SEC in-conference scheduling has been a bit complicated since the league added Texas A&M and Missouri as members prior to the 2012 season. 12 is a more evenly divisible figure when it comes to scheduling; 14 is not. As a result, the conference had to throw together last year’s schedule on fairly short notice.
“I wonder about the view of how the champion is decided in the finest football conference in America,” Miles said. “It’s interesting to see how you would compare our schedule with others. I wonder if there should be no permanent partners. I wonder if a computer might pick a fair schedule by random draw. I wonder what other conferences require mandatory crossovers. The key piece for any conference certainly is to allow for there to be equal access to be champion.”
Miles addresses several different topics related to scheduling. First, he re-addresses the much-debated permanent cross divisional opponent. It seems Miles would be in favor of eliminating them altogether.
For those who aren’t familiar with the subject, I’ll quickly recap it for you. The SEC has scheduled a permanent non-divisional opponent for each team since the league expanded to 12 teams in the early 1990s (before which time, the conference did not have divisions at all). This was done to preserve longstanding rivalries between teams that were in opposite divisions, like Alabama/Tennessee and Auburn/Georgia.
In that process, though, every team had to adopt a permanent non-divisional rival to make it even. So, LSU was assigned Florida; Arkansas got South Carolina; Ole Miss got Vanderbilt; and Mississippi State got Kentucky.
Some still feel strongly that the Alabama/Tennessee and Auburn/Georgia games should remain in tact, but it seems to be fewer with each passing day.
The other main issue Miles addresses is how the schedules are determined each year. He suggests that the conference could use a computer in order to randomize each team’s schedule.
Another factor in all of this is the prospect of the league moving to nine game schedules. So far, there has not been official word about this change, but there has been a ton of conversation about the possibility.
I think Miles has a legitimate argument when it comes to scheduling. Since the league is now at 14 teams, an eight game schedule only provides for two non-divisional games each year. Given that one of those will be the permanent rival, it provides for one rotating opponent each year. That means each team will get to play the other teams from the opposite division once every six years, which is too infrequent.
During his remarks on the teleconference, Nick Saban said every player should get the chance to play every other team in the conference at least once.
As Miles said, this is the best football conference in the nation. There should be a way to further its competitive balance.
From the Eastern Division, LSU will play Florida and at Georgia in the upcoming season, which had a combined record of 23-4 in 2012. Compare that with Alabama, which will play Tennessee this year and travel to Kentucky. They had a combined record of 7-17 in 2012.
I wasn’t any different last year. LSU’s non-divisional opponents were South Carolina and at Florida, which had a combined record of 18-8 in 2011. The Tide played Tennessee and at Missouri last year, which had a combined record of 13-12 in 2011.
Things will never be completely equal, but permanent cross-divisional rivalries are preventing more balance in college football’s preeminent league. Whether it is moving to nine game schedules, adopting Miles’ suggestion of using a computer, or some other measure, this is an area that needs to be addressed.