When it comes to college football, the game so many of us love so much, the game that so many of us are so passionate about, as a lifelong fan and as a broadcaster and writer for my entire “adult” life, it is my experience that nothing causes more debate and conjecture for fanatic pigskin lovers a… the schedule.
Especially in the Southeastern Conference.
Well, my esteemed co-host Chris Brame and I, on our daily 960 The Ref (here’s a shameless plug, M-F 4:00-7:00 – feel free to call management and demand raises) have the problem solved in the SEC.
Now a lot of coaches would go kicking and screaming into this, and several fan-bases would complain they got too tough and their arch-rival received too easy a slate. It would also require going to nine conference games, which would eliminate a lot of these games against Division 1-AA (now FCS) schools and greatly enhance the schedules of every team in the league. TV is a winner.
If the SEC Championship Game is around – and the only way it wouldn’t be is playoff expansion and that date as the quarterfinals – it would be looking at better odds of a premier showdown, because we are also ditching divisions.
The teams with the two best league records – tie-breakers and the like figuring in, with head-to-head being number one – would play for the SEC Championship.
Here is the format, and who plays whom annually.
We based the five common opponents on history, tradition – you know, the things that made the SEC great, as opposed to catch-phrases like “brand” and “footprint” – geography the number of past meetings, and the relative tier of the programs.
The new schools have to be included, too, so please take that into account.
All 14 teams would play five annual opponents.
The other four conference games would rotate amongst the eight schools, not on the permanent schedule. Four would be played one year, with two at home and two on the road. Two years later those home dates would flip. The following year the other four would be played, with two at home and two on the road. Two years after that, those home dates would flip.
This would also mean that over a two-year period, every school would play every other school in the league, and that over a four-season stretch, every school would play every other school in the league at home and away (with Georgia-Florida and Texas A&M-Arkansas in the Southwest Classic in the Southeastern Conference being the neutral site exceptions).
For example, and we will run though all 14 teams, Georgia’s permanent five opponents would be: Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and South Carolina. In year one of the format, the Bulldogs would play Kentucky and LSU at home, and Alabama and Missouri on the road. Two years later, that would flip to Kentucky and LSU on the road and Bama and Mizzou at home. In year two, Georgia would go to Ole Miss and Arkansas, while playing Mississippi State and Texas A&M at home. Two years later, in Season Four of the model, the Bulldogs would play Ole Miss and Arkansas at home, and go to Mississippi State and Texas A&M.
This is as fair and balanced as possible, yes there would be a little griping, but once this got going, it would be the best thing that’s happened to SEC scheduling well, ever.
So here we go with the school and each one’s five annual opponents (and after Georgia, don’t read anything into the order of the teams, it is how I wrote it down on a mini-pad by divisions as it came to us):
GEORGIA – Auburn, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt.
FLORIDA – Auburn, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina (The Steve Spurrier and now Will Muschamp history has amped this one up), Tennessee.
SOUTH CAROLINA – Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri.
TENNESSEE – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Vanderbilt VANDY – Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee.
KENTUCKY – Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt.
MIZZOU – Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt.
ALABAMA – Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Texas A&M.
AUBURN – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss. MISSISSIPPI STATE – Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Texas A&M.
OLE MISS – Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, LSU, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt.
LSU – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Ole Miss, Texas A&M.
TEXAS A&M – Alabama (Bear Bryant Coach Fran), Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri
ARKANSAS – LSU, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas A&M.
Doing this was quite similar to finishing a somewhat complex Sudoku puzzle. Every school has five matches.
Please don’t be perturbed that I didn’t put in parentheses the “other eight” that would be played by each school twice every four years. That would be busy work and an insult to the intelligence of you, our loyal and faithful reader. And no griping allowed on how that may foil out either. If it seems extra tough one year – for instance, let’s say Georgia draws Alabama and LSU – then the next year it would be not so tough as neither would be on the slate.
Beyond the argument that some fans will have that their schedule right now looks tougher, and the gripe of some coaches that nine games would be too much – by the way, the PAC-12 and Big XII (with ten teams) play nine, this would solve virtually any red flag raised by anyone. Every major rivalry is covered, and if two teams like Bama and Ole Miss just have to play each other every year, as opposed to twice every four… play a non-conference game against one another.
This is the solution.
For the constant squabbling over SEC schedule, we give you the (near) perfect JD-Brame model that will be the envy and copy cat blue-print for other leagues to salivate over.
For SEC fans, this is E=MC (I don’t know how to type in the tiny two for squared). We shall await our royalty checks.
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