The New SEC: We've known about upcoming changes with the addition of Oklahoma and Texas to the Southeastern Conference in 2024, we just weren't sure exactly how scheduling might change. In reality, we're still not totally certain.
With SEC Meetings in Destin last week, commissioner Greg Sankey got together with the current conference membership to determine the direction going forward.
The big talk was for football. Early chatter was that the league would adopt a new nine-game format for conference games. That was just that - chatter. The SEC will stick to eight, but dump divisions. The latter was expected.
This is a trial basis however. We probably have a two-year run, but beyond that - who knows?
We all (including myself) had some fun in the off-season putting together our 3-6 model for a nine-game slate. Who would the three permanents be? That was the tough part. And that likely is the reason that a 1-7 format was selected. It's just easier.
It's easy to pick one permanent for everybody. Picking three is a whole new ball game. As I wrote a few months back, several teams have more than two or three good rivals. Several more don't. How do you decide who gets whom?
Nick Saban has taken his fair share of criticism over this. He has been standing alone mostly as a proponent for nine games. He changed his course when the 3-6 idea was introduced.
I don't think Nick was waffling. He just didn't think that particular version was best for all teams. Yes, he would've probably had a tougher road with Auburn, Tennessee and LSU than most teams.
We would like some parity. It's impossible to make it perfect. Somebody gets Vanderbilt.
Auburn has had it pretty tough in recent years getting both Alabama and Georgia every year. Those two have been the best two teams. And only Tennessee has had the same two foes.
Geogia has benefitted from getting Vanderbilt, Missouri and Kentucky every year.
We will lose Auburn playing Georgia every single season. And we'll lose Alabama getting Tennessee every single year too.
But, if Bama and Auburn wanted to keep those cherished rivalries intact annually, they didn't really show it. Seems the negatives outweighed the positives. Both the Tide and Tigers were opposed to the nine-game model that would have preserved their second-biggest rivalries.
With the removal of division play, and even with eight games instead of nine, we will get a more even rotation vs. all teams. There are other big rivals for many teams besides just a few.
If we'd gone to nine, it's likely that Auburn would've still lost LSU every year. That's a big game. Alabama would've lost Mississippi State. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but it is the Tide's closest (geographically speaking) and most-played opponent.
While Auburn and Georgia are Alabama's top two rivals, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M are also big games. If you polled those teams, Bama is first or second on their list of biggest games, though most are probably down the line for Bama fans.
Same thing for Tennessee. The Vols (I'd guess) list Bama first, then Florida, then maybe Georgia. Vanderbilt and Kentucky put Tennessee on the first line.
Some of these new rivalries have been "created" with conference expansion (Arkansas, Texas A&M), just as the inclusion of Oklahoma and Texas will create new rivalries.
By playing one permanent with a seven-team rotation, teams will go no more than two seasons without playing every other team.
Georgia has played Texas A&M just once since the Aggies entered the SEC. The Bulldogs have never been to Kyle Field. And the Aggies have been in the conference since 2012. Thank the current division play and two permanents per season for that.
So who will be the permanent foes for each team every year? Most of it's pretty easy. Here are the no-brainers: Alabama vs. Auburn,
Florida vs. Georgia, Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss and Oklahoma vs. Texas.
I assume this will make up the other permanents: Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt, Kentucky vs. South Carolina, LSU vs. Texas A&M and Arkansas vs. Missouri.
The 2024 schedules will be released during the 2023 football season. The most anticipated part about that revelation will be who the other seven for each team will be in year one.