With the launch of the SEC Network coming in 2014, discussions abound about whether the conference will adopt a nine-game league schedule to accommodate ESPN and its 20-year interest in the league.
While a nine-game conference slate would likely have minimal effects on the Alabama Crimson Tide, the LSU Tigers and the Florida Gators, some of the league’s less prominent schools might have to make adjustments to be able to handle such a demanding league schedule.
The nine-game league schedule would likely put an end to many high-profile non-conference games. In the case of the Kentucky Wildcats, the rigors of the SEC schedule would, more than likely, mean the end of the series with the Big Blue’s intrastate rival, the Louisville Cardinals.
This would be a tough pill to swallow for fans of both teams, but it’s inconceivable at this point that Kentucky could keep Louisville on the schedule if the Wildcats are forced into nine SEC games. The Big Blue would annually be facing five or six nationally-ranked teams within the conference schedule. Adding a non-conference game against a hot U of L program would make it really tough, maybe even impossible, for the Wildcats to reach the magical six-win mark and bowl eligibility.
Kentucky would need to stack its three non-conference games with “guaranteed” wins, so that if the Wildcats could manage a 3-6 mark in SEC play, they could still qualify for the postseason.
While the SEC Network will have many benefits to member schools, primarily financial benefits, it will also bring about a period of adjustment, especially in football and basketball scheduling. And if the nine-game football schedule is indeed put into place, the Kentucky-Louisville gridiron battle will likely become a thing of the past.