While the most likely scenario moving forward with SEC scheduling remains a 16 or 18 game regular season, there are some coaches that have expressed an interest in looking at a 22 game regular season (namely Stansbury and Stallings.) Calipari came out in opposition to the concept earlier today, and while he strayed away from totally discounting the idea, he did say “there’s a reason not many leagues play a 22 game regular season.” And he’s right, mainly because nobody wants to be forced to play at Auburn every year. As far as I see it, there is one major up side and one major downside to the 22 game season, so let’s take a brief look at them.
Proponents of the 22 game season believe it is better for fans of the SEC. As there are 12 teams in the SEC, this would force each team to play a home and home against every other team in the regular season conference play. This would prevent a team with a more favorable schedule potentially beating out a team that had a tougher road in league standings at the end of the season. It could also create some controversy over who deserved to win the regular season, and who deserved to get one of the four bye’s headed in to the SEC Tournament.
For instance, next season the schedules of the two divisions will remain but the standings will be done as one full league in 16 games. This means that Alabama will have the opportunity to beat Auburn/Ole Miss/LSU twice and only have to face off against Kentucky/Vandy/Florida once, whereas Georgia will play Kentucky/Vandy/Florida twice and Auburn/Ole Miss/LSU once. If they are fighting for the 4th and 5th place spots in the league, this has the potential to upset fans.
The biggest downside to the 22 game season from my perspective is how it affects the out of conference scheduling. As it currently stands with a 16 game SEC schedule, Kentucky normally plays between 14-16 out of conference games, giving them between 30-32 for the season. The OOC schedule generally includes a pre-season tournament which will last 4 games in most every case, three rivalry games (UNC, IU, UL,) and the inclusion of the ‘Champions Classic’ at the beginning of the season puts us at 8 OOC games. With a 22 game SEC season, we’re already looking at 30 games in the regular season, and that is with a brutal OOC with no down games. This would likely result in dropping a rivalry game, as well as more careful tournament scheduling. And I’m pretty sure I know how you feel about replacing the IU game with a home and home against Auburn.
So that’s how it is. The teams in the middle of the SEC (Mississippi State for one) would likely benefit from a 22 game season. However, if it comes at the expense of the more exciting out of conference games, I don’t see how anyone would support it.