The SEC is getting a new schedule model with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the league, Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated reported on Tuesday, and the new format will affect Ole Miss football in the coming seasons.
Dellenger reports that the conference is likely down to two options for its new football scheduling format: an eight-game model and a nine-game model. The eight-game format would feature one permanent opponent and seven rotating, and the nine-game would have three permanent opponents with six rotating.
With the likely departure of conference divisions once the Longhorns and Sooners join the league, there is seemingly a power struggle behind the scenes over which model the conference will adopt moving forward.
How would this affect Ole Miss? If the conference were to adopt the eight-game model, it is assumed that the Rebels would keep their yearly matchup against Mississippi State while the other seven games rotate on a yearly basis. The nine-game model, however, would offer two more annual "protected rivalries" for Ole Miss while the other six conference games rotate.
Dellenger details that there is a split among conference administrators over which model to pursue, and he draws a line between the "top half" and "bottom half" of the conference to help illustrate the complexity of the issue.
More than just about any other conference in the U.S., the league has a fairly clear delineation between those top eight and the bottom. After all, the Mississippi States and Vanderbilts are sometimes playing a different game than the Alabamas and Georgias. Many times, they do not agree on legislation, such as this one. What’s better for the top eight isn’t always best for the bottom eight. For instance, an eight-game model would allow every team in the league an additional fourth nonconference game to, some might say, pick up a needed victory—something the bottom teams need more than their big brothers.
-- Ross Dellenger
If we look at this issue from a pure football standpoint, the nine-game model seems to make the most sense, even though it would eliminate the "buy" games that many Power Five schools place on the schedule with an FCS opponent.
The benefits of increasing to nine games are pretty obvious. The value of the conference rises. It means more butts in SEC stadium seats (and a more glamorous season-ticket package) at a time when college football attendance is declining nationally. It means more eyeballs on SEC games—bigger matchups more often. The 2020 COVID-19 season provided the blueprint for this. The league went to a conference-only 10-game schedule, and it was the most-watched season of SEC ball.
-- Ross Dellenger
Is that a bad thing? Maybe if you're trying to scratch and claw your way to a sixth win for bowl eligibility. But it's not bad for the conference, and it preserves rivalries outside of those found at the end of the season.
Because let's be honest: there are many more SEC rivalries than just games like the Egg Bowl, Iron Bowl, etc. Ole Miss and LSU have one of the more storied rivalries in college football. The same can be said for Auburn and Georgia. And where would we be without an annual matchup between Ole Miss and Arkansas?
Dellenger outlines that, largely, the "top eight" in the conference (Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Georgia and Florida) are in favor of this model while the "bottom eight" (Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Missouri) may lean more in favor of the eight-game model.
Regardless, this is an issue that was bound to arise with the expansion of the SEC's footprint, and college football will likely continue to shift along lines such as these for the foreseeable future.
As a traditionalist in the college football world, I hope we can preserve as many rivalries as possible.
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