Time For Tide To Give Up UT Series

Not that it's the worst beating he's had this year, but LSU Football Coach Les Miles seems to be everyone's whipping boy for not wanting to play Florida every year. As is sometimes the case, Miles is right, but for the wrong reason, and probably not because he's been doing something besides eating grass.



Alabama followers are among those who are disgusted with LSU appearing to be cowardly in this discussion of Southeastern Conference scheduling.

First of all, let's all agree that expansion was a terrible idea, driven as most things by the lure of dollars, specifically television money because the SEC was presumably adding all the television viewers of two states when the league accepted Texas A&M and Missouri. But let's also agree that is over and there's no sense crying over spilt milk.

The job now is to move on to something that will resemble a conference when it comes to football season.

Let us also dismiss South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier's idea that the only games that would count for SEC divisional titles would be those games played intradivision. As Alabama Coach Nick Saban correctly pointed out, if some conference games don't count, then you don't have a conference.

When the league expands to 16 teams (and it will), there may be so few games of East vs. West (or whatever emerges) that the conference will be only a leg of the playoff system.

But for now...

There seem to be two models being considered by the league.

One is 6-1-1. That is, every team would play six games against the other teams in its division, one against a traditional opponent from the other division, and one team from the other division on a rotating basis.

Using Alabama as a for instance:

Bama would play against Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M from the division; its traditional game against Tennessee; and a game against another team from the East.

The primary weakness of this schedule is that a player will go through his career and possibly never play a game against one or more SEC opponents. This was the case decades ago when the league required fewer conference games, and it was not good for the conference.

Another weakness is that it will be many, many years before some SEC teams will play in (again using Alabama as the example) Bryant-Denny Stadium. Suppose Georgia is the rotating opponent for Alabama in 2013 and the game is in Athens. It will be 2019 before the Bulldogs come back to Tuscaloosa. And it would take until 2024 for all Eastern Division teams to make it through Bryant-Denny Stadium.

And that's only if the league has not expanded again and a new schedule has to be cobbled.

The other model is 6-2. That would be six games against division opponents and two against teams from the other division on a rotating basis.

This does away with traditional opponents. When the league expanded to 12 teams in 1992, each team was assigned an every-year opponent based on traditional success. Thus the top team in the West, Alabama, was paired against the top team in the East, Tennessee. And it went on down the line – Auburn vs. Georgia, LSU vs. Florida, Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State vs. Kentucky. The new members, Arkansas and South Carolina, were assigned as traditional opponents.

LSU is not the only school that needs to quit its whining. Alabama needs to forget about the Tennessee rivalry.

Of course, that will end the most important game in SEC football. As is often pointed out, Alabama is first and Tennessee second in every measure of Southern football success. The Crimson Tide leads the league in championships, winning percentage, games won, bowl appearances; and undefeated and untied regular seasons; and the Vols are second in all those categories.

But give it up.

If there is going to be a conference, the teams needs to compete as often as possible. Coaches and athletics directors are not going to go for more than eight league games (the coaches want the other four to schedule wins, the athletics directors want them for money games).

So go to 6-2 and make it a home-and-home rotation. For instance, again using Alabama, the Tide would play its six division opponents, Tennessee in Tuscaloosa and Georgia in Athens. The next year, Bama would go to Knoxville to play the Vols and Georgia would rotate off with Florida coming to Tuscaloosa. The next year, Tennessee would rotate off with Bama going to Gainesville and South Carolina coming to Bryant-Denny Stadium. And so on.

LSU would have to play Florida twice in every seven or eight years. Is that better, Les?

The biggest cry would come from Auburn and Georgia. That series doesn't produce many champions or have any national stature, but is the longest-running Southern rivalry.

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