SEC Football: Why 8-Game Conference Schedule Is Unfair

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 5, 2012

Just five short months ago, SEC officials were meeting in Destin, Fla., with scheduling as one of the hot topics.

The conference settled on the 6-1-1 format for the foreseeable future, which means that each conference team will play the six other teams from within the division, one permanent cross-division rival and one rotating cross-division game.

There was no specific timetable on how long it would last, which suggests that a nine-game conference schedule may be in the SEC's future.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban threw his support in favor of a nine-game schedule in July, and while his support will draw headlines, the real reason the SEC will—at some point—move to a nine-game schedule is to increase its inventory for its television partners.

If you're a Florida, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M or Mississippi State fan, the move to a nine-game schedule is already too late.

Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier suggested in the spring that division record should determine division championships rather than overall SEC record. That's foolish, considering it would cut down on meaningful SEC games at a time when the SEC needs to give its television partners more games.

But two-thirds of the way through the first season of the division era with only two cross-division games, it's clear that a nine-game schedule would be a much better barometer of division supremacy than the current eight-game setup.

Take Georgia, for example. A lot was made in the preseason about Georgia missing Alabama, LSU and Arkansas out of the SEC West for the second straight season. However, not only will the Bulldogs skate to the SEC East title without playing what were perceived as the top three teams out of the West before the season started, they also missed Texas A&M and Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs will likely play the SEC West Champion without playing the top five teams out of that division, depending on what happens down the stretch.

Meanwhile, Florida already had games against LSU and Texas A&M, both of which are currently in the Top 15 of the BCS standings.

Would Georgia win both of those hypothetical games? It's not out of the question, but I wouldn't put money on it.

This isn't a knock against Georgia. It's just playing by the rules. But the Bulldogs have a much easier path to the Georgia Dome than their SEC East counterparts for the second straight season.

There are always going to be scheduling quirks no matter what format is used. That's life. But one of the side effects associated with conference expansion is the headaches associated with scheduling. 

Still, one of the primary goals for each team prior to the season is to win the division, and making that path as fair as possible should be one of the primary goals of SEC schedule beyond 2013.

The SEC is going to have to add a ninth conference game at some point. When it does, it will be a cross-division game, which will be a much better barometer of division power for the entire conference.