Mr. Conventional Wisdom checks the SEC’s pulse on the question of going to a nine-game conference schedule. He thinks it’s inevitable.
But several developments appear to be pushing the SEC to a nine-game schedule soon rather than later:
• The Pac-12 and Big 12 already play nine games and the ACC will do so next season when both Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the league.
• The Big Ten and Pac-12 tried to work out a scheduling relationship but couldn’t overcome the logistics. As a result, the Big Ten will probably take another look at a nine-game conference schedule.
• When the four-game playoff begins in 2014, the selection committee will look at a number of criteria, including strength of schedule. An undefeated Auburn got left out of the BCS championship game in 2004 and Commissioner Mike Slive vowed that would never happen again.
“We thoroughly vetted this idea of scheduling and we took a vote and chose to stay at eight games,” said Slive. “But we are also mindful that moving forward our strength of schedule will be a factor. I can’t tell you what we will decide. But I can tell you that this is something that we’re going to watch.”
Given that it’s Barnhart saying this, I’d say it’s worth giving it some very solid weight. He also makes a good point about where the real point of contention may lie.
Within the conference, the argument lines break down like this: The schools at the top of this conference that are competing for the national championship are willing to play nine conference games, a good intersectional game and two teams they can beat at home. But there are other teams in the league that need at least three guaranteed wins in non-conference games in order to have any shot at a bowl.
For me, though, the most interesting part of his piece is what he doesn’t say. There’s absolutely no mention of TV’s role in wanting more – and paying for more, of course – conference product to broadcast as a factor in expanding the conference schedule. That’s hardly an insignificant matter. So why do you suppose Barnhart omitted it?