Wednesdays release of the 2014 football schedule, months later than expected, started me thinking about what lies ahead in 2016 and beyond.
Thats when the SEC will switch, or not, to the scheduling format of the future. It could be the current 6-1-1 format, with six games against division opponents, one permanent rival from the opposite division and one rotating crossover game. It could be a 6-2, with two rotating games and no permanent rival or it could a 6-2-1 if the league decides to add a ninth conference game.
The most powerful coach in the conference, Alabamas Nick Saban, is in favor of a nine-game schedule, and the most powerful people in college sports, television executives, want a nine-game schedule. So were probably headed for a nine-game schedule.
Before we get there, let me get my vote in for the current model.
South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner will disagree with me on this point, but I dont see a problem with the permanent crossover opponent. The Gamecocks permanent rival will be Texas A&M starting in 2014, and that looks daunting now. But Kevin Sumlin wont be in College Station, Texas, forever and the Longhorns in Austin cant keep underachieving forever, so things will get better from a South Carolina perspective.
As for nine games, whats wrong with letting the schedule breathe some? Why eliminate an opportunity for a small school to collect a big check from a power conference team in exchange for a win. Its college footballs version of baseballs luxury tax, and its about the only thing thats keeping any money at all flowing downhill in college athletics.
And, while the prospect of another SEC game sounds better right this second than, say, South Carolina-South Alabama, isnt it nice to be able to go to your tailgate spot or your couch a couple Saturdays a season without biting your fingernails off?