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Saban “The Hillbilly” Still Pushing For A 9-Game SEC Schedule

gfx - they said itAlabama’s Nick Saban was a lonely fella when the SEC’s football coaches voted to stick with an eight-game league schedule.  Thirteen coaches voted to stay at eight.  Saban voted to go to nine.

Now, that vote meant absolutely nothing, as we pointed out yesterday.  It’ll be up to the presidents and chancellors to eventually add another game to the SEC slate each year and — as we’ve said since 2011 — they will do so within the next five years.  There’s too much money on the table and there are too many concerns about strength of schedule in the new College Football Playoff world.

But that isn’t stopping Saban from speaking his mind when asked for his views on the subject:


“It is a league, so how can it be a league if you don’t play teams in your league?  So if you have a bigger league, you have to play more games.  Look, I understand I’m the only vote.  I’m the hillbilly from West Virginia, so I’m not very smart and everybody recognizes that.  So I’m the only one who thinks like I think.

Strength of schedule is going to be one of the most important factors when we get into a four-team playoff.  If we’re going to get more than one team from the SEC in that, we’re going to have to play more than eight teams.  So we’re going to have to play nine — some of us already do (meaning BCS-level teams) — and even 10 what I’m going to say are BCS-quality opponents.  It’s hard to schedule these people and it’s difficult to do home-and-homes to make it work, so why not play nine conference games and make it work and then play one other game?”


One word: Ditto.



Just some thoughts here.  No one's said this that I know of, but adding a 9th game isn't always going to improve strength of schedule.  Adding one of the bottom 6 six SEC teams to Alabama's schedule as a 9th game last year probably wouldn't have helped much at all.  At least with the current 4 team out of conference schedule, a team has better control over its strength of schedule--teams could decide who they wanted to play, not be locked in to the SEC rotation of games (one year getting a dominating SEC opponent and getting a very weak SEC team the next).  Saban's point that it is difficult to get good out of conference teams to play you home and home doesn't hold water.  When has Saban shied away from something because it is difficult?  Alabama manages to schedule one (and only one) difficult out of conference game per year.  I'm sure they could up that to two for the sake of strength of schedule.  That would have done a lot more for Alabama's strength of schedule last year than if, say, the SEC rotation had added Kentucky to Alabama's schedule.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


The goal would be to replace one of the current dogs (an FCS squad, for example) from a team's schedule with an additional SEC game.  Kentucky would still be better for strength of schedule than Jacksonville State, for example.  A win at Tennessee would have looked better on the resume last year than a home win over Georgia Southern, etc.

Thanks for reading the site,



@John at MrSEC @gregpomeroy1 With the 8 game conference schedule, there has always been and there will continue to be the option to replace an FCS team with an SEC-caliber out of conference opponent.  Kentucky would be better for strength of schedule than Jacksonville State, but so would Iowa, TCU and Washington.  A win at TCU would have looked better than a win over Georgia Southern as well.  Plus, fans would be more excited to see (and perhaps travel to) a game in another part of the country.  Los Angeles would be a better trip than Starkville.


@John at MrSEC @gregpomeroy1It's clear that if you are a coach at a particular school, you have more control over your strength of schedule with 4 out of conference games than 3.  If you want the toughest strength of schedule in the history of college football, you could schedule that.  If you want to just become bowl eligible (cough, cough, Vandy, cough, cough), you could try to schedule for that.  That's all that matters here.

But if for some reason you want to increase the conference's strength of schedule, adding a 9th SEC probably wouldn't even do that.  If you're Tennessee and you beat Vandy who has 4 wins over FCS schools, that doesn't help your strength of schedule.  But if you're Tennessee and you beat Vandy who has 3 wins over FCS schools and one loss to Mississippi State, that is even worse, isn't it?  

And the basketball analogy does work here.  (But, again, why would anyone care about the conference's overall schedule when individual teams can determine their own strength of schedule easily by their choice of non conference opponents) The way to improved the SEC's basketball strength of schedule isn't to have SEC teams play each other more.  The way to improve the SEC's basketball strength of schedule is to schedule tougher non-conference opponents and BEAT them .

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@gregpomeroy1 @John at MrSEC 

Not everyone schedules top quality teams from outside the conference.  That is the point.  Saban and Slive want the SEC to have a stronger strength of schedule.

Interestingly, at the same meetings where the basketball coaches were shown how all of their schedules are interlocked, we've had football coaches say, "Hey, if you wanna challenge tough, go for it."  No one is making the connection.  If the playoff selection committee starts to use some strength of schedule formula as the hoops committee does, then one schoo's pansy schedule COULD and WOULD impact another school's strength of schedule.

Moving forward -- as an example -- every team in the Big Ten will play nine conference foes and one team from another power conference.  They will play no FCS foes.  Meanwhile, SEC teams will play eight conference foes, only about 3/4s of them will play a school from a power conference, and most will play FCS teams.  To a selection committee that's guaranteed to want to get as many leagues into the playoffs as possible, it's easy to guess who'd get the nod if a Big Ten team and an SEC team were fighting for the final slot.  In one league, everyone plays 10 power conference games with no FCS foes.  In the other, most schools play nine power conference games and FCS foes are found almost everywhere.  Advantage: Big Ten.

But apparently Nick Saban and myself are the only two to saying this.  No matter.  I've written on this site since 2011 that the league would go to a nine-game slate within five years.  That's 2016.  And this week, a number of coaches, ADs and media members all said it's inevitable that the league will go to nine by 2015 or 2016.  At that point, we'll see how it works out.  (We won't hold our breath expecting anyone to come back and say, "You guys called it.")

Now, all that said, if you're simply against teams playing their conference rivals, that's a different argument and I leave it to you.  That's not how I think so there's no need for a discussion.  That's just a matter of preference and you have a right to yours as I have a right to mine.

But if we're talking strength of schedule, the SEC needs to go to nine league games (and nix FCS foes while it's at it.)

Again, thanks for reading the site,



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