Ramping up the nine-game conference schedule talk

Not that Mike Slive particularly cares, but if he’s looking for cover on that ninth SEC game, Nick Saban’s got his back.

“I personally feel like strength of schedule is going to be a real important thing in the future,” he said. “I know there are people out there who say we have fixed opponents that are very, very good teams. Well, let’s make a deal and let’s all play 10 good games. We’ll still play Virginia Tech or Wisconsin or West Virginia or Michigan or one of these teams in the first game of the year and go play nine conference games too.

“I think all those things make your team better and it’s really better for the fans. I think we should spend a lot more time thinking about the people that support and make college football what it is.”

(You know what gets me about that comment?  I actually believe Nick Saban is sincere there.  Given all the garbage lip service we usually get from the higher-ups about concern for the fans – other than keeping our wallets open, that is – I appreciate that.  But I digress.)

Judging from this article, I don’t get the impression SEC coaches are presenting a unified front on the subject, anyway.  In the end, there are two things driving Slive’s decisions and neither involve Saban and his peers.

One is how the new postseason shakes out, or, more specifically, whether Saban is correct about how important strength of schedule turns out to be in the selection committee’s eyes.  The thing is, as Stanford’s head coach points out, there are a lot of moving parts in play.

“Who’s going to be on the selection committee?” Shaw asked. “And what are they going to put importance on? Are they going to ding SEC schools for not playing nine conference games? Are they going to ding them for their out-of-conference schedules? Are they going to reward teams that have tougher out-of-conference schedules? Are they going to reward teams that have conference championship games?”

All good questions, and I expect that the SEC hesitates on a scheduling decision until it gets some answers.  The intriguing thing to ponder is, assuming that Saban’s right about strength of schedule, how does the SEC deal with Boom’s whining about the downside for a few schools that have to pair a nine-game conference slate with a big OOC rivalry game?

“I’m not for a nine-game schedule. I don’t think it’s best for our league,” Florida’s Will Muschamp said. “It’s too challenging with the in-state rivalry we already play. You add a ninth game (in the SEC), it’s too difficult.”

Saban’s suggestion that every team in the conference limit itself to two cupcake games a season would balance the scales – not to mention that it would be awesome from a fan standpoint – but you wonder how easy it would be to carry out.  It would take some really judicious scheduling to make sure SEC schools had a satisfactory number of home games every year, because the net effect of such a policy would be to switch two games to home-and-away on a permanent basis.  And judicious scheduling hasn’t been the SEC’s strong suit lately.

But that’s only part of the picture.  The other big issue Slive has to grapple with is programming for the new SEC Network.  And that, too, is going to involve some judicious scheduling.

Look for some scheduling adjustments in football. With the need for four quality games for TV (one on CBS and three on ESPN), the SEC can’t afford to have a weak Saturday like Nov. 17 last year, when the top games were LSU-Ole Miss, Arkansas-Mississippi State and Vanderbilt-Tennessee.

To do that with the current schedule format… well, that’s going to be complicated, both in terms of spacing and in having quality product.  How many must-see games can the SEC produce in a year?  I suspect Les Miles, for one, won’t be very happy with what the conference comes up with in response to that.  The reality is that a nine-game schedule makes the task much, much easier.

The move may be inevitable, as many insist, but the timing is uncertain.  In the end, don’t expect Slive to do anything until he’s fairly certain he’s maximizing the revenue stream that the new playoff and broadcast opportunities are presenting.  After all, that’s how the SEC rolls.


Filed under SEC Football

36 responses to “Ramping up the nine-game conference schedule talk

  1. Macallanlover

    Height of silliness, a Stanford coach talking smack. I am all for playing 9 conference games and beefing up the OOC games just because CFB weekends are so few I hate to see any of them wasted but come on, he has to be smarter than that. If anyone deserves criticsm it is the Big ?, they could play a conference game every single week and the schedule would be easier than any SEC team’s schedule strength. I have liked and respected him as a coach but questioning SEC champs being worthy? Total retard on that subject.


    • cube

      Considering that for the past few years Stanford has played 2 cupcakes and Notre Dame, I’d say he should have kept his mouth shut.


    • cube

      Also, this new trend where SEC haters try to attack the SEC for supposedly playing weak OOC schedules reeks of total desperation. It’s not based on facts at all. Here are some of the teams the SEC played during the regular season last year:

      Georgia Tech
      Florida State
      Clemson (twice)
      North Carolina State
      Arizona State


      • Patrick

        I like the SEC too. It’s demonstrably the best conference right now.

        But arguments like this make SEC fans look bad.

        Stanford doesn’t get credit for playing a 12-0 ND team, but SEC teams get credit for playing Rutgers and Syracuse?


        • cube

          Where did I say that Stanford doesn’t get credit for playing Notre Dame? I said in my first post that they played them. I also said they played 2 cupcakes.

