The SEC has finally figured out its scheduling quandary after bringing on two new teams, officially going with a plan that would give each team games against six division foes, one permanent cross-division rival and one rotating out-of-division opponent every year. And then whichever four out-of-conference teams are up.
The way it's set up, it means, say, Alabama and Georgia will only play every six years, and the Tide will visit Athens once every 12. It's almost like they're both in the same conference, sort of! Barely!
Texas A&M-South Carolina
So why not just play nine conference games, allowing teams to see each other more than once a decade?
Gogue: Going to 9 SEC games created unfair competitive issues for GA, FL & SC, whose natural rival is out of conference.
After South Carolina president Harris Pastides revealed that his Gamecocks and the Texas A&M Aggies would begin a new, cross-division rivalry while the Missouri Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks paired up, it looked like the SEC had found a way to preserve its traditional rivalries while incorporating two new teams. You know, traditional rivalries like Kentucky-Mississippi State and Texas A&M-South Carolina.
Now R. Bowen Loftin, president of A&M, tweets with bowtie not whirling:
Just had a great conversation with the South Carolina president about our permanent SEC rivalry. We will make this very special! #SEC#WHOOP
Good news for fans of schools with rivalries worth keeping -- Alabama-Tennessee, Georgia-Auburn, and LSU-Florida. Now we'll all just try and wrap our minds around various things such as two schools that may not have ever played each other being declared eternal rivals, the Aggies replacing Texas with Carolina and feeling great about it, and just about the two most distant teams in the conference playing each other every year.
The SEC continues to work through the great scheduling debate of our time, seeking to figure out how to maintain a handful of historic rivalries without pushing to nine conference games, and without making it so teams in opposite divisions never play each other.
Mizzou-Arkansas will be an instant hit, as they share general geography, bowl history -- and recent basketball history. But Carolina and A&M? Help me out here. I'm having a hard time figuring out if they've ever even played football against each other before.
Pastides expects an announcement within two weeks.
The Third Saturday in October and the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry aren't going to save themselves. Time to build a schedule that can salvage the SEC's essential rivalries. Also: Should the SEC scrap its divisions?
The latter ensures all other existing rivalries remain untouched, while the former ... hoo boy.
The SEC receives heckles for its oft-squishy out-of-conference schedules, though around these parts it's clear the in-conference gauntlet makes up for some pastries. Moving to nine games destroys that flimsy criticism, not that the SEC has struggled with strength-of-schedule issues.
It also makes it even harder for a team to emerge unbeaten from the SEC. As the Pac-12 has shown over the years, winning nine times against BCS-conference teams is hard.
(It also means $$$$$$$$$$ for more big regular season games. Though fewer middling SEC teams will go to bowl games.)
Now the big question raised by these answers: which SEC schools will retain rivalry games with fellow power conference schools? Pastides says the Cocks will still play the Clemson Tigers, giving them only two gimme games per year besides, like, Kentucky. Just about every SEC school will have to drop at least one game for each of the next several seasons, and fans of rivalries will have to hope only cupcakes get the fork.