May 29, 2013
You're going to be hearing a lot about the SEC schedule this week. The league's spring meetings are underway in Destin, and the conference coaches and administrators are still pondering the best way to tweak the schedule that became shuffled when Missouri and Texas A&M joined the league.
Some of what you'll hear is pretty straightforward, but some can get confusing. Here's a quick primer on the possibilities, and which schools support which outcomes. The first consideration for the SEC schedule is whether to stay with eight conference games or move to nine.
Nine games: Nick Saban and Alabama are pushing for this once again, though it doesn't seem like there's much support for it elsewhere in the league. Going to nine games would allow the league to play six divisional games, keep cross-divisional rivalries, and rotate two other opponents from across divisions. Some believe ESPN, now partnered with the SEC Network, will push for a move to nine games eventually so there's more content for the network.
The disadvantage is that it makes a brutal SEC schedule that much tougher for some teams. Schools with traditional rivals they play in nonconference (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky) are squeezed by this, and other schools have less flexibility to schedule a marquee nonconference game if they want. It would also create an imbalanced home/away split that would probably have to alternate every year to be fair.
Eight games: What the league is at now, and what it's likely to stay at for a few years. Slive told reporters on Tuesday the SEC would have an eight game schedule for 2013, 2014, and probably 2015. Mark Stoops, James Franklin, Hugh Freeze, Les Miles and Will Muschamp have all said they prefer eight games to nine recently.
But there are different options when you're looking at an eight-game schedule. Here's what people are talking about:
6-1-1: The model that was used in 2012 and is in use for 2013. This includes six divisional games, one locked-in opponent from across divisions (Mississippi State, for Kentucky) and one rotating game among the other six opponents from the opposite division. Some schools like having the cross divisional opponents locked in, because it's a traditional rivalry (like Alabama-Tennessee or Georgia-Auburn). This is probably the model for the foreseeablefuture.
6-2: Includes six divisional games and two rotating cross divisional games. This would allow schools to cycle through the whole league much more quickly, but get rid of some traditional rivalries. Les Miles would rather dump the locked-in cross-divisional opponents, because he doesn't want to play Florida every year from the East. He'd rather have it rotate through so he can play schools like Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Missouri instead of the Gators more frequently.
This isn't a realistic possibility, but when the same issues were discussed last year, I suggested a compromise that would involve playing the cross-divisional games every other year. It keeps the rivalry games while still cycling through the league so every team plays every team in four years, and has a home game against every team in eight years.
Let me know if you still have any questions about the scheduling possibilities. I'm not in Destin, but I'll be keeping an eye on what's happening to keep you all up to date.