          The whole point here is that, on average, they aren’t playing any tougher of an out-of-conference schedule than the typical SEC team.

          By the way, Rutgers went 9-4 and Syracuse went 8-5. Notre Dame went 8-5 in 2011 and 2010.


        • purty sure an sec team played Notre Dame last year.


    • Puffdawg

      I literally starting dozing off after reaidng the first 6 opponents on Stanford’s 2013 schedule.


  2. Ubiquitous Ga Alum

    St. Nick’s out of conference schedule this year certainly doesn’t live up to the 2 cupcake rule …

    Va Tech
    CO State
    GA State

    That looks like a tasty 3 pack to me …


  3. ScoutDawg

    Damn Little Nicky for making me like him. Well, ALMOST.


  4. AusDawg85

    Have they found the Auburn booster impersonating Nick Saban yet?


  5. Derek

    I will never give that SOB credit for sincerity. This is self-interest. Playing ten tough games is easier for someone who will beg, borrow, or steal to stay at exactly 85 schollys. What about a team who won’t screw over kids and has to function on about 68 like we did last year?

    This guy cares about Nick Saban, period.

    We know how this is going to play out. The sec champ and the team that almost makes to seccg will be in the playoff. Will our #2 get left out a year here or there? Maybe. Will the talking heads say it was a strength if scedule issue? Probably. Will you be able to look at a 10-2 South Carolina team that got left out and say “if they’d only played ole miss?” Hell no!

    This is about setting up a structure where the king is trying to create some additional distance and advantage over the competition. Pure, unadulterated self-interest.


    • cube

      What about a team that won’t screw themselves and functions on a reasonable amount of scholarships, instead of self-imposing probation b/c they don’t understand recruiting numbers?


    • Cojones

      This distancing crap was set up by Delany, not Saban. Stanford is just repeating the mantra that Delany is trying to embellish the Big10 because he can’t compete head-to-head with the SEC without getting stuffed.

      At the risk of yall declaring my words as blasphemous, hear me out. We need to build GT up as the hidden behemoth that they are. Over the next two years we need to pull every small grain of their perceived accomplishments from their game play and praise them to high heaven; you know, like ESPN did for ND. This way, when the 2015 schedule comes out, we have this judiciously scheduled OOC game all ready and waiting for points promotion with the Committee as the true 2014 ACC Champion.

      I know this is lower than eel poo in the Titanic, but we must slink down to Delany’s level to get a fair playing field in the near future. Hell, USC did it when they played them in the Sun Bowl. As with USC, we don’t have to eat with them. Let’s show Delany that we can be more proactive than he is while selling the Committee on our tough OOC schedule two years ahead of time.

      Are you with me?


  6. David

    Are they going to “ding” a team that is undefeated because their conference sucks and they only play one good out of conference team?


    • Ubiquitous Ga Alum

      Corch, is that you?


    • The984

      No, they won’t. During the whole BCS, we’ve only had two seasons where more than two power conference teams went undefeated in the regular season. Those same two seasons had five undefeated teams overall. No way would an undefeated Big Five champion get dinged in favor of a one or two loss Big 5 or undefeated mid-major. At worst, a midmajor will get dinged, like 2007 Hawaii.

      After that, it’s just rare to get four or five undefeated Big 5 teams. I don’t know if it’s ever happened in the modern era.


  7. Slaw Dawg

    I dunno, man. I must have been left on the side of the road while the future hurtled relentlessly past. Almost every proposal I read or hear about seems to have at its heart the need for preservation of at least 2, preferably 3, cupcake games, and that’s just as assbackwards as all get out to me. The priorities for this fan are: at least 8 and preferably 9 SEC games a season with Auburn and J’ville intact; GT game; another good OOC opponent; then maybe a cupcake so we can have at least 6 home games a year.

    I’m glad Saban’s speaking up for the side of the angels on this, but personally, I don’t really care what Bama or anyone else does outside the SEC schedule. I want my team to play good games, period. Clearly I’m a Neanderthal.


  8. Mayor of Dawgtown

    The SEC ought to enter into a deal with another league to have every team in the SEC play one of theirs every season as an OOC game. Problem solved.


    • Dog in Fla

      Prints and specifications available at a deeply discounted price from Delany and Scott


    • BMan

      I was thinking along those same lines, Mayor. Which led me to start thinking that this is all leading to a 64-team (or something close) breakaway superpowers division of what is currently the FBS. And they could just play each other for their OOC games. One year, SEC teams play the Big Integer for OOC games, the next year, PAC-12/14, and so on.


      • Cosmic Dawg

        A fun exercise would be trying to figure out who gets in and who gets left out. Talk about a re-alignment scramble!


      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        This makes so much sense that it scares me–in the 21st century USA nothing that makes sense actually gets done.


    • But…

      …the ACC sucks?


