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A Summary of Suggested SEC Scheduling Arrangements, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod

If only man had come up with a better use for this paper, poor trees. - USA TODAY Sports

As we are all aware, the SEC just announced that, going forward, the conference will stick with a 6-1-1 format: six divisional foes, one rotating inter-divisional opponent, and one permanent inter-divisional opponents. Each SEC must also schedule a Big 5 opponent each year beginning with 2016. This announcement has been met with stoic presentment (by both expected and unexpected sources), glee, anger, and condemnation from some national media sources.

Obviously the announcement reopened discussion on what the scheduling arrangement should be. Many various ideas have been thrown around about how it could be fixed (or debate over whether it needs fixing at all). There are some creative suggestions, and there are some rather boring suggestions (nine games). I felt, then, that it would be helpful to briefly summarize the various proposed plans and list what I consider the pros and cons of each. Of course, some pros and cons are purely subjective.

6-1-1 Format

No summary is needed. It's what we currently have and will have.

Pros

  • Preserves historic inter-divisional rivalries (Deep South's, and the Whatever Saturday).
  • Allows teams with permanent OOC opponents to schedule other interesting OOC series without over-burdening their schedules.

Cons

  • Takes twelve years for each team to play a conference-wide home-and-home.
  • Preserves some series which no one cares about (UK/MSU, SCAR/A&M)

6-2 Format

Eight game schedule with two rotating opponents and no permanent intra-divisional series.

Pros

  • Conference-wide home-and-homes are completed in 7 years. They can be staggered so every opponent is played in four.
  • Some teams aren't saddled with permanent series no one cares about.
  • Keeps the schedule at 8, allowing for interesting OOC series for schools like UGA and SCAR.

Cons

  • Loss of Deep South's Oldest, Whatever Saturday, and LSU/UF (which is frankly a big selling point for conference money)

6-1-1/6-2 Mixed Format

UGA, Auburn, Alabama, and Tennessee maintain their permanent rivalries with a 6-1-1 schedule. The rest of the conference rotates both games with a 6-2 schedule.

Pros

  • The two really important historic inter-divisional rivalries are maintained
  • Conference-wide home-and-homes can be completed faster than a normal 6-1-1
  • The teams that don't want permanent rivals don't have to have them
  • Still at eight games

Cons

  • I think it would take 14 years for UGA, et al, to rotate through the conference opponents, longer than the normal 6-1-1
  • We'd be losing yearly match ups like LSU/UF and Vandy/Ole Miss (which is frankly an historic series that needs more love)

Nine Game Schedule

A nine game SEC schedule with a 6-2-1 or 6-3 format (probably 6-2-1).

Pros

  • Permanent rivalries protected
  • Possible increased media perception of strength of schedule
  • Can rotate through conference-wide home-and-homes in 6 years

Cons

Nine Game Schedule with a Georgia Tech/Notre Dame Twist

Something only for the benefit of those teams with permanent ACC opponents. Same as above, but in the years Tech plays Notre Dame (who must play five ACC teams a year), we don't play Clean Old-Fashioned Hate. Instead, we use that open spot for a different big OOC game.

Pros

  • Same as above
  • Allows for some interesting OOC games (about three per decade)
  • Arrangements can be made for UK, SCAR, and UF to take advantage of this system too when Notre Dame plays Louisville, Clemson, and FSU respectively

Cons

  • Same bit about the potential decreased media perception of conference strength
  • Would require Tech agreeing to do something that would benefit us
  • Notre Dame isn't going to stay an independent with a scheduling agreement forever

Divisionless Schedule

vineyarddawg's old post sums it up pretty well (although I have also seen proposals for 4 permanent/4 rotating and 5 permanent/3 rotating). The two best conference records would play in the SEC title game.

Pros

  • Protects the two or three SEC series each team REALLY cares about
  • Conference-wide rotation in four to six years

Cons

  • Would require an NCAA waiver
  • I haven't checked the math, but I have read that it can result in possibly three undefeated teams in conference play. However rare that might be, that is a HUGE reason why it shouldn't be adopted if the math actually allows for three undefeateds.

14 Team Pod System

The old Roommate Switch. Two pods of three and two pods of four. They combine to form 7 team divisions. Probably the most creative solution out there and the one I currently favor adopting.

Pros

  • Can work with 8 or 9 games (so the attendant pros and cons for each attach)
  • Conference-wide rotation in four years
  • Protects almost all of the important historic series (unfortunately, LSU gets shafted, but rejiggering might fix that)

Cons

  • It can be kinda confusing with rotating divisions
  • Again, the proposed example shafts LSU out of yearly games with Alabama, Auburn, AND Florida
  • I honestly can't think of any other huge cons. It may be the perfect solution.

16 Team Pod System

I outlined a proposed way to do this a while back. If and when we expand, that HAS to be the way we go.

Pros

  • Conference-wide rotation in six years with an eight or nine game schedule
  • Again, protects important rivalries
  • Under an eight game system (7 division, 1 permanent), if a team sweeps its division, it mathematically wins its division, which would make Spurrier happy (so maybe it's actually a Con?)

Cons

  • Again, can be confusing like the 14 team pod system
  • It would require expanding again and dealing with that mess

There are a few other suggestions out there, but they all have such huge, glaring flaws that I'm just going to flippantly dismiss them. Those ideas include 11 SEC/1 OOC schedule, 13 game SEC-only schedule, Spurrier's inane suggestion to count only intra-divisional games and not inter-divisional games, and Auburn/Bama to the East and Vandy/Mizzou to the West (hello lack of division balance).

Those are, in my mind, the primary choices the SEC could choose from in creating a schedule. We know what they went with. I, personally, don't think it was the best. Assuming we remain at 14 teams, I would have preferred the 14 Team Pod system, followed by the 6-1-1/6-2 mixed format, followed by attempting an arrangement with Georgia Tech regarding Notre Dame, THEN standing pat at 6-1-1 like they did. After that, we face the hard choices of either losing Auburn to maintain Tech or losing Tech to maintain Auburn and interesting OOC games.

Pods would have solved EVERYTHING. Almost all of every team's historic games (in conference and out of conference) would have been preserved. We would have kept rotating through the conference in shorter cycles, making those that favor that happy. We could have still kept scheduling Clemson or other big OOC opponents semi-regularly. If the nine game schedule eventually comes (preferably not before a Big 5 only scheduling arrangement), it could easily be transitioned in. That one con, that it might be confusing, is so little that it comes nowhere near outweighing all the other positives.

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