tech to appear in Baton Rouge after the Tigers made an unsuccessful trip to Blacksburg on my wedding day.) Auburn plays Georgia Tech, which is a perfectly reasonable non-conference challenge.
Generally, Walters simply doesn't seem to acknowledge that there are plenty of good out-of-conference match-ups within the Southeast BECAUSE IT'S THE ONLY REGION IN THE COUNTRY WITH TWO HIGH-QUALITY CONFERENCES. Why should Auburn get on a plane and travel thousands of miles when they can play Georgia Tech and make a 90-mile bus ride? Ditto for Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, all of whom have in-state rivals that occupy their non-conference attention. Would Walters be upset if Tennessee dropped Notre Dame and picked up Louisville because that wouldn't be intersectional? (I just noticed this, but how is Kentucky-Indiana intersectional, but Auburn-Georgia Tech isn't? Does Walters need a map?)
And why is the SEC to blame for this trend? Let's take a look at the Big XII, shall we? Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, and Nebraska each play one cool intersectional game, but then you have such slates as the following:
Baylor - SMU, Samford, Army
Kansas - Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State, Louisiana Tech
Kansas State - Florida International, Marshall, North Texas
Missouri - Arkansas State, New Mexico, Troy
Oklahoma State - Montana State, Florida Atlantic, and Arkansas State
Texas Tech - Florida International, Sam Houston State, and Indiana State
Gee, that's only half the conference, why would we ever make fun of the Big XII for scheduling directional Florida schools as fast as they can? I wonder why Walters would make fun of the SEC despite the fact that the Big XII plays an objectively easier out-of-conference slate?
In an ideal world, teams would play more than one challenging non-conference game and maybe when we go back to 12-game schedules, they will. However, the norm right now for major conference teams seems to be one challenging game outside of the league and the SEC hews to that norm. The Pac Ten deserves a little credit for more challenging out-of-conference schedules, but let's face it: they have to do anything they can to get butts in the seats. UCLA isn't going to sell out the Rose Bowl unless they are playing an Oklahoma; Tennessee will sell out Neyland Stadium if they're playing Yale Law School.