How crossover games, permanent partners impact SEC East race
Every year, one unlucky SEC East team has to play Alabama.
One unlucky SEC East team has to play Alabama every year.
Those two facts are not equal — and the result is no two SEC schedules are the same, even within the same division. The SEC uses a 6-1-1 scheduling model: six division games, one permanent partner and one rotating partner each year from the other division.
The SEC’s permanent partner arrangement puts some teams at a disadvantage before fall camp even opens.
Tennessee is Alabama’s permanent partner, so while Florida and Georgia might only occasionally play the Tide, “the Third Saturday in October” clash with Alabama is an annual occurrence for the Vols.
And lately, it’s been a huge disadvantage. Alabama has won nine consecutive, and a 10th next fall could threaten the Vols’ SEC East title bid.
Does it matter? Well, let’s just say it doesn’t help to play Alabama.
The last SEC East champion that faced Alabama in the regular season was South Carolina in 2010, before expansion when teams played three games apiece against the West.
Here’s a look at how the two cross-over games against the SEC West will impact each SEC East team in 2016.
Permanent partner: LSU
2016 crossover: at Arkansas
Impact on 2016: Arkansas is in rebuilding mode, which benefits the Gators. Florida won’t see Alabama again until 2021.
Permanent partner: Auburn
2016 crossover: at Ole Miss
Impact on 2016: Would have been better to get Ole Miss in 2017, the year after Chad Kelly leaves. Georgia won’t see Alabama again until 2020.
Permanent partner: Mississippi State
2016 crossover: at Alabama
Impact on 2016: Kentucky has enough skill players in place to make a run at its first winning season in the SEC since 1977 … and this is the year it draws Alabama. Bad luck. At least they get Ole Miss in 2017 — without Chad Kelly — and they won’t see Alabama again until 2023.
Permanent partner: Arkansas
2016 crossover: at LSU
Impact on 2016: Missouri isn’t going to contend for a division title in 2016 anyway, so might as well play a traditional contender on the road. Missouri gets Auburn in 2017 and Alabama in 2018.
Permanent partner: Texas A&M
2016 crossover: at Mississippi State
Impact on 2016: The schedule sets up perfectly, two clubs breaking in new quarterbacks — if only the Gamecocks had enough pieces of their own to take advantage of it.
Permanent partner: Alabama
2016 crossover: at Texas A&M
Impact on 2016: Tennessee faces Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama in a four-week gauntlet. Three of those teams, however, likely will have different starting quarterbacks. If Tennessee had South Carolina’s schedule, folks wouldn’t just be talking about an SEC East title, they’d be talking about running the table.
Permanent partner: Ole Miss
2016 crossover: at Auburn
Impact on 2016: Same two opponents as Georgia, just swapping locations. The Commodores get Alabama in 2017, but at least they won’t have to see any more of Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly.