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With ACC Going To 9-Game Schedule, Only The SEC Plans To Lag Behind

Early next month in Destin, Florida, Mike Slive and the presidents of the 14 SEC schools are expected to debate, discuss and ultimately approve of a new scheduling format for football.  To date, coaches and ADs have been firm in their stance that the status quo must not be changed.  Slive and the league’s transition-czar — former Mississippi State AD Larry Templeton — have repeatedly told the press that there’s been no traction toward switching to a nine-game conference slate.

Those who read this site regularly know that we believe that to be a mistake.

A simple businessman looks at his current situation and says, “All’s well, why change?”  A smart businessman looks at his current situation and says, “How is that situation going to change in the future and how must I change to insure future success?”

The SEC’s ADs — driven by the desire for more home games and an easier shot at bowl eligibility thanks to more cupcake opponents — believe that the eight-game schedule that has served the league so well the past 20 years will be just fine and dandy moving forward.

It won’t be.

Yesterday, amid Florida State rumors and realignment talk, ACC commissioner John Swofford made it official that his league would go to a nine-game conference slate when Pittsburgh and Syracuse are allowed to leave the Big East and join the ACC.  That puts the ACC right in line with every other major conference expect one.  Guess which one.

The Big Ten will be sticking with its current eight-game schedule, but a new round-robin agreement with the Pac-12 will guarantee that all Big Ten schools face nine or more BCS-level opponents per season.  In addition to the new yearly Big Ten games, Pac-12 teams will continue to play a nine-game in-league schedule… meaning Pac-12 schools will joust with a minimum of 10 BCS-level foes per year.  The Big 12 — a 10-team league for the time being — intends to maintain its nine-game, “everybody plays everybody,” round-robin conference schedule.

If you’re keeping score at home, that means of the five major conferences, four will require their schools to play a minimum of nine BCS-level foes per year.  Only the Southeastern Conference will stand pat at eight.

But it’s worked so far, right?

Yes, but a smart businessman like the one mentioned above should see that the landscape is rapidly changing.  Other leagues — whether SEC fans, coaches and ADs believe them to be inferior or not — are going to be playing more top-level games.  There’s a new playoff coming and there’s a push to get as many conference champions into that mix as possible (with as few wild card teams as possible).  Strength of schedule will matter as much or more than ever.  And in a sporting nation that’s quickly grown tired/sick/jealous of the SEC, you can bet strength of schedule in the SEC will become a key attack point for rival leagues, many poll voters, and perhaps a few computer programmers, too.

We’ve been writing that that for months now.  Last week, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany became the first person to take a swing at conferences that play fewer big-time opponents:


“The polls don’t always measure strength of schedule.  Some conferences are playing nine games, some are playing eight.  The Pac-12 is playing nine and then go out and play a round-robin game against us, that’s 10 and some of them are going to play Notre Dame — that’s 11 difficult games.  If they’re ranked fifth in the country and they won a conference championship, I think that’s quite an accomplishment.  Some teams don’t even win their own division.  They started off highly in the rankings, lose early, don’t play a championship game and they might end up at four.”


Wonder which league he had in mind.

For the SEC, the clock is ticking.  The league can do as it did in the early ’90s and overrule the fearmongers from within who claimed at the time that an eight-game league schedule and the addition of a first-of-its-kind championship game would end the SEC’s chances of ever winning another national title.  (Note: Alabama won the national crown in Year One of the tougher schedule, championship game era.)  Or the SEC can stand still as the world rushes past.

The SEC has benefited at the polls and in the computer rankings because the perception has been that the league is tougher than every other conference.  (We at believe that that perception has been a reality because of BCS title game success and the number of pro prospects NFL teams draft from Slive’s league every April.)  But the new perception is about to become that SEC schools actually play weaker schedules.  Like it, don’t like it, that’s what going to be said east, north and west of the SEC region.

Slive and his presidents can force a nine-game league schedule down their ADs and coaches’ throats for the long-term success of the conference in Destin.  We don’t believe they will, but they could.  And they should.

Getting tougher in 1992 made the college football world take note and has served as a launching pad for two decades of unrivaled success.  Now the SEC simply needs to keep up with the other four major conferences, not surpass them, to maintain their strength of schedule “wow” factor with the media.  Th same media who drive the perception of SEC greatness.

Will it keep up with the Joneses?

To quote a line that’s been credited to dozens of past military leaders: “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace.”  Roughly translated: Always be audacious.

In this case, simply the avoidance of timidity will do.

Rival leagues and the media will be watching.  And the SEC’s reputation is at stake.


W Hill
W Hill

SEC is too tough a conference to rush into a 9-game schedule.  It is easy to justify going to a 9-game schedule when your conference is weak.  The PAC-12 and Big 10 are not the conferences they used to be nor were they ever what they claimed to be.  Again, in the SEC, the 8-games played in the league may very well be the toughest games played all year.  I say stay at 8 as long as possible.   Who cares if every team doesn't play each other.  


Here's an option. Until they finally get their head around a 9-game schedule, they can ban playing anyone but div 1A oponents. That would instantly and measurably make SoS better. They could also make a rule that says they have to play at least 2 OOC games against teams in BCS leagues. If they did that, no one would complain about them having a weak schedule, and they may be even more effective at advertising their brand across the country.


Of course, assuming all comes to pass that is currently being talked about, there won't *BE* any BCS leagues.  The BCS is being replaced by a 4-team (or plus one, whichever) playoff.  Not targeting you specifically, but I think "BCS level" is more accurate.  No biggie, other folks are doing it also.


As for your point, though - once the BCS no longer exists who will decide which teams are "BCS level" and which teams aren't?  Especially with the propensity shown recently for teams to switch conferences?  A weak, bottom-dweller team that belongs to a former BCS conference may well be a much easier game than a stronger team that never belonged to a BCS conference.  Would you rather play Duke, or Boise or East Carolina?  I understand the point you're trying to make, just not sure how it would be implemented down the road.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


We've used the term BCS-level on just about every occasion we've referenced the current Big Five conferences: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.


Whether it's the BCS or another acronym, those five leagues will play at and be held to a higher standard than the others.


Thanks for reading,


Tyler B
Tyler B

Agree in the fact the animosity of writers and fans around the country will grow - the eight-game conference schedule being the newest gripe - so the SEC must do everything to preserve and win the one big OOC game any team's schedule. From Bama-Michigan to NC State-UT to all the way down to UK-UL.  The A&M Texas game really does hurt the SEC for the time being, but we should be fine for the next few years. I'm not worried about too much when it comes to the SEC because it's only a matter of time until the madness stops and we end up with a new NCAA of 80 teams. And retaliation will be nice at Swofford when we pluck four or five teams from the ACC and leave the rest to join the Big East. We're fine now, but agree that perception will one day become reality in the idiotic world of college football.


 @Tyler B While the horns refusal to continue the series does forestall what would be a natural solution to the problem of maintaining a schedule of 9+ quality opponents, don't think that A&M is only going to schedule the school for the blind. The scheduling philosophy at A&M (and it may change due to new conference and new AD) currently called for one marquee OOC game. For the past three years, that game was Arkansas. For obvious reasons, that's not an option now. But beginning in 2015 we've got a series w/ both Southern Cal and Oregon starting.


I understand the need to maintain a certain level of SOS, but I question whether 9 conference games is the only, or even best, way to do that. 


And once we have a 9 game conference schedule, we can move Mizzou to the West and Auburn to the East, where they belong, and preserving traditional rivalries won't be such a problem.


That is an interesting point Xllarf brings up. Tennessee has traditionally always played at least one OOC game against another BCS conference school...I decided to fact check this so...from 2001-2017 we have played or will be playing in the future...Notre Dame 3 times, Miami twice, Cal twice, Air Force, UCLA twice, Oregon twice, NC State, Oklahoma twice, and Nebraska twice. Last year we got out of the UNC game, still played Cincinatti who turned out to be decent as the season wore on.


Because we, more than some others, have to recruit nationally, these games have always been important and as a fan I love it. I don't want to give up these games for another SEC game. Looks like to me we're already doing what the Big 10 will be doing for the next few years. We're scheduled to play USC in 2021-22...It will have been a long wait, I certainly hope to see that.

XIlarf 1 Like

You mention "BCS level" games several times, and point out that some other conferences are getting there not by playing 9 CONFERENCE games but by scheduling agreements with other conferences.  Well, let's see.  In the SEC East every year S. Carolina plays clemson, Georgia plays Georgia Tech, Florida plays Florida State.  Not sure about the other East teams and their "permanent" non-conference opponents.  If you force a 9 game conference schedule on these teams then they will all play a *minimum* of 10 BCS level games. 


The SEC West tends to have intra-divisional rivalries instead, but much of the SEC East already has long-standing rivalry games against non-conference BCS level opponents, and already play 9 BCS level games every year..


Not arguing either way, actually, just pointing out the SEC East would be hammered harder by a 9 game conference schedule than the SEC West,


I heard just recently from CBS Sports a clip where Coach Miles does believe that the SEC WILL have two more members down the road......  I wonder if perhaps they may make changes to 9 games after two more teams are accepted.....and wonder if this might be a reason in waiting......


blh in AU


I'm just gonna trust Slive, sounds nutty for a sports fan to say, I guess. He brought all this to the table and the other conference commishes would have no part of it...years ago. I'm sure he has a plan, he knew it was a marathon and not a sprint.


It gets old reading the same 'drum beat' week after week after week.  


We get it, you guys want nine games.  Now can you find something else to write about?

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



Well now I feel really bad for putting a gun to your head and forcing you to... oh, wait.  I didn't do that.


The ACC just made a move yesterday that we believe required updating this story.  Jim Delany's comment last week did the same -- though we barely mentioned in that piece our belief that a nine-game schedule is for the greater good.  In addition, the clock is ticking on the SEC's decision.


You have the freedom to read what you like -- and the freedom to comment on it anonymously as we give you that right -- but we will continue to write what we believe needs to be written... when we believe it needs to be written.


Thanks for reading,


FallsChurchDore 1 Like

Couldn't agree more, and I think the Commissioner understands this.  My one thought is that the diplomatic Slive will look to usher in some sort of compromise, noting that the Big 10's move to 9 BCS games doesn't occur for another few years, and there's no practical reason to change things for the 2013 season.  I wonder if they'll announce that a 9-game schedule will be 2016, 2017, etc., citing the need to honor contracts already in place for the next few seasons, blah, blah, blah.



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