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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: SEC Scheduling might be “balanced”, but is it fair?

Should we keep that AMAZING rivalry with Mississippi State?

With the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri last season, the SEC schedulers did their best to keep a reasonable schedule in place.  They continued scheduling each team to play each division opponent once, 3 at home and 3 on the road, keep their cross-division rival, and then play one another cross-division team once, splitting those last 2 games home and road.  I completely think they did a good job with the basic setup of the schedule.  In fact, the word “balanced” was used several times in the press released about the schedule.

The problem with this idea of “balanced” scheduling is it far too often leads to unfair scheduling as well.  When we talk about a college football system that ridiculously doesn’t decide things on the field when determining a national champion, it seems you would want as fair a schedule as possible to control what you can control most.  But take a look below at the 2 cross-division team each SEC member plays this season.  In parentheses is where each of those opponents was ranked in the SEC preseason poll:

Alabama: at Kentucky (7), Tennessee (5)
Texas A&M: Vanderbilt (4), at Missouri (6)
LSU: at Georgia (1), Florida (3)
Ole Miss: at Vanderbilt (4), Missouri (6)
Auburn: at Tennessee (5), Georgia (1)
Miss St: Kentucky (7), at South Carolina (2)
Arkansas: at Florida (3), South Carolina (2)

Georgia: LSU (3), at Auburn (5)
S.Carolina: at Arkansas (7), Miss St (6)
Florida: Arkansas (7), at LSU (3)
Vanderbilt: Ole Miss (4), at Texas A&M (2)
Tennessee: at Alabama (1), Auburn (5)
Missouri: at Ole Miss (4), Texas A&M (2)
Kentucky: Alabama (1), at Miss St (6)

Now while the SEC would call this “balanced” for the fact that each team will play every cross-division opponent over the course of 5-6 years, I would argue this is a dumb way to schedule these games.  Why?  Because you are forcing some teams to play a more difficult conference schedule than others.  And the conference schedule is something teams can’t control.  If South Carolina wants to keep Clemson or North Carolina on the schedule, that is their choice.  But they have no choice on which SEC West teams they play every year.

Now, in their case, it worked out for them this year.  The Gamecocks get to play the 2 worst teams in the SEC West.  The team picked ahead of them, Georgia, has to play 2 opponents who are at least predicted to be better.  How is that fair or balanced?

Why, over the course of 5-6 years, does every SEC East school HAVE to play every SEC West school?  Just for the sake of it looking and feeling good?  Why does each school have to have a PERMANENT cross-division rival?  How many of those permanent games are actually “rivalries”?  Kentucky-Mississippi State certainly isn’t.   Texas A&M-Missouri?  Don’t think so.  Ole Miss-Vanderbilt?  Laughable.  The only cross-division rivalry that is seen as an actual RIVALRY by the schools is Alabama-Tennessee, and that is still not their primary rivalry.  Florida-LSU is always a nice matchup, but those schools are not rivals.  So why do we do it?  It is all nice and fairy tale-like, but it also doesn’t provide the most fair barometer of determining the champions of both divisions.  And in the end, isn’t that what we would like to see.  So, here is my suggestion:

THE 2 CROSS-DIVISION GAMES EACH SEASON ARE NOT DETERMINED UNTIL THE SUMMER BEFORE THE SEASON

By then, SEC officials have a pretty good idea of which teams are going to be the best and which teams are going to be the worst.  Could it turn out they were wrong?  Of course.  Nothing is guaranteed.  But it’s certainly better than the current schedule, which had Alabama playing Tennessee and Kentucky 5 years ago.  We knew UK and Alabama would be playing in 2013 before any of the current players were on campus.  Where is the intelligence in that?

I would set the dates of the games well in advance, years if necessary, so the school’s know which date they will have a home game and which they will have a road game.  But, they will not know the opponent until June 1 or July 1.  Schools still have the ability to plan, fans still have the ability to book hotels and plane tickets well in advance, and the schedule becomes more fair on a yearly basis.

So, what do you think?  Are you happy with the SEC schedule, especially in the cross-division games?  Are would you like to see more flexibility in the games and the elimination of the permanent rivals?

Article written by Bryan the Intern

13 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: SEC Scheduling might be “balanced”, but is it fair?



  1. NotSatire
    9:08 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t think there should be any permanent rivalry games. Leave the date open and the let the school/fans decide the open date. Especially if the SEC is plannning
    to add a game to the total SEC schedule.



  2. CatsCats
    9:19 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    The SEC should eliminate the East and the West, the past few years the best two teams have been from the West and the second team in the West gets rigged at the chance of a National Championship because of the division they were in. LSU SEC schedule I think, is harder than ours (AL, GA, FL, T&M). Scrap the divisions and do a totally new scheduling system and try their best to “balance” it out. The permanent rival thing is waste as all the rivals are within the division, so if you have no divisions, they can be called your permanent rival.



  3. Tom
    9:20 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    Why do you post pictures like that?
    I don’t get it.



  4. JohnnyReb
    9:23 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    Tennessee is Alabama’s second biggest rival behind Auburn. It’s a huge rivalry between 2 of the SEC’s historic heavyweights.

    Both schools deeply care about the game and have the tradition and wins to fuel it.



  5. Musehobo
    9:28 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    Dumb idea. I picture SEC officials at the end of every season trying to determine who is going to be the best in each division, trying to make the worst teams play each other, allowing the best teams to play each other. The fact is, getting to (or having to) play Alabama occasionally may suck when we get blown out, but there’s huge revenue at stake, not to mention the shot at an unbelievable upset. The only fair way to do it (without making them play more games) is to set a rotation over several years. You will sometimes have tough schedules like we do. But we won’t complain. We will wear our #1 difficult schedule like a badge.



