Possible Permanent Football Pairings

It's no secret that after the Southeastern Conference expanded to 14 teams with the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri – to take effect this fall – that the conference discovered it isn't quite as easy to make a schedule with 14 teams as it was with 12.



Also not a secret is how the SEC plans to deal with the issue when the annual spring meeting convenes in Destin, Fla., this week. Coaches and athletics directors don't want to play nine conference games. It makes for an uneven road, some teams having five home conference games and others having four. It also allows for only three non-conference games and would probably end any semblance of meaningful contests outside the league.

The plan that has been most discussed is 6-1-1 – that is each team playing the other six teams in its division, having one game against a traditional opponent from the other division, and one game against another team from the other division.

The one obvious disadvantage of this plan is that most players will go through a career without having played in a game against every other team in the conference.

There is also the issue of determining the traditional opponent. That is no problem for Alabama. The Crimson Tide has won the most championships in conference history (22) and Tennessee is second with 13. Those teams rank one-two in SEC victories and winning percentage. Until the SEC fouled it up with its schedule when the league went to 12 games in 1992, Alabama vs. Tennessee was known nationwide for playing on the Third Saturday in October.

So Alabama vs. Tennessee is safe as a traditional opponent. So is Auburn vs. Georgia. Although it hasn't had very many championship implications compared to Alabama-Tennessee, it is an old rivalry among border state schools that traditionally have had coaches and administrators move between schools.

Most would expect the LSU vs. Florida game to continue, but there are rumblings from Louisiana that the Bengal Tigers don't want that game.

So what should the traditional games be in the new SEC? We are always happy to lend a hand to the conference.

Alabama vs. Tennessee

Auburn vs. Georgia

Arkansas vs. Missouri. The only reason that Arkansas had its traditional opponent as South Carolina was the two game into the league together in 1992. Geographically, this makes much more sense.

If LSU doesn't want to play Florida, pit the Bengal Tigers against South Carolina, which is probably the fourth best team in the East in most years. It doesn't make for a great match geographically or historically, but that's part of expansion.

Florida will go against Mississippi State. It would offer a little initial interest because many Gators had hoped that Bulldogs Coach Dan Mullen, a former Florida coordinator, would replace Urban Meyer as Gators head coach before Will Muschamp got the job prior to the 2011 season.

Texas A&M has some natural SEC rivalries, but they are already playing LSU and Arkansas as fellow members of the Western Division. I'd put the Aggies against Vanderbilt as the schools with the highest academic standards and endowments in the league. Also a bit of personal interest as I have a daughter who is a graduate of Vanderbilt and a son who is a graduate of Texas A&M, which would make for an interesting sideshow to sibling rivalry.

Which leaves Ole Miss vs. Kentucky. What can one say? Expansion results in some bad results.

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