According to a report by AL.com’s Jon Solomon, a majority of SEC athletics directors are in favor of keeping with tradition and continuing to schedule eight conference games per year.
This is good news for SEC fans who like to see their favorite conference field numerous top-ten teams every year and bad news for other conferences’ fans who would like to see the SEC get with the times and start scheduling nine conference games per year. (Which means this news is great news for people who like to bicker about such things, as yours truly is wont to do.)
While it will be interesting to see what happens when the four-team playoff goes into effect next season, it’s undeniable that the SEC’s eight-game schedule was very beneficial for the conference during the BCS era. SEC teams could accrue an “extra” win each year out of conference — see the yearly feast on FCS cupcakes for proof — and the result was the appearance of “depth” (people could point to a “decent” SEC team at the end of the regular season and say, “Look, even a mid-range SEC team wins nine games! That’s because the SEC is the best conference in football.”) The eight-game schedule also allowed for certain lucky teams to avoid playing the best conference opponents in a given year and yet, because of the SEC’s overall reputation as being the best top-to-bottom conference in college football, avoid criticism for doing so. To take nothing away from the SEC’s run of national titles, it’s pretty easy for a conference to send a team, any team, to the championship game when said team has an inflated record due what’s pretty much a guaranteed out of conference win. As Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin points out — in his defense of the eight-game model, mind you — a nine-game schedule would make it far more difficult for an SEC to be granted a spot in the title game:
“I think we’ve done a really good job convincing the country that a one-loss SEC team deserves to play for the national title. Are we going to be able to make the same argument for a two-loss team, which would happen more often (with nine games)?”
Again, the SEC proved its dominance by winning multiple national titles — nobody can dispute or debate that. But the route by which some of those teams made the title game can be debated from a fairness perspective, and that debate won’t end until either the SEC changes it’s scheduling practices or other conferences (such as the Pac-12) cut down to eight conference games themselves.