  6. claiborne_field
    9:38 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    The bottom line is the Bama/UT game (more specifically Bama) is what’s driving the way the scheduling is now. You would be correct in that most of the other cross divisional games are negotiable. Apparently the Bama UT game is not (according to Bama). My solution would be to move Vandy and Mizzu to the west/Bama and Auburn to the east- problem solved (not to mention makes more geographical sense as well).



  7. Nick
    9:44 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    Auburn/Georgia The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry



  8. TheWildcatsNuttsak
    9:49 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    Yeah put Loserville in this meatgrinder and let the squawking line beard boys see what a real schedule is.



  9. Will
    10:21 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    I think the SEC going to a premier league setup would actually be much better than what BTI is suggesting and more fair/balanced than what the SEC is doing now (though I think the SEC office has done just about as good a job as one can do with limitations placed on them like maintaining a few key cross-division games like UT-Bama and UF-LSU, keeping divisions, SECCG, etc). I’m no expert on how they do it across the pond but here’s basically my take of how to do it:

    1. Convert the divisions into “leagues” or “tiers” that teams move up or down into depending on their performance from the year prior in-conference.

    2. Conference schedules would be MOSTLY comprised of teams of the same “tier” or “league” plus 1-2 games against the other league/tier. 1-2 games vs the top 1-2 from the bottom tier if the team is in the higher tier. 1-2 games against the bottom 1-2 teams of the higher division if the team is from the lower.

    3. Drop the SECCG. The winner of the SEC would be determined by a point system off wins/ties and would receive an AQ to the BCS four team playoff. Points would also determine placement/seeding for the next season.

    Going off of last year’s standings, UK’s conference schedule would go something like: TAMU, @Vandy, @MSU, Missouri, UT, Aub, @Ark, @Ol Miss. We are better able to compete and win with a schedule like this but it’ll hardly be easy. Instead of us going 0-8 again or 1-7 we’d finish with a record of 2-6, 3-8 maybe better considering we’d actually compete with teams like Ol Miss or MSU. Once we start to finish in the top spot or 2 of the bottom tier, we’d move up to the next tier. Some people will complain that such a schedule would be boring but those are likely the same people that leave at halftime when Bama/UF/SC are trouncing us at home too…so…yeah…

    I’ll have to think more about this but it seems more logical and consistent than having the SEC arbitrarily determine the 2 cross-division games the summer prior to the season which causes more issues than it’d solve IMO. And the current setup effectively makes us a bye-week for Bama, UF, UGA, SC, etc.

    Some drawbacks:

    -More parity (though the NFL has proven this isn’t a bad thing). Obviously the top tier of teams would brutalize one another but the top 1-3 teams would still stay at the top. Bama, LSU, UF would just have to work harder to maintain conference dominance. No sleepers against bad programs year in and year out. UGA, SC, TAMU etc would have to fight to stay in the top tier over the likes of Vandy, MSU, UK, etc etc.

    -Primetime games would likely be in short supply for lower tier teams until their program can show it can compete at that level over multiple seasons.

    -No HUGE upsets because a team comes in sleep-walking.



  10. Interesting?
    10:27 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    It will never happen but the thought should be entertained to do some sort of lottery based on conference record the year before. Every team gets one ping pong ball (cus u have to be in the draw even if u went 0-8) then for each win in conference u get an extra one. Sooo ….
    Rough gestimate for example….
    Bama-11
    Tamu- 9
    Lsu- 8
    Miss st- 3
    Yada yada yada.
    You draw one from the east and one from the west… Uga plays bama
    Arkansas plays UT. So on and so on.
    It would become an exciting yearly event. And since there arent any permanent rivals each team would have two cross division games and there would be plenty of interesting draws. Bama vandy … Florida – miss st.

    How u determine home – away i have no idea, just trying to think outside the box.



  11. stucknbig10
    11:11 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    As a UK fan, I’m a huge proponent of the status quo. Do we have a “rivalry” with MIss State? Absolutely not. Would I prefer to play Miss state over LSU, Alabama, or A&M every year? Absolutely. One of the great things about the SEC is rivalries. Bama/UT and UGA/AU are among the best the league has to offer; however, modern college football has taught us the great rivalries fall by the wayside because of money (e.g. UT/A&M, OU/Neb, Kansas/Mizzou, et al). I believe that the permanent cross-division rivalry will go away, but I hope that it stays the same (purely out of selfishness, as I want what is best for UK).



  12. CATFAN8
    11:50 am August 5, 2013 Permalink

    Yeah, everyone on here correcting you about the Georgia vs. Auburn game is right. Its known as the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Think of it in the terms that Auburn/Bama is the equivalent to UK/UofL, and Auburn/Georgia is similar UK/Tennessee (except I’d argue that Auburn/Georgia is bigger than UK/Tennessee). Not perfect comparisons by any means, but you kinda get the picture. Those 2 fan-bases hate each other, let me assure you.



  13. Uncle Verne
    1:28 pm August 5, 2013 Permalink

    Uga/Auburn may not be nationally recognized as rivals, but don’t trivialize the series. It is known as “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” being played 116 times. The series is tied 54-54-8, point difference favors UGA 1892-1778, or 16.31/yr (UGA) – 15.32 (Auburn) a margin of 115 points,total, over 116 years. Not to mention geography and the fans antipathy towards another.

    With UT/Bama, were we having this conversation when UT owned Bama? Also, nearly every UT/Bama fan I know considers the 3rd Saturday in October to be a national holiday wanting to win that game more than any other on the schedule.

    When trying to be fair and balanced with scheduling, look at it this way: “to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”