One would think that nearly 3 years after the SEC announced Texas and Oklahoma were on the way, we’d have a tiebreaker system locked in for the 2024 football season.

Nope. At least not publicly.

As it stands, the SEC is still in search of what its tiebreaker system will look like. The inaugural season of Oklahoma and Texas in the 16-team SEC will be the first one without divisions. At least it’s the first season without divisions since the SEC Championship became a thing in 1992.

No longer can we default to head-to-head results.

We need new tiebreakers because you know that without fail, we’re about to have a pair of teams that are 6-2 in SEC play that are vying for that last spot in the SEC Championship, and there won’t be a head-to-head matchup to settle it. That’s what we need to figure out. How do we settle ties among teams with the same conference record?

You’ve come to the right place. I don’t care what other conferences are doing. The SEC goes to the beat of its own drum anyway, so why would that change with determining a conference champ? Here’s how I would break a tie in this new 16-team SEC, wherein the top 2 conference records will earn a conference championship berth:

Tiebreaker No. 1 — Head-to-head advantage

Duh. It had to be said.

If Georgia and Texas are sitting at 7-1 in the conference standings, but the Longhorns won their matchup in Austin, they should get to go to Atlanta instead of Georgia. Period.

You can apply this to a 3-team tiebreaker, too. A division-less 2022 would’ve presented 6-2 LSU, 6-2 Alabama and 6-2 Tennessee fighting for that last spot. Tennessee had the head-to-head against both Alabama and LSU, which would’ve been enough to send the Vols to Atlanta for a rematch against unbeaten Georgia.

For a 3-way tie to be settled in a head-to-head tiebreaker, 1 of the teams must have swept the other 2 squads. If it’s just a victory against 1 of the 2 other teams in the 3-way tie, we’d move on to the next tiebreaker with all teams involved. That’s a difference from the previous system, which stated that the best record vs. all teams involved in the 3-way tie would advance. In this new world of the SEC, if you haven’t taken care of all teams within that 3-way tie, you move on to the next tiebreaker, which is …

Tiebreaker No. 2 — Total victories vs. SEC teams that finish with a winning conference record

Wait, what? That’s new. You bet it is.

Beating teams with a winning conference record should mean something. It factors in the end-of-season strength of the SEC schedule in a way that isn’t just simply scoring margin against common conference opponents, which can easily be skewed depending on the timing of the matchup. I also don’t like the idea of not knowing whether a 4th quarter touchdown in a blowout will determine a conference title berth (I’ve got more thoughts on that in a bit).

But total victories vs. SEC teams that finish with a winning record is essentially strength of schedule within conference play. It rewards the team that had a tougher path.

That would’ve been fascinating in a division-less 2017. That year, Auburn, Georgia and Alabama were all 7-1 in conference play. Auburn would’ve secured the first spot in the SEC Championship by winning the 3-way tiebreaker in the head-to-head after sweeping Alabama and Georgia in the regular season. So if that last spot in Atlanta came down to Alabama and Georgia, which didn’t face each other in the regular season, we could’ve looked at total victories vs. SEC teams that finished with a winning conference record.

Georgia and Alabama would’ve only had 1 such win apiece, so we would’ve moved on to a 3rd tiebreaker.

Tiebreaker No. 3 — Total conference wins among teams beaten in SEC play

That’s wordy. Don’t overthink it. It’s imperialism. If you beat an SEC team, you add their conference wins to your total. It’s as simple as that. Rewarding strength of conference schedule is still the focus here.

In 2017, Georgia’s SEC opponents it beat had 21 conference wins:

  • South Carolina (5)
  • Mississippi State (4)
  • Kentucky (4)
  • Mizzou (4)
  • Florida (3)
  • Vanderbilt (1)
  • Tennessee (0)

Alabama’s SEC opponents it beat had 19 total conference wins:

  • LSU (6)
  • Mississippi State (4)
  • Texas A&M (4)
  • Ole Miss (3)
  • Arkansas (1)
  • Vanderbilt (1)
  • Tennessee (0)

In that scenario, Georgia would’ve won the Tiebreaker No. 3 and advanced to face Auburn in the 2017 SEC Championship.

But if this were a division-less 2023, the conference opponents beaten by both Alabama and Georgia would’ve had each had 28 SEC wins, so we’d move on to the NEXT tiebreaker …

Tiebreaker No. 4 — Total scoring margin vs. conference opponents

We finally got here. It took a bit, but sure, let’s have scoring margin vs. common opponents come into play as a last resort.

Let me be clear. I hate, hate, hate this as an early tiebreaker, which is why it’s only No. 4. Why? It pretends that all points are created equal when they aren’t. Beating Vandy by 28 instead of 45 shouldn’t determine whether a team advances to a conference title game, but in this scenario, it could. The reason I don’t have scoring margin vs. conference opponents higher is because I don’t want to incentivize championship contenders to leave in their starters late when they shouldn’t have to, especially in this expanded Playoff where teams could play as many as 17 games in a season.

But by putting it as the No. 4 tiebreaker, it should be a catch-all. If we do have teams with the same exact total scoring margin vs. conference opponents, then I suppose this next scenario is the true last resort …

Tiebreaker No. 5 — Post-regular season College Football Playoff ranking

I know what you’re thinking. Connor, why didn’t you have this higher? Doesn’t defaulting to a Playoff ranking eliminate the need for any tiebreakers?

Yes, but remember that those rankings don’t come out until Tuesday. That means you would have 3 days of teams sitting idle waiting to hear their conference championship fate. That’s not fair to those teams, nor is it fair to the team that already punched its ticket to Atlanta. It’s awfully difficult to game plan with half as much time to prepare.

I can’t imagine the SEC would want that from a ticketing standpoint, either. That creates unnecessary chaos to put on an event.

But perhaps the underlying issue with this tiebreaker — if it came to that — would be that it factors nonconference strength of schedule into determining a conference title berth. We know that’s how Playoff rankings work, as they should. It would just feel weird to have the perceived strength of a matchup against an ACC or Big Ten team play a significant role in determining a conference championship participant.

Then again, if we’ve reached a 5th tiebreaker, all hell has already broken loose.

Feel free to copy and paste this, SEC rule-makers.

All I ask for in return is that whenever you show this graphic in the middle of some late-season game, say “The SEC tiebreakers, presented to you by Saturday Down South.”

Simple enough? Good.