Even though the coaches voted 13-1 against the nine-game schedule, it looks like the SEC will add another league game sometime soon. However, if the conference wants to put itself in position to send multiple teams to the College Football Playoff, it will stick with the existing eight-game format and make some adjustments to its non-conference schedule.
Make no mistake about it: the SEC schedule is tough enough as it is. After all, the conference has won the past seven national championships and placed six teams in the Top Ten of the final BCS standings. With that type of depth at the top of the league, no selection committee is ever going to exclude an SEC team from the field based on strength of schedule. Adding an additional league game wouldn’t make that any less true.
On the other hand, an extra league contest could mean the difference between qualifying for the College Football Playoff and an all expense paid trip to beat up a Big Ten opponent in a bowl game. Remember, an extra week of conference play means that seven teams will have an additional conference loss, which could be just enough to cost a second (or third) SEC team a chance to play for all the marbles.
Don’t think it could happen? Consider the following statement from Nick Saban:
“When we have six teams at the end of the season last year in the top 10 and other teams that are vying to get in the championship game — and then to think the team that loses our championship game wouldn’t have gotten into the final four if we’d have one — that’s not taking strength of schedule into consideration at all. It’s taking how many games you lose into consideration.”
Translation: wins and losses mean more than strength of schedule. While it might not be the best way to select the field, that’s how the system works.
So, what should the SEC do?
Aside from keeping the current eight-game format, the conference needs to make the following changes:
- Every SEC team must play at least two opponents from the ACC, Big 12, Pac 12 or Big 10.
- At least one of these two games must take place on the road or at a neutral site.
By implementing these very simple procedures, the SEC would be able to show to the entire country that it’s the most dominant conference in college football. With more games against the other major conferences, the league would not only boost its strength of schedule, but it would hand some of the other leagues the dreaded losses that Saban spoke of. Provided that the SEC keeps winning games against the other four power conferences like it has been (.593 percentage since 2006), there’s absolutely no way that the league won’t place two or more teams in field every season.
That, my friends, is why the SEC needs to keep the existing eight-game schedule and adopt the non-conference rules that I outlined above. After all, shouldn’t the College Football Playoff include the four best teams in the country?
Yes, it should. But that won’t happen with just one team from the SEC in the mix.