FanPost

A proposal for SEC football realignment

[Bumped from FanPosts to encourage more discussion.--ed.]

What rule says you have to have divisions in your conference? Divisions are actually, in my opinion, an impediment to fairness, as you can theoretically have the best three, four or five teams in one division, and it's certainly not uncommon to have the best two in a division. Rarely is that more apparent int he SEC than this year. I don't think it's a radical assertion to say that LSU and Bama should have the chance to play in an actual SEC title game, and not have what many consider to be the de facto championship game on November 5. 

Furthermore, there is an issue with odd number asymmetry, as seen in the 13 team scheduling headache. This is a headache not because of the number of teams, but on the insistence on having round robin divisions. And as the number in the divisions get larger, the scheduling gets unwieldy in a different way; it becomes difficult to maintain traditional rivalries. Let's say that Texas A&M is joined by Missouri as the two new entries into the SEC. Geography dictates that Auburn moves to the Eastern Division, which means that Alabama has to choose between having their every year interdivision game be the Iron Bowl or the Third Saturday in October.

Divisions are a mess that cause problems simply for the illusion of creating something that they ironically impede: parity. In general, dividing leagues or organizations into conferences makes sense, especially in college sports. Having multiple conference champions from the B1G, the PAC-12, the SEC, even the MAC and the Sunbelt are good for college football. But the further parsing into divisions is, quite simply, kind of dumb.

Instead I'd like to make a simple proposal, and I think the SEC is in the perfect position to lead the way in a new form of smart realignment. In fact, it's so simple that it hardly deserves the label "realignment" at all. There are three simple steps. 1) Do away with the round-robin divisions. 2) Maintain two traditional rivalry games (at least) per year for each team. 3) Play an eight game conference schedule, weighted where the opponents' cumulative record from the previous season is .500 (or very close to it). 4) Have the top two teams at the end of the year play in a conference championship game.

This would be pretty easy to make work - well as easy as scheduling can possibly be anyway.

Protected games:

Team:

Rivalry game 1

Rivalry game 2

Alabama

Auburn

Tennessee

Arkansas

Missouri

LSU

Auburn

Alabama

Georgia

Florida

Georgia

Tennessee

Georgia

Auburn

Florida

Kentucky

South Carolina

Vanderbilt

LSU

Ole Miss

Arkansas

 

Mississippi State

Ole Miss

Texas A&M

Missouri

Arkansas

Texas A&M

Ole Miss

Mississippi State

LSU

South Carolina

Kentucky

Vanderbilt

Tennessee

Alabama

Florida

Texas A&M

Missouri

Mississippi State

Vanderbilt

Kentucky

South Carolina

 

The other six games would be scheduled to create a balanced schedule for each team based on the previous year's records. Looking at the above chart, it's easy to see that some teams (like Bama and Florida) have tougher rivalry games than other teams (like Vandy and South Carolina). The rest of the schedule could be filled out to try to get some parity in scheduling. For example, in 2015 let's say Auburn went 5-3 in the SEC and Tennessee went 6-2. This means that Bama's rivals accumulated a 11-5 record, which is pretty good, so the remainder of their 2016 games would be against your Kentuckys and your Vanderbilts more than your Floridas and LSUs. South Carolina, on the other hand, would very likely play LSU or Florida.

Obviously, this idea can be tweaked. You can even add a third rivalry game. I only created two rivalry games per team since I didn't want some rivalries to be contrived (inevitable matchups that make little sense as rivalries, but are needed so other teams can have rivalry games, such as the Sherrill Bowl between MS State and Texas A&M), and in the process left out some awesome yearly matchups we are used to (most notably Florida-LSU). If you think I'm leaving out an important game (and I know I am) then you can make the case, or if I have the top two rivalries wrong (and I probably do in some cases). That's all peripheral to the idea I'm presenting here though.

So that's my simple idea. Divisions feel right, largely because we grew up with them. But they simply don't make sense in college football. Instead, why not create a system that makes it likely that the best two teams actually play for the SEC championship? Why not create a system that ensures rivalry games are protected? Why not do away with silly geographically-based divisions, and adopt a simple system that makes a hell of a lot more sense? 

A FanPost gives the opinion of the fan who writes it and that fan only. That doesn't give the opinion more or less weight than any other opinion on this blog, but the post does not necessarily reflect the view of TSK's writers.

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