The future of scheduling in the SEC has been a hot topic in recent weeks, as the conference attempted to settle whether or not to stay with an eight-game conference slate each year.
And after much debate among coaches, presidents and athletic directors, the decision is official: The SEC will play eight conference games.
However, there is a slight twist to the schedule announcement. SEC teams have to play at least one team from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 every year. That requirement isn’t a huge switch for the SEC, as 13 teams fulfilled that obligation last year.
A switch to nine conference games had merit, especially as the SEC needed valuable inventory to fill its new network. However, nine conference games would hurt the bottom of the league and potentially had an impact on how many SEC teams made the playoff.
Although eight conference games doesn’t match the Pac-12, Big 12 or Big Ten’s scheduling philosophy, the SEC is widely considered the No. 1 conference in college football and additional schedule strength isn’t necessarily needed. However, the new playoff format is a wildcard and could force the SEC’s hand to switch to nine games in the future.
For now, the eight-game format is the right decision for the SEC. Until there’s more data on how the playoff teams are selected, the SEC doesn’t need to pile up additional losses on its resume, which could hurt its teams at the end of the year. Also, switching to nine games would have hurt the bowl prospects of the bottom of the league.
Permanent non-division opponents were also maintained in the announcement, but that’s something that should be revisited at a future date. Does the SEC really need Kentucky-Mississippi State or Texas A&M-South Carolina every year?
A better solution to the permanent non-division opponent structure is to protect the rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee or Auburn-Georgia and remove the others to allow teams to play opponents more often.
Nine conference games may eventually happen in the SEC. However, for now, the conference made the right decision to stick with eight league games every year.