The moving and shaking in College Football of recent years which included the SEC becoming a 14-team conference calls for some shifts in scheduling. The latest decision maintains the eight conference games schedule which includes one set game against a non-division rival which aligns with history and tradition, and in the future, to improve the strength of schedule situation, will also force each team to play against a team from a power conference.
What does that mean? Starting in 2016, each school will have to play at least one opponent from either the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12. It also means that Alabama-Tennessee, Auburn-Georgia, Arkansas-Missouri, LSU-Florida, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt, Mississippi State-Kentucky and Texas A&M-South Carolina will be or continue to be an annual rivalry.
Not everyone is happy about it. LSU constantly look at Alabama, trying to find ways to weaken their big SEC West rivals. Their AD thinks that keeping it a one-rival thing helps the Crimson Tide.
I’m disappointed in the fact that the leadership of our conference doesn’t understand the competitive advantage permanent partners give to certain institutions. I tried to bring that up very strongly at the meeting today. In our league we share the money and expenses equally but we don’t share our opponents equally. Since 2000 LSU has played Florida and Georgia 19 times and Alabama has played them eight times. That is a competitive disadvantage. There are a lot of other examples.
The SEC teams will continue to play eight conference games: Six against division rivals, two against non-division rivals. There wasn’t enough backing for a ninth conference games, although Nick Saban, the Alabama head coach, mentioned that he thinks it would the conference and the fans a world of good to play more games against quality opponents.
The decision to start playing teams from major conferences each season from 2016 comes as something of a response to the criticism (most of it fair) of the soft scheduling SEC teams set for themselves at times, especially the “power” teams. The argument over whether the SEC is overrated thanks to the ESPN backing and the strength of their top teams will always continue, but it’s also worth noting that some teams already have an annual rival from a major conference: Florida-Florida State, South Carolina-Clemson, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Kentucky-Louisville.
Critical to maintaining this format is the non-conference opponent factor which gives us the added strength-of-schedule we were seeking while allowing continued scheduling flexibility for institutional preferences, and acknowledges that many of our institutions already play these opponents.