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Alabama’s Blowout Win Over Tennessee Won’t Help “Permanent Rival” Cause

06-rivalry-pic_display_imageAlabama/Tennessee and Auburn/Georgia.  Two of the oldest, most-storied rivalries in the South and in the nation.

And if some SEC figures have their way — LSU AD Joe Alleva and football coach Les Miles — those rivalries will soon be nothing but history.

With the SEC expanding to 14 teams, there’s now a feeling among some that the scheduling rotation is not fair.  Now, we have written many times that there is no such thing as a “fair” schedule unless all 14 teams play one another both at home and away.  It’s unlikely a 26-game schedule is coming down the pike, so regardless of what new system is put in place, the rotation will always leave some moaning and some groaning about unfair shakes.

Those wanting to do away with permanent cross-division rivalries have focused in on the Alabama/Tennessee rivalry, mainly because the Volunteers have fallen on hard times of late.  Bama now owns a seven-game win streak over their old enemy.  Saturday’s 45-10 beatdown only serves as further proof — for some — that the league’s longtime premier rivalry should be nixed (as though college football needs more dead rivalries at this point).

“Tennessee stinks and Alabama should have to play Florida or Georgia more often!”

Question: Who in the SEC East would’ve beaten Alabama last Saturday?  A wounded Georgia team?  A Florida team that’s both beat-up and offensively deficient?  Perhaps Missouri or Carolina could have given Bama a better game, but at this point, there aren’t many schools in America who can stand toe-to-toe with a program barreling toward its third BCS title in a row and its fourth in five years.

Tennessee became just the second team to score a touchdown against Alabama since September 14th.  Rotating the schedule is supposed to change that kind of dominance?  Please.

The fact is, Tennessee/Alabama is an annual tilt between the two winningest teams in SEC history.  For those with short memories, the current seven-game Tide winning streak was preceded by a seven-game Vol winning streak from 1995 to 2001.  In between, Tennessee took another three out of five.

The “Third Saturday in October” rivalry has long been a series of streaks.  One team is often up while the other is down.  Alabama has had winning streaks of seven (2007-2013), seven (1986-1992), and 11 (1971-1981) in the last 45 years.  Tennessee has had winning streaks of seven (1995-2001), four (1982-1985) and four (1967-1970) over that span.

Still, you can be certain that Alabama’s blowout of Tennessee on Saturday will be brought up this offseason at the SEC meetings.  Once again, LSU will lead the charge to dump permanent cross-divisional rivalries so they can rid themselves of their annual Florida date, a game that has been played every year since 1971 and a game that’s become a favorite of the league’s broadcast partners.

But instead of tossing a century of SEC tradition (Alabama/Tennessee, Auburn/Georgia) because of one school’s fears and a seven-year win streak, the league would be better off doing what we’ve been suggesting it do since October 21st of 2011 — adopt a nine-game schedule with a 6-1-2 rotation.

With attendance dwindling for non-conference games, a new playoff selection panel focusing on strength of schedule, and a new television network to fill with good programming, we believe a move to a nine-game slate is likely.  The 6-1-2 rotation (six division foes, one permanent cross-division foe, two rotation cross-division opponents) would guarantee that schools in opposite divisions would face one another more often and it would protect old rivalries (Alabama/Tennessee, Auburn/Georgia, Ole Miss/Vanderbilt) as well as keep TV faves (LSU/Florida) alive.

There’s a good answer out there for those who want to make today’s Alabama team face tougher challenges from the East Division.  And it’s better than dumping a classic rivalry that — if history serves — will eventually see Tennessee rise and Alabama fall.  And so on.

Here’s hoping the SEC’s power brokers take a long-term view rather than a short-sighted one.  But we won’t be holding our breath.  The league’s current stewards haven’t proven to be as wise on scheduling issues as their predecessors.



It's also funny how of all the cross-division games, the ONLY historic 1 ever mentioned is Tenn./Al. simply due to the Vols current rebuilding phase & Alabama's steamrolling through everybody.

As you're mentioned, John, NOBODY seems to remember just a few years ago when the roles were reversed & Orange was more victorious than Crimson.

Apparently they've forgotten the UGA/Aub. game that has been played LONGER than TTSIO's competition.  Guess it's called "The Deep South's OLDEST Rivalry" for a reason!


I know this will fly higher than a lead balloon, but I read a proposal on another site to go to 10 conf. games:  6 interdivision, 1 perm. rival, & 3 rotating rivals.  You''ld go through the entire cycle in 4 years & everybody would have 5 H/5A conf. games.

Drawback to this is:  UGA/UF/USC/UK will all only have 1 slot free due to their annual in-state rivalry with their ACC counterparts taking Game 11.


Listen, I am a Tennessee Volunteer who wishes we would STOP playing Alabama every year. They are the power of the conference and history shows they are the best and Tennessee number 2 although recent history is allowing several schools to catch us. Before 1992 when they were 10 SEC teams Tennessee played Auburn and Mississippi every year. Those were rival games as well and now it is rare we play either one of those teams. Things change and the world would not stop if we played Alabama less frequently..I can remember when Texas and Texas A&M and Oklahoma & Nebraska played every year and now they are in different conferences. The world did not stop. I wish the SEC only played every team in there division every year and went to 9 games and played 3 home and away from the other division every year. The only problem is they are now 7 teams in a division.


I live near Tenn and a lot of UT fans up here would not grieve to see the Tide off the schedule.


How long before Alleva and Miles start complaining about being in the SEC West?


"Here’s hoping the SEC’s power brokers take a long-term view rather than a short-sighted one.  But we won’t be holding our breath.  The league’s current stewards haven’t proven to be as wise on scheduling issues as their predecessors."

I respect yo're view John, but it is possible to have just as valid an opinion that elimination of permanent rival games does reflect the wise, long-term view. The decision should be about what is best for the league as a whole, not a few of its' individual members.


I personally do not like the permanent cross-division rival setup they currently have.  IMHO, a nice middle ground would be to keep the handful of historic rivalries, and eliminate the rest of them and let those teams rotate cross-division games each year. 


@bpa_kc & please tell me HOW you're going to implement 2 historic cross division rivalries, 5 toss up cross division games, AND create a rotation that's fair to all 14 schools?

BTW, "having the historic games NOT count as an SEC conf. game" is NOT the answer!


@SouthernBoiSB @bpa_kc 

I don't think you can create a FAIR system with 14 teams.  As john has said, the only "fair" system would be for every team to play every other team both home and away ever year... which obviously cannot happen.

I know I don't like the current system in which we play a "non-rival" west team once every 6 years... and only visit them once every 12 years.  It isn't ideal to have a couple of schools with permanent rivals why most don't have them... but at least it protects the "integrity" of the league while also allowing other schools to play each other more often.  Personally, I think you should throw out the protected rivalries... BUT... as a newb fan to the league, it is not my place to say what those yearly games mean to those fan bases. 


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