About this time every SEC football season, we begin to hear grumblings from the SEC fan bases who feel their team had to play the toughest cross-division teams while everyone else played the cellar dwellers.
The loudest grumblings of the 2018 season are coming from Athens, Georgia. They may not be wrong and they certainly are not the first, or last. Actually, Kentucky was screaming the loudest the previous week when they had to travel to College Station and lost to Texas A&M.
The SEC East-West cross-division scheduling format has been a source of contention since the beginning of divisional play in 1992. So, rather than grumble, some of us at FBSchedules (me) decided a solution to the problem was much more productive than grumbling.
SEC Cross-Division Scheduling Format Proposal
There is no perfect scheduling format, but I feel this is the one that will settle a myriad of problems in the SEC. There will always be a school administration and fan base (or six) that feel they have the toughest cross-division draw. This format would remove the subjective nature of those arguments by instituting a cross-division schedule based on where your school finishes in the previous season’s division standings.
Let’s consider two scenarios. The first will be with the current eight-game conference schedule. The second will be if (when) the SEC moves to a nine-game conference schedule.
If the SEC keeps an eight-game schedule
- For the sake of serving the rich history and tradition of the conference, each team will keeps its current permanent cross-division rival.
- The second cross-division game will be determined based on where each team finishes in the previous season’s division standings. Home field will rotate between division each year. Whether home field will coincide with home field for the SEC Championship Game is moot.
- SEC East No. 1 vs. SEC West No. 2
- SEC West No. 1 vs. SEC East No. 2
- SEC East No. 3 vs. SEC West No. 4
- SEC West No. 3 vs. SEC East No. 4
- SEC East No. 5 vs. SEC West No. 6
- SEC West No. 5 vs. SEC East No. 6
- SEC East No. 7 vs. SEC West No. 7
- If the format leads to a repeat of a permanent rival game, then one permanent rival will rotate with a team in the matchup directly below.
- Example: If SEC East No. 3 vs. SEC West No. 4 matches two permanent rivals that already play each other, the SEC East and West No. 3 will rotate so that SEC East No. 3 would play SEC West No. 3 and SEC East No. 4 would play SEC West No. 4.
- The primary reason for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 format rather than No. 1 vs. No. 1 is to avoid a rematch of the previous year’s SEC Championship Game. There’s no reason to punish the No. 1 seeds by forcing them to play one another, but an improved strength of schedule is important.
- An East No. 1 vs. West No. 2 (and vice-versa) demonstrates to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee that the conference is at least making an effort to have the best teams competing against one another to determine the truest conference champion possible.
If (when) the SEC moves to a nine-game conference schedule
- The first two bullets in the eight-game conference schedule scenario would apply in this scenario as well. The nine-game scenario allows the SEC to add a third cross-division game to the schedule.
- The third cross-division game should, for the most part, provide the No. 1 seeds with an advantage to being the No. 1 seed. The higher seeds will be the home team. This is an opportunity for lower seeded teams that are trying to make a run to the top tier of the SEC. What better way to get the attention of the nation than a big road win in the conference?
- SEC East No. 1 vs. SEC West No. 7
- SEC West No. 1 vs. SEC East No. 7
- SEC East No. 2 vs. SEC West No. 6
- SEC West No. 2 vs. SEC East No. 6
- SEC East No. 3 vs. SEC West No. 5
- SEC West No. 3 vs. SEC East No. 5
- SEC East No. 4 vs. SEC West No. 4 (at home field of team with best 2017 conference record)
How would 2018’s cross-division schedule have looked under this system?
- (E1) Georgia vs. (W2) Alabama
- (W1) Auburn vs. (E2) South Carolina
- (E3) Missouri vs. (W4) Mississippi State
- (W3) LSU vs. (E4) Kentucky
- (E5) Florida vs. (W6) Ole Miss
- (W5) Texas A&M vs. (E6) Vanderbilt
- (E7) Tennessee vs. (W7) Arkansas
How would it look with a nine-game conference schedule?
It would be a huge mess after the No. 1 vs. No. 7 and No. 2 vs. No. 6 games are determined. There are too many rematches of permanent cross-division rivals or rematches from the proposed eight-game conference schedule format.
Therefore, this proposal only works under the current eight-game conference schedule.
Would this be better than the current system? Worse? No different? Hit me with your ideas in the comments section below.
Eric Taylor is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricFromSpfld or contact him via email at EricFromSpringfield@gmail.com. Be sure to Like the Facebook page Facebook.com/EricTaylorWritesStuff for the latest on the 2018 SEC Football Predictions as well as all the things.