The SEC has announced that they will keep their eight-game, 6-1-1 format football schedule for the 2016 season and beyond.
This format keeps the cross-division, permanent rivals intact, which includes matchups such as Georgia-Auburn, Alabama-Tennessee, and Florida-LSU.
New to the SEC’s future football scheduling format is the addition of a “strength-of-schedule component that requires all schools to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basis.” It has been reported that this stipulation also includes Notre Dame.
“This has been a thoughtful and deliberative process that has resulted in maintaining the current format and adds a provision that will bolster our collective annual non-conference schedule,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. “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.
“The concept of strength-of-schedule is based on an entire 12-game schedule, a combination of both conference games together with non-conference games. Given the strength of our conference schedule supplemented by at least one major non-conference game, our teams will boast of a strong resume’ of opponents each and every year.”
Requiring one game against another Group of Five conference member was done in light of the upcoming College Football Playoff. The selection committee has stated that they will take into account strength of schedule during the process.
Four SEC schools already play annual rivalry games against teams from the ACC. Georgia plays Georgia Tech, South Carolina plays Clemson, Florida plays Florida State, and Kentucky plays Louisville.
Although the strength of schedule mandate doesn’t begin until 2016, there are seven other schools that will play a Group of Five team in 2014. Alabama faces West Virginia in Atlanta, Arkansas travels to Texas Tech, Auburn plays at Kansas State, LSU plays Wisconsin in Houston, Missouri hosts Indiana, and Tennessee plays at Oklahoma.
That leaves Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt as the only four SEC schools this season not to face a team from a Group of Five conference.
The SEC said today that their office will provide assistance in scheduling games against the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 going forward.
Is the eight-game schedule the correct move for the conference? They seem to think so. According to the SEC, this format allows a balanced league schedule for all teams (4 home, 4 away), accommodation of non-conference schedules by member schools, and the continuation of marquee neutral-site games.
As previously mentioned, the SEC will also keep their permanent cross-division rivals.
“Tradition matters in the SEC, and there is no denying that tradition was a significant factor in this decision because it protects several long-standing cross-division conference rivalries,” said Slive. “It has been a hallmark of the SEC over our history to be able to make continued progress while also maintaining traditions important to our institutions.”
SEC Permanent Cross Division Rivalries
Although some may feel that the SEC should have moved to a nine-game conference schedule, the addition of the “strength of schedule mandate” is a small step in the right direction. While most SEC schools already meet this mandate this season, they don’t always follow that format year-to-year.
And the SEC can always adjust their football scheduling format down the line if they continually don’t place two teams in the playoff, which is their goal.