Ain't played nobody, Paawl! The SEC can eliminate a yearly outside complaint (while still retaining its dominance) with this revised schedule
In an ideal world, the SEC’s schedule would have continued as planned.
In case you haven’t noticed, we are not living in an ideal world.
We’re living in a world in which the SEC is now playing a conference-only schedule with 10 games. That was what we found out via multiple reports Thursday.
It’s a bummer that we won’t have South Carolina-Clemson for the first time since 1908, or that Florida and Florida State won’t play for the first time since 1957. I hate that Kentucky won’t line up against Louisville for the first time since 1993 or that Georgia-Georgia Tech isn’t happening for the first time since 1924. This unprecedented set of circumstances is going to change plenty of other games we’ve grown accustomed to watching at a certain time of year.
Since we’re not living in an ideal world, yes, we need to break down why this could actually benefit the SEC. Well, at least it could benefit the SEC in terms of the annual outside complaint.
It’s the old “they ain’t played no one, Paaaaaawl.”
The SEC is absolutely playing someone in 2020. Adding 2 conference games to the league that won 10 of the past 14 national titles is, um, not a cupcake.
By virtue of playing the same amount of Power 5 games as the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 (10), the SEC could squash the annual complaint about its 8-game conference schedule. Any belief that the SEC “has it easy” could be out the window in this weird, unpredictable season that (hopefully) awaits. That is, assuming the SEC continues its streak of having at least 1 team in the Playoff and in the title game. Those streaks are at 6 and 5, respectively.
Is it a coincidence that the ACC and SEC haven’t missed a Playoff bid with an 8-game conference schedule? Many would say it’s not. What about the fact that no Power 5 conference with an 8-game league schedule has missed the Playoff in its 6-year history? Also a coincidence?
You see, people forget that the Big Ten made the horrendous decision to switch to the 9-game conference schedule in 2016. That was after 2 years of putting a team in the Playoff, including 2014 national champion Ohio State. From 2016-19, the Big Ten missed the Playoff twice (and the conference champion only made the field once).
Remember how I said 100% of the Power 5 teams with an 8-game conference schedule have made the Playoff? Well, here’s the breakout of the other conferences with a 9-game league schedule:
- Big 12: 4-for-6 (67%)
- Big Ten: 2-for-4 (50%)
- Pac-12: 2-for-6 (33%)
That’s 50% of the time in which the 9-game conference schedule produced a Playoff team. Of the 12 national championship participants, 2014 Oregon was the only team that had a 9-game conference schedule. All 6 Playoff era title winners had an 8-game conference schedule.
You can think that the SEC’s best and Clemson have both been better than the rest of the Power 5 while also acknowledging that the SEC and ACC figured out the best path to reach the Playoff. The SEC always stands behind the “our conference is a grind unlike any in college football” thing, and it should because you don’t win 10 of the past 14 national titles by accident.
And for what it’s worth, nobody forced the Big Ten to go to a 9-game conference schedule. If the SEC and ACC aren’t judged any differently with the 8-game conference schedule, there’s no need to change. You know, when we aren’t dealing with a pandemic-fueled schedule.
Do SEC fans know that while Greg Sankey dodges the 9-game conference schedule question on an annual basis, the Big Ten coaches discuss the need for uniform conference scheduling at media days seemingly every year? Here was Penn State coach James Franklin’s quote about that from last year in Chicago:
“I think the 9 conference games is something that needs to be discussed. When you play 9 conference games, you’re going to have more losses within your conference. I think all of these things need to be discussed after the last 2 years and what’s happened.”
It should be discussed. As in, “hey, commish, why in the WORLD did we do this and how can we stop?”
That’s my long-winded way of saying that if you’re an SEC fan, embrace the schedule, and not just because we all want to see more competitive football. Let’s see the SEC demolish any notion that its scheduling is the only reason it consistently has a team play for the national championship. If the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 still can’t get on the SEC’s (or Clemson’s) level, that should squash the complaints about being at a competitive disadvantage when things do return to normal.
Call me crazy, but this seems like a good year for that to happen. The SEC has 4 teams that could start off ranked among the top 6-7 teams in America. Add in the likes of Auburn and Tennessee, and that’s easily 6 Top-25 teams (I’m also talking myself into Kentucky being worthy of Top-25 status).
The reputation of the SEC would still probably carry it through a revised schedule that featured 10 Power 5 games. The SEC Championship winner has yet to miss the Playoff. Are we assuming that in a shortened schedule with even fewer data points that the SEC is going to get left out in the cold for the first time of the Playoff era? That seems like a dumb assumption.
What also seems like a dumb assumption is the notion that the SEC’s elite will crumble under playing 10 Power 5 teams in the regular season. Georgia did it en route to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship. Somebody from the SEC will have a chance to do that this year.
I say this because it seems inevitable that those within the conference fanbase will say “the SEC shouldn’t have to play the same amount of Power 5 games when the competition is so much better.” If that’s you, don’t fight it. Embrace it.
And while we’re at it, let’s not complain about live college football in our lives.