  9. mdcgtp

    This debate among those in the SEC is for me a microcosm of the lack of a long term coherent plan on the part of all of the conferences as it pertained to realignment, which reached its apex of idiocy when San Diego state was slated to join the big east, but in the meantime resulted in long term stupidity like rutgers and maryland joining the big 10, our great conference adding another auburn and ole miss (A&M and Mizzou), the ACC raiding the Big east, and west virginia ending up in a conference with texas.

    The point being that 9 SEC games don’t equal 9 big ten or pac ten games. further playing FSU, Ga Tech, or Clemson is probably a bigger challenge than most of the SEC schools who don’t have an OOC rival play as one of their 4 non-conference games. Ultimately, we need to get to a point where teams have an incentive to avoid scheduling cupcakes.

    The way to do so is to expand the playoff. Make it a 3-4 round tourney (instead of the 2 rounds – have some play three and others play 4) and lop off one cupcake. Ultimately, it gives a selection committee more relevant data points.

    the key point is that these decision should be made together and with a somewhat unified vision that college football so sorely lacks. I get that Delaney and Slive are competitors, and that Delaney is going to try to get his teams as much access as possible. That said, until proven otherwise, the SEC deserves the lion share of those spots. Last week’s NFL draft was I think a watershed moment for the SEC haters out there. the numbers were stark, and the fact that they came from a group of organizations (nfl franchises) that have no bias other than to win douses ANY argument that the SEC in in a class by itself. Again, the nation might not like the SEC placing getting 8 teams in a 12 team tourney or 6 of the final 8 and 3 of the final 4 and both of the final 2, but they are going to grow to HATE watching beatdowns like the Bama ND game. The only way to avoid that is to open it up to MORE teams and make the qualification as MERIT based as possible.


    • The way to do so is to expand the playoff. Make it a 3-4 round tourney (instead of the 2 rounds – have some play three and others play 4) and lop off one cupcake. Ultimately, it gives a selection committee more relevant data points.

      Your cure is worse than the disease.


      • GATA

        To me, this question / problem (like many in Washington DC) should be answered with common sense. If the teams and conference are better served playing an 8-game SEC schedule, maintain the status quo. If schedule-strength becomes an important factor, migrate to 9. At least that move would be accompanied with rationale rather than ‘just because’. There seems to be too much change for change’s sake or to mimic other conferences. My vote would be to ‘wait and see’ and proceed in the SEC’s best interest. All concerned are already headed down the slippery slope. Why rush to tweak when the rules are not fully understood (known / articulated)? Am I dumbing this down too much or missing something?


        • Cojones

          No, it’s just that Delany and Co are already lobbying for a 9-game con sched and credit toward “strong” OOC teams. He sees it as a way to even things up before we get to 8-Top teams by poll as a true “playoff”. His thinking is to trick us into schedules so tough that we will eliminate some of us from the competition. It appears that he may be thinking up as many diverse plans as he can before the Committee is formed, but I think his dick will be caught in a wringer when we compete and excell and the Big10 looses their butts in this kind of game. So we should plan for the 9-game SEC sched now, along with stacking the OOC perceptions (like Delany is doing) such that it will play in our favorwhen the time comes.

          We should also build up all teams in the SEC to the perception level that ESPN did with LSU and Bama. I expect that teams like Ole Miss/Vandy will take on the Michigans, and Indiana. Illinois, Nothwestern, Iowa, Maryland , Rutgers…..those matchups will do more service in showing that their conference isn’t anywhere near the SEC as they are trying to convince the rest of the country. Think how that would impact a Committee. Anyone for “Challenge Games” with the Big10 prior to 2015?

          We should bury their ass for the affrontery that Delany contrives.


      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        “Your cure is worse than the disease.” +1.


  10. Sanford222View

    In regards to the 9 vs. 8 game schedule i get the concern with having more conference away games every year. Especially for UGA & UF because of the WLOCP. Why not create a “neutral” field rivalry game for every team in the conference so each team plays a 4-4-1 schedule each year in the conference? Seems like a simple solution and would create one more special attribute about the SEC. I would also think most of those games could be financially beneficial if the match ups and locations are selected wisely.

    How cool would it be to have one or two of those games each week? Hell make it really crazy and have them all on the same Saturday and have SEC Rivalry week. Think ESPN, CBS, and the SEC Network could market that?

    You could have T A&M vs. Mizzou or Ark at Jerry’s World or in St. Louis, Auburn/Alabama in B’ham, The Egg Bowl in Memphis, etc. Since all the match ups may not be ideal eye ball grabbers you could rotate the match ups for the Neutral Field games besides GA/FL to create intriguing games and atmospheres for TV and the fans. You could essentially create a mini Bowl season with in the conference.


  11. This schedule format would solve the problem: http://www.TheRoommateSwitch.wordpress.com