Scheduling non-conference opponents getting tougher, says Auburn AD
Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive announced earlier this year that the league would require its teams to schedule at least one non-conference opponent from a Power 5 conference moving forward.
Auburn has accomplished that in five of the next six years, excluding 2018. Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs is searching for a possible neutral-site game in 2018, and that’s proving more difficult than expected.
“We’ve got to find an opponent that is willing to play us, which is getting more and more difficult to do with the offense Gus [Malzahn] runs and the way this league is playing,” Jacobs told AL.com earlier this week.
Auburn announced earlier this week that it had agreed to a home-and-home series in 2019 and 2020 with California. Future non-conference opponents for the Tigers include Louisville and Clemson.
According to AL.com‘s Brandon Marcello, Auburn is looking for a potential home-and-home series in 2018 and a year beyond 2021, though Jacobs isn’t ruling a one-year neutral-site game. Jacobs reportedly has expressed interest in Florida State, Michigan and Notre Dame.
Other SEC schools have scheduled traditional Power 5 powerhouses for the coming years. Florida plays Michigan in 2017, while Georgia will play a home-and-home with Notre Dame in 2017 and 2019. LSU has scheduled a home-and-home series with Texas in 2019 and 2020.
The SEC’s rule of scheduling at least Power 5 non-conference opponent will take effect in 2016. Jacobs, however, makes a point that many programs are likely to face as they continue to schedule non-conference games.
With the SEC’s dominant run to close out the BCS era, and with the dominance of the SEC West this season, other Power 5 teams have no incentive to schedule SEC opponents. Teams such as TCU, Arizona and others who appeared in the first College Football Playoff Top 25 are building a national brand, trying to move up the ranks and establish itself as a national player.
One could argue that if you schedule and SEC opponent and lose to them, that’s a quality loss that wouldn’t hurt a resume. On the other hand, beat an SEC opponent and your national profile is raised automatically. However, with these programs that aren’t top 10 teams perennially and don’t regularly schedule top-tier Power 5 non-conference opponents are hesitant to schedule SEC teams.
Jacobs, in the case of Auburn, attributed this to scheduling dynamics with opponents getting booked up. The other argument, however, is that with as dominant a run as the SEC has been on over the last decade, why would other Power 5 conferences schedule SEC opponents?
Don’t ask why, just do it. When the top four playoff rankings are revealed annually, you’ll be thankful.