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ACC Sticking With 8-Game Football Schedule As Rumors Of 9-Game SEC Slate Heat Up

Six months ago, every major football conference in the country was going to a schedule that would include at least nine games against BCS-level foes.  Only the SEC was planning — short-term anyway — to stick with an eight-game conference slate.

But then the Big Ten pulled out of its deal with the Pac-12 and decided to stick with an eight-game league schedule while also trying to get its teams to beef up their nonconference schedules on their own.  The reason is strength of schedule, which will play some sort of role in the selection of the four semifinal teams in college football’s new playoff which will begin in 2014.  Yesterday, ESPN reported that the ACC has also decided — after adding Notre Dame — that scheduling would be easier with an eight-game format.

That might be good news for the SEC and here’s why.  We’ve said three things here over the past few months:

 

1.  If all the other major conferences are playing more games against big-name foes than SEC teams do, the anti-SEC bias of some on a selection committee could/would use that against the league to make sure Mike Slive’s league would not get two teams in a playoff.

2.  If a selection committee didn’t force the SEC’s hand, ESPN might.  When the SEC Network launches in late-summer 2014, you can bet more subscribers will demand access if the games being shown are Auburn-Florida or Georgia-Texas A&M rather than LSU-Idaho or Tennessee-Akron.

3.  If SEC schools want fans to fill up stadiums again (and we’re talking turnstile attendance, not tickets sold), they need to book better nonconference foes.  The SEC’s early season slate has been peppered with FCS opponents and traditional patsies.  Yes, all leagues do this to an extent, but you won’t find many schools with non-league schedules like this: Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama, and MTSU.  Mississippi State fans will tell you that they sold out all its home games, but it must be noted that MSU also plays in a stadium that seats about half as many people (55,000) as several SEC stadiums.

 

As far as Point #1 is concerned, the decisions of the Big Ten and ACC will definitely help the SEC in terms of fending off anti-SEC bias.  A Jim Delany-type on the new selection panel won’t be able to say, “Yeah, but the SEC plays fewer big-time foes” if his league isn’t booked for more big games, either.  (For those who say teams in the running for the national crown will have scheduled wisely anyway, you’re ignoring the surprise team — like Auburn in 2004 — whose weak nonconference schedule was used against it at BCS selection time.)

Regarding Point #2, well, that’s where this all gets very interesting.  In the past three weeks, this writer has personally communicated with representatives from two different SEC athletic departments as well as someone in the SEC office who told me that a nine-game schedule was back on the table… thanks to the aforementioned SEC Network.  One source claimed that the reason the league hasn’t announced its new schedule rotation yet is because a nine-game format remains a possibility.  If that’s indeed the case — and we have no reason to doubt three different sources from three different places — will the ACC’s decision impact the SEC’s at all?  Or will it all just come down to ESPN and television dollars?

As for Point #3, whether the SEC goes to a nine-game schedule or sticks with an eight-game schedule, the league’s teams need to start scheduling better.  Kudos to Alabama for playing Michigan, Auburn playing Clemson and Tennessee playing NC State in made-for-TV neutral-site games this season.  Alabama will face Virginia Tech in Atlanta, LSU will play TCU in Arlington, and Mississippi State will open with Oklahoma State in Houston next year, too.  More kudos.

But as a fan don’t you want more?  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe most fans are happy to pay $50-100 to watch their local team face three cupcakes (or four, depending on the school) in a given season.  I’d like to think not.

And for all the boasting we do Down South, what’s wrong with playing 10 good games a year instead of nine or eight?  (Ten meaning nine league games and one solid nonconference contest.)

We at MrSEC.com are still hoping for nine games.  We still believe nine games will happen.  We were surprised to learn that nine games might be closer to becoming a reality than we had thought.  But we didn’t expect the ACC to backtrack.

And now we wonder what ESPN executives are whispering in Slive’s ear.

Stay tuned…

 

UPDATE – Ohio State announced a series with TCU today and athletic director Gene Smith said starting in 2018 the Buckeyes’ goal “is BCS only… We are looking at top-ranked teams, 1-50 teams.”  Now, I’m no Ohio State fan but I’ll surely applaud that move.  That beats the heck out of playing four creampuffs each season and here’s hoping many/all SEC programs take the same approach to future scheduling.

 


14 comments
AllTideUp
AllTideUp

With 14 teams, the SEC needs to go to 9 if the teams in the opposite divisions are ever going to see each other  more than twice every 12 years.  No sense in losing some of the league's unity and tradition if it's not necessary.

 

The good thing about 9 league games when it comes to TV is that it will create additional high quality match-ups for the major broadcast networks while also creating additional lower quality match-ups that might be better suited for an SEC-centric network.  I don't know what effect this new SEC Network might have on the syndicated SEC broadcast that goes out now, but the new network probably needs one conference game per week in addition to the occasional cupcake game.  That would make it much more likely to get picked up quickly.

 

I like 9 conference games...I like the idea of a deal with the ACC too.  I also think the SEC needs to work on a divisionless setup so that teams may focus on preserving all their important rivalries while playing everyone else with regularity.

Marwinny
Marwinny

John - you really think a big 10 eight game schedule is comparable to an SEC schedule? Much like notre dame the buckeyes probable feel that feasting on illinois and indiana will not cut it with the computers.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @Marwinny 

 

It has nothing to do with what I think.  It has nothing to do with what you think.  The only thing that will matter is what a selection committee thinks.  And every league in America wants to de-throne the SEC (which is why we finally got a big playoff push just as soon as two SEC teams met for the BCS crown).

 

If the people on that panel feel that a Big Ten team that's played 12 big-conference foes has done more than an SEC team that's played eight league games and one big nonconference foe... that's all that will matter.  

 

So if I'm Mike Slive or an SEC athletic director, I wouldn't want to give people who do not want multiple SEC teams in the playoff any added reason to keep that second team out.

 

This has nothing to do with SEC fans' perception of how tough their league is.  It has only to do with who's on the selection committee and what their motivations are.

 

Thanks for reading,

John

Speedy98
Speedy98

Why no get radical and go to a 10 game conference schedule? 1. It would give each school 5 conference home games 2. With a 6-1-3 format you would play every school at least twice in a four year period. On another, note I am all for some type of deal with the ACC, B1G, or Big 12 to play some type of rotating schedule.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

 @Speedy98 I actually think 10 games would be a good idea although I don't expect anyone to go for it.  Maybe in the future.

kentatm
kentatm

would rather have 8 league games and just set up deals with the ACC, Big 10, and Big 12 to all schedule eachother.

BoroMarkH
BoroMarkH

Help me out John.  UT was scheduled to play Ohio State in 2017-2018 in a home and home.  OSU backed out of the contract because of the proposed 9 game B1G conferenced schedule.  Now OSU has TCU scheduled in that same timeframe.  Why wouldn't they just keep UT on their schedule?  Thanks for the help.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @BoroMarkH 

 

I've not spoken to folks at either school about that, but I would imagine that OSU cancelled the series thinking nine BCS games (eight versus Big Ten and one versus Pac-12) would be enough in the BCS environment.  Therefore, they canceled the Tennessee series and did the same with a home-and-home set-up with Georgia.  

 

Then came the new college football playoff plan and the use of a selection committee as well as the end of the Big Ten/Pac-12 deal.  OSU leadership now apparently feels like the more games against big-time foes the better.

 

Whether or not they went back to Tennessee or Georgia to discuss kickstarting the games they'd cancelled, I do not know.  It's possible that those schools went ahead and booked other opponents when OSU initially pulled out, but I doubt it.

 

Thanks for reading the site,

John

USAFMEDIC
USAFMEDIC

Mizzou scheduled Arizona State, Syracuse, and UCF. Those are pretty good opponents.

bpa_kc
bpa_kc

I'm "ok" with 8 league games.  What I would like to see would be a partnership with either the Big 12 or ACC to schedule x number of cross-conference games each year.  Kind of like what the PAC/B1G were trying to do before the deal fell apart. 

m_Ag
m_Ag

Greater TV revenue from scheduling better will offset any lost revenue from a home game lost every other year.

 

I'd be OK with 9 conference games, but I would rather see our league stick with 8 conference games but our TV negotiations require:

1) no FCS schools be scheduled

2) every school schedule 2 'AQ' teams per year (so they get 1 TV home game each year), with at least one not being from the Big East

 

Any school that didn't meet these requirements would forfeit some of their TV revenue back to the networks.

 

This would require most current schools to drop their worst annual 'buy' game and replace that with an interesting match-up.  Georgia has a series in the future scheduled with Clemson to go with their Georgia Tech series.  Florida could play Miami in a addition to FSU or it could schedule someone from out of state.  MSU could schedule a Washington State or Minnesota in addition to a Memphis (a soon-to-be Big East team), so they can't argue their schedule would be impossibly hard.

 

Replacing the 14 games that have little TV value with 7 games with high TV value would be good for the SEC's TV package.  And if we really are the best conference we'll win most of those games and continue to stay well positioned in the new playoff/bowl system.

GeoffDawg
GeoffDawg

@m_Ag Additional tv revenue might make up for the loss of a home game ever other year but for UGA, UF, and SC, they would still be at a financial disadvantage relative to the rest of the league due to equal revenue sharing. I still think there will need to be some type of concession or creative scheduling to get them on board.

iDBrown
iDBrown like.author.displayName 1 Like

No, I don't want more conference games. 8 SEC games is fine and balanced. It works. I have not seen a compelling case to expand to 9 games, yet. When a team like Mississippi State has to on an annual basis play LSU and Alabama, arguably the top 2 programs in the country, I have no issue with them playing a soft non-conference schedule. Over the last 5 years, State has played something like 26 ranked opponents. I don't see a need for a tougher schedule. 

GeoffDawg
GeoffDawg like.author.displayName 1 Like

I wonder how the administrators at Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina feel about this development though? With annual ACC rivalries, a ninth conference game would mean a loss in home team revenue. In my mind, an interesting solution would be to partner with the ACC and with the exception of the three previously mentioned, establish a rotating annual schedule with an ACC opponent.

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