A possible move to a nine-game conference schedule has been the subject of intense speculation ever since the SEC expanded to add Missouri and Texas A&M prior to the 2012 season. The SEC settled on an eight-game schedule for 2012 and 2013. But beyond that, it's anybody's guess.
ESPN.com reported on Monday that a nine-game schedule will be one of the major talking points when SEC officials meet in Destin, Fla., later this month.
But it may not be entirely up to the SEC.
"I think TV will certainly have something to say about that also,'' said Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel on the SEC coaches' teleconference last week. "The commissioner will do what's best for the league, and we will support that."
Television networks want inventory, and a nine-game conference football schedule would certainly provide more inventory—including games on the yet-to-be-created SEC cable network.
My colleague Michael Felder over at Your Best 11 tells conferences to pump the brakes on the nine-game conference schedule talk, but that doesn't mean we can't speculate.
Here it is, your hypothetical nine-game SEC schedule for 2014. Current out-of-conference games were included, thanks to the good folks at FBSchedules.com. But some games had to be moved or postponed to later years to fit in the extra conference game. For teams that didn't have three out-of-conference games arranged, I took the liberty of scheduling them myself.
For the sake of continuity, all SEC East teams play five conference home games and four conference road games, and vice versa for the West. Permanent cross-division rivalries were preserved, with the new rivalries (Arkansas vs. Missouri and South Carolina vs. Texas