The SEC has been playing an eight-game football schedule with one permanent inter-division opponent since the beginning of the 2003 season, a schedule that has drawn ire from fans and other conferences alike.
With that scheduling format, matchups between non-traditional opponents across divisions occurred every five seasons. But the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC in 2012 increased the total number of conference members to 14 and, as a result, also increased the non-permanent cross-division matchups to once every six years, or 12 to complete a home-and-home series.
As an example, the Texas A&M Aggies began SEC play in 2012 and haven’t yet played the Georgia Bulldogs in a regular-season conference matchup. Texas A&M and Georgia will meet for the first time in an SEC contest on Saturday in Athens, but then Georgia doesn’t return the trip to College Station until the 2024 season.
Several ideas have been proposed to decrease the gap between those contests, including eliminating divisions, moving to a pod system, and even cross-division model based on the previous season standings.
Whether any of those models have been seriously discussed by the SEC is unknown. However, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said this week that he believes the conference is mulling a 3-5 model (h/t FootballScoop).
“I know they’re looking at some formats going forward that, you know, keep the three main and rotate five and all those things,” Fisher said. “I think it is good for your players, eventually, to be able to play everybody in the conference. I really do believe that. I mean I think that’s good, to have that, that you’ve played that team or been in that stadium, and those things, but when you have conferences as big as you have now, that’s kind of the way it goes.”
Taking into consideration that the SEC is actually considering altering their football schedule format, it’s at least a good step forward. A 3-5 format would likely scrap the divisions and have teams play three permanent rivals and rotate the other five. That would mean each SEC team would play every other team in the conference over a two-year span.
It would also mean that most student-athletes would get to play in an opponents stadium twice in a four-year period. That’s a major improvement over the current model.
For Texas A&M, they would likely play Arkansas, LSU, and Missouri annually while rotating the rest. Georgia’s permanent opponents would probably be Auburn, Florida, and either South Carolina or Tennessee.
Opponents of the 3-5 model would argue that the SEC is still playing an eight-game conference football schedule, while the Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12 play nine games.