Here we are in 2019, and Texas A&M is finally coming to Athens to play Georgia. This is the first Southeastern Conference game between the Bulldogs and Aggies, who came into the league, along with Missouri, back in 2012.
These two are scheduled to meet again in College Station in 2024, the final year of the current scheduling format.
There is nothing that conjures up the conjecture like the talk of the schedule. As conferences have grown, that topic has focused not only on interesting and intriguing non-conference foes but also on how to best devise the slate within the various leagues. There are ideas aplenty, but with the vast interests of each school, it is borderline impossible to come up with a system that fits everyone. Who plays who? Where? When? Is there an open date? Lots of questions.
When college football went to the 12-game experimental schedule for 2002 and 2003, it was a huge hit. Rivalries that dissipated with conference expansion and the need for more league games, like Georgia vs. Clemson and Florida vs. Miami was renewed for those two seasons, plus there were intriguing matchups like the home and home between Alabama and Oklahoma. That was the idea.
Not surprisingly, in 2006, the 12-game schedule became a permanent fixture. Unfortunately, not enough schools went along with the spirit of the increase. Instead of the aforementioned renewed rivalries and major intersectional matchups, college football experienced a huge boost in the number of “guarantee” games. Not that those are guaranteed wins. Just ask Arkansas. There have been too few mega-showdowns, especially on campus, and too many directional schools, even FCS, the old Division 1-AA, vs. Big State University games.
For the most part, Georgia has done a great job scheduling name brand opposition – Clemson, Notre Dame, Arizona State and Boise State highlight the list.
Over the next 15 years, Georgia has put together the nation’s most impressive list of non-conference opponents. That is the vision of Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart. His Director of Operations Josh Lee has done a superb job as the point man of this undertaking, and the ledger of future foes is a who’s who of college football blue bloods and superpowers.
For the most part, what Georgia has wanted to do, with the eight-game SEC schedule, is to play another major program, the annual Thanksgiving in-state showdown against Tech and two games against lesser programs.
Coming soon are early-season neutral site games against Virginia – that’s next season’s opener – Oregon, and Clemson. Then things really pick up, as Georgia has scheduled home-and-home series with Clemson, Florida State, Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio State, and UCLA.
Georgia doing this has inspired, or perhaps even shamed, other SEC schools to try and step up their scheduling. With high octane non-conference games.
The Bulldogs really turn up the heat with games against two of these elite, plus Tech and the SEC slate from 2028-2031.
Yes, in addition to the Jackets and the rigorous SEC schedule, here’s what’s on the horizon. Georgia will play at Texas and host Florida State in 2028. The following year, the 100th anniversary of Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs will host Texas and go to Clemson. There’s a two-week gap between the Longhorns and Tigers, and that middle weekend, the plan is to play Yale, which christened the stadium in Georgia’s famed 15-0 victory in 1929. Georgia will welcome Clemson and Ohio State, plus that is an even-numbered year with the Yellow Jackets slated to come to Athens, in 2030. In 2031, the Bulldogs will open the season at Ohio State and host Oklahoma.
It’s the most ambitious future scheduling done by any major college football program in the 21st century.
There are a few ‘hot-button’ items that can be perceived from this.
The odds are, the SEC won’t be going to a nine-game schedule. Well, since it’s not good that it took eight seasons for Georgia and Texas A&M to play, and the league wants to avoid scenarios like that, it’s a pretty good bet that the annual rivalry games with Georgia and Auburn, Tennessee and Alabama, and LSU and Florida, are in serious jeopardy. It’s a pretty good bet that staggered schedules with two different teams from the “other” division is a very real possibility.
This is also an indicator that the college football playoff, like every other playoff in the history of sports, will expand and that strength of schedule will become an even more important factor in getting one of those coveted four, for now, slots.
No matter what the future holds, doing away with divisions would be a great way to increase the frequency of meetings with conference schools. Every team would have five conference opponents that would be on the schedule each season. If they wanted to keep the league schedule at eight, the other three games could be rotated, in a staggered system, amongst the other eight schools. Or if the conference wanted to go to nine games, you have your five and four of the other eight one year (two at home, two on the road), and the other four the next (two at home, two on the road. In years three and four, the home and road match-ups would be flip-flopped. That would mean that over a four year period, everybody would play everybody at least twice. Hey, with the assistance of my distinguished weekday co-host Chris Brame, I made a chart. We await the residual checks.