[Ed: Bumped from FanPosts. An interesting idea]
Whether you believe the rumors currently swirling about a possible Texas A&M move to the SEC, it appears that change is coming. Between A&M's frustration with the Longhorn Network and the general instability of the Big 12, it almost feels inevitable that the Aggies will bolt for greener pastures, if not Sooner than later (see what I did there?).
The obvious question for SEC fans then becomes, "What happens with our schedule?" Let's take a look at what Texas A&M moving to the SEC would do to the regular season format that we've all come to know and love.
The way the divisions are set up currently, a typical SEC schedule looks something like this:
- One game against each member of your division, rotating between home and away.
- Two games against a member of the other division - one home, one away - on a rotating basis.
- And one game against an inter-division rival. The inter-division rivals are as follows:
That brings each team to a total of 8 conference games a year - a system that has worked with relative success since it's implementation.
Now, suppose Texas A&M joins the SEC, like everyone thinks they will. Assuming the league decides to add one more team, bringing the conference to a total of 14 teams, there are two possible scheduling scenarios that occur, both of which we'll look at individually. In each scenario we'll assume a) the league will stick with the 8-game format and b) they want to preserve traditional rivalries, both in and out of the divisions.
Scenario 1: A team from the East
Let's say the SEC decides to add an east coast team in addition to A&M. It could be Florida State; it could be Virginia Tech; it could be Clemson. For the sake of this discussion though, it doesn't matter, so we'll call them Team 14 for now.
Since the league will want to keep the inter-division rivalries, it makes the most sense to simply put A&M in the West, and Team 14 in the East and match them up as inter-division rivals, giving the league a set-up that looks like this:
|Texas A&M||Team 14|
There's only one hang-up here (besides an awkward "rivalry" between Texas A&M and a team from the East), but it's relatively easy to fix. Adding a seventh member to each division gives teams 6 divisional games instead of 5, meaning a game would have to be taken away from the rotational inter-division schedule. This plan would have it's obvious flaws, such as having a season where Alabama plays Vanderbilt while LSU has to face Georgia, or something similar. However, such situations pop up even with the current inter-division system and will never be perfect.
Scenario 2: A Team From The West
Instead of Virginia Tech, Florida, or Clemson, what if the SEC decides to add a school west of the Mississippi? Possibly another Big 12 school like Oklahoma, Missouri, or Oklahoma State? (Again, these are arbitrary teams and have no bearing on scheduling. The only thing that matters here is that they are from the west. As in Scenario 1, we'll call them Team 14)
Texas A&M and Team 14 would certainly have to be in the Western Division, but that leaves the SEC with unbalanced divisions - 8 in the West and 6 in the East. At this point, it would make the most sense to put Auburn in the East, given that they are the Eastern-most team in the current Western Division. So let's take a look at the divisions we have now:
Here's where things start to get tricky. If you took the scheduling we used in Scenario 1 (6 division games, 1 inter-division rivalry, and 1 rotational inter-division game) it raises many issues, namely with the rivalries. In order to preserve inter-division rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and Alabama-Auburn, the conference would have to do away with the rotational inter-division game, leaving teams playing the same 8 teams every year. LSU wouldn't play Kentucky, for example, unless it was in the SEC Championship game.
A solution could be to simply rotate out a division game for a rotational inter-division game, but that leaves the possibilities of games like the Egg Bowl, or Georgia-Florida taking a year off - something college football just couldn't live with. So my solution would be to scrap the divisions. Yep. A good 'ol fashioned free-for-all, with the top two teams facing off in Atlanta for the SEC crown. Now, there is a caveat:
In order to, yep you guessed it, preserve rivalries, the league would have to come up with match-ups that would be deemed "untouchable". In-state rivalries like the Egg Bowl and Iron Bowl would certainly qualify, as would games like Georgia-Florida, Ole-Miss-LSU, and even Arkansas-Texas A&M. Once you come up with those games, simply rotate the other teams in and out, alternating between home and away, and you've got yourself a schedule.
And to make it even more fun? Make the tie-breakers for the SEC Championship as follows:
- Head-to-head (obvious)
- Wins in "untouchable" match-ups
- Margin of victory in "untouchable" match-ups
Think things are testy now? You haven't seen anything yet.
Are either of these scenarios perfect solutions to the scheduling dilema that the SEC would face if and when Texas A&M joins the conference? Absolutely not. In fact, most of it is wishful thinking on my part. (Especially the tiebreakers. Ohhhhh the tiebreakers.) But it's something to think about, namely the second one, and an issue that will certainly pop-up should the SEC find itself with two new members.
Got ideas of your own? I'd love to hear 'em.