Monday, April 28, 2014
SEC: Eight is Enough
The college football playoff will reward teams with tough strengths of schedule.
Knowing this, coupled with new conference networks aimed to drive revenue, the Big Ten and Pac-12 moved to nine game conference schedules. The Big 12, despite not having a network, did the same in the hopes of bolstering title hopes of worthy teams.
The SEC is different. They have recent history on their side, which gives them a confidence and swagger that stands apart in college football. And, with that swagger in mind, the SEC announced that they are not moving to a nine game schedule; rather sticking with the eight game rotating slate they currently have.
To many, it's a stroke of arrogance. True, but it's also a pretty clever move, given just how nice a position the SEC occupies.
The added caveat was that, beginning in 2016, all 14 SEC schools must play a team from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, or Pac-12 in their non-conference slate. While it sounds great on paper, this doesn't affect most SEC teams. South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky all have ACC in-state rivalries. Arkansas is already covered until 2020, then hosts Texas in 2021. LSU has four years to find someone for 2018 and 2019, and is covered up until then, plus from 2020-24.
The teams that it'll affect the most ... Ole Miss, who has Georgia Tech for 2017-18, but plays no one from the Big Five conferences in 2014-15. The Rebels do play Boise State this season though. Mississippi State, who has no Big Five conference teams scheduled in the near future anytime soon. And Vanderbilt, who has Georgia Tech themselves in 2016, but no major school slotted.
It'll also affect the other conferences, who now know that the SEC will ensure many of their teams end up playing a SEC opponent to go with their nine game conference slates, making it even tougher for their best teams to gain one of those coveted four spots in the college football playoff. Sure, they could turn SEC schools down and force the issue. However, as we've realized more and more, college athletics has become big business and the SEC is a cash cow that can't be ignored right now.
So, to put it short, the SEC called everyone's bluff, kept their schedule from getting tougher while making everyone else's so. Game, set, match, Mike Slive.
The only real howling from this decision from inside the ranks came from LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva, who did not succeed in persuading the SEC to end the policy of having a permanent cross-divisional opponent. LSU draws Florida every year, and Alleva is livid that the Tigers annually play a national power, while Mississippi State gets Kentucky each year.
Alleva has a valid point. There are some issues, though.
First, Alabama and Tennessee don't want to end their traditional game. Neither do Georgia and Auburn. Alleva conceded those two games, citing their tradition.
Second, geographically, it makes complete and total sense for Arkansas and Missouri to play each year; the fact they haven't played yet in conference play is puzzling enough.
Third, LSU/Florida demands big crowds and big TV audiences. LSU/Kentucky does not. LSU/Vanderbilt does not. The powers that be in the SEC know this.
So, if LSU wants to trade, their best shot is to swap with Texas A&M, who plays South Carolina. Their other option is to start losing on a consistent basis to make their Florida matchup unattractive. I doubt the latter would go well in Baton Rouge.
All the bases were covered. The SEC Network will reap the benefits and the conference was spared the option of making life tougher on themselves. You have to hand it to Mike Slive. The SEC, yet again, makes a move and comes out on top.