I heard a radio conversation last week specifically about Tennessee’s annual rivalry with Alabama and its pros and cons, but it piqued my interest about SEC scheduling in general.
In its current format, each SEC team plays the other six teams in its division every year alternating home and away, one annual opponent from the opposite division and one rotating opponent from the opposite division.
In my estimation, you would be hard-pressed to find a worse way to decide the teams which reach the SEC Championship Game.
Florida played Alabama in 2014 and it will not do so again until 2021. Tennessee plays Alabama every season.
In addition to the fairness of the schedule, should every player who stays four years not get to play every team in the conference? It seems a bit ridiculous that Kentucky and Texas A&M have been in the same conference since 2012 and will only meet for the first time as conference foes this season.
The unbalanced schedule the SEC currently employs is simply not conducive to finding the best team from arbitrarily created divisions or creating the best schedule on a yearly basis for players and fans.
But there is a pretty simple solution. The idea has been expressed before and it almost makes too much sense to ever hope the SEC will do it.
The SEC’s main argument for keeping the permanent cross-division opponent is to protect traditional rivalries. If that is truly what the SEC wants, the pod scheduling system makes perfect sense.
Each team plays three opponents every year—Tennessee would play Alabama, Florida and Vanderbilt annually—and with 10 other SEC teams and five other games per year, each team would play every non-annual SEC opponent every other year.
Here’s what a potential schedule could look like:
I truly do not understand any argument the SEC could have against this. It protects every traditional rivalry in the conference, creates a more equitable schedule and allows fans and players to see every SEC team every other year. If the SEC and NCAA are truly interested in creating the best experience for student-athletes, should they not get an opportunity to play in every environment in their own conference?
If Florida had to play Alabama in 2015 or 2016, would Butch Jones have an SEC East Championship?
There is no argument against it. Do it, SEC.