The Case For More SEC Football Games
That policy earned Alabama and Coach Paul Bryant an outright SEC championship in 1972 even though the Crimson Tide had a loss, because Bama had the best winning percentage thanks to its extra game.
Today there is still conversation about the number of conference games every league team should play.
Ideally, the SEC would fix its football schedule so that each team played 10 conference games. Not eight, as an apparent majority of football coaches and athletics directors want. Not nine – which would be much better, but which has only a smattering of support. Ten.
There is a simple reason. There are 14 teams in the SEC. If you're going to have a conference, you want to have competition against the other conference teams. You can't have 13 conference games in a season, so do the best thing possible, which is give every player who stays at his school four years a chance to play every other team home and away.
Before we go any further, rest assured we know that the 10-game conference schedule is not going to happen. But hear us out on why it would be good for the conference.
There are two important rivalries of West vs. East teams. Alabama vs. Tennessee historically has been the most important game in determining a champion. That's because Alabama has won the most conference championships (23) and Tennessee second most (13). True, the Vols are down now, but history says they will be back.
The second important rivalry to be preserved is Auburn vs. Georgia, the longest contested game in the South.
While it's true most of the others – LSU vs. Florida, South Carolina vs. Arkansas, etc. – aren't so traditional, if they are on the schedule every year they will become important games.
That takes care of seven games – one against each of the six teams in the same division and the traditional rival from the other side.
Then it would be a matter of playing three of the other six teams in the opposite division. Each team would play three games home and three games away against the six other teams in its division and two home games, two road games against the four teams on the schedule from the other division. Every team would have five home SEC games and five away.
In a four-year period, every team would play in all 14 SEC stadiums.
Today the regular season schedule is 12 games. The obvious problem is that leaves only two non-conference games. It would probably preclude many teams from scheduling a high-profile opponent. Almost every team would want those two games to be home games for revenue reasons. The exception would be a team like Alabama that frequently opens the season at a neutral site against a major name opponent in a game that provides a payoff equal or superior to what the Tide could make with a lackluster home opponent.
Teams such as Florida and Georgia with a locked in out-of-conference opponent would be at a disadvantage. Georgia actually tries to play both Georgia Tech and Clemson each year, which would make scheduling easy, but winning might be hard.
To reiterate: a 10-game Southeastern Conference football schedule is not going to happen. As we have grown older, we have become more tolerant of pedestrian thinking.
So, if not 10 games, why not nine?
Florida and Georgia still have little wiggle room, but it is what it is. There is also the complaint that in one year a team would have five SEC home games and only four road games, but in alternate years would be on the road five times, home only four. Obviously, that would even out over time.
But here are the good things.
Teams would be able to keep their traditional opponents from the opposite division.
It would mean playing two other out-of-division teams, and in the course of three seasons, every player who stayed four years would have had a chance to play against every other SEC team; not in every other stadium (as with the 10-game format), but most of them.
We have heard the complaint that playing nine SEC games would make it a more difficult schedule. But for those teams worrying about having six wins and being bowl eligible, they can buy three wins. Then if they can't win three of nine conference games, they probably don't deserve to be in a bowl game. Georgia and Florida would might have an out-of-conference loss or two and have to win five or six of nine SEC games. Again, that's not asking too much.
One thing about being in the SEC is that conference games ordinarily add to the strength of schedule. Beginning in 2014, that may become a component of how the College Football Playoff teams are selected. The recent SEC record of national dominance would add weight to our league's top teams in those calculations.
That probably plays into the thinking of the one SEC coach who is whole-heartedly in favor of the nine-game schedule, the one coach who has reason to expect winning the national championship: Nick Saban.
In the current eight-game format of six division opponents, one permanent non-division opponent, and one rotating non-division opponent, it would take six years for a team to play every other team in the league and 12 years to play in every stadium. Not only would no players get to accomplish either feat, many schools would have coaches who didn't make it that long.
There is another eight-game proposal. Do away with the permanent non-division opponent and play two rotating opponents each year. That would satisfy the goal of every four-year player having the opportunity to play against every other SEC school.
It seems that fans are in the peanut gallery when it comes to college football decisions these days. Fans would appreciate another SEC game as opposed to one against an out-manned team that provides a forgettable game.
If you can't have the best (10 SEC games), at least get the next best.
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