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SEC Preserves Eight Game Schedule

It's not surprising, but it does contain one interesting bit.

Mike Ehrmann

The SEC has finally made up its mind on how it will run football schedules into the future, and it's going to look very similar:

Each SEC team will continue to play eight conference football games per season, to include six games against division opponents and two games against non-division opponents.  One of the non-division opponents will be a permanent annual opponent and the other non-division opponent will rotate each year.

In short, the 6-1-1 format is here to stay.

There is an interesting bit in there about non-conference scheduling though:

In addition, at least one opponent from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 must be scheduled by each SEC school on an annual basis beginning in 2016, with assistance from the conference office.

Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina already have annual series with ACC teams, so that doesn't affect them at all. In reality, it doesn't affect most of the rest of the league's schools either. Most schools already line up at least one power conference foe per year anyway, with the Mississippi schools being the only recent serial offenders I can think of off the top of my head. Ole Miss didn't have BCS opponent in the non-conference from 2009-11, while MSU didn't have one from 2010-12.

Reading over the press release, this decision basically came down to two things. One, most schools didn't like the idea of having some years with five conference road games and only four conference home games. Two, in the words of the press release, there are "varying institutional non-conference scheduling philosophies". Which is to say, the schools that are often borderline bowl teams don't want extra losses to knock them out of the postseason with a ninth league game.

Keeping the cross-division rivalries was important to preserve some historically important series like Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee. Those two are really what it's about, though Florida-LSU is good more often than its not and Arkansas-Missouri gives one of the newcomers a nice border war. UPDATE: According to LSU AD Joe Alleva, the idea of keeping UGA-AU and Bama-UT annual with everyone else rotating two games came up and got voted down.

Anyway, the conference can finally stop doing one-off schedules and actually set up a rotation beginning in 2016. Going with 6-1-1 makes for a pretty long time for everyone to play everyone else, but every scheduling format you can propose has some kind of tradeoffs to it. You can expect this format to stick until either the selection committee shows a bias towards the conferences with nine-game schedules or the league finally expands to 16 by snapping up Virginia Tech and NC State.