The SEC hasn't made any announcements along these lines that I've seen yet, but South Carolina president Harris Pastides revealed that the SEC will play nine conference football games beginning with the 2012 regular season. The reason, of course, is due to the SEC's addition of Missouri to get to 14 conference members.
Back when 13-team schedules were the concern, they were always going to consist of eight conference games. There is a very good reason for that: you cannot make a nine-game schedule with 13 teams work. You end up with an impossible 58.5 conference games to be played.
However because most SEC schools have lined up four non-conference games for 2012 already, many schools will have to buy out one of those opponents. Pastides, for his part, promised that Clemson would not be the team that his school will get rid of. Most of the schools with four opponents lined up already have a I-AA opponent among them, and because they generally have the lowest guarantees, they'll probably be the cheapest to buy out.
Hopefully, this shift to nine conference games will not interrupt the non-conference rivalries that some schools have with teams from BCS conferences. Most SEC programs, whether they have non-conference rivals or not, had committed to a schedule with at least three cupcakes. I really hope that schools will not choose to end any historic series just to schedule an extra body bag game.
I also hope that this scheduling switch won't threaten to move the Florida-Georgia series out of Jacksonville. It's impossible for Jeremy Foley to schedule what he thinks is his required seven home games per year while both playing UGA at a neutral site and doing an annual home-and-home with FSU.
Regardless, this is a big change for the conference. The nation's toughest conference schedule just got tougher.
Matt Hayes of the Sporting News is reporting that the SEC league office will reimburse schools the money required to buy out a non-conference opponent this fall. He's also reporting that the two newbies of A&M and Missouri will be cross-division designated rivals. There was some speculation that Arkansas could be reassigned from South Carolina to Mizzou, but that didn't come to pass.
Charles Bloom, the SEC's PR guy, has denied that a nine-game schedule has even been discussed. Either Pastides got some seriously bad intel, or he seriously jumped the gun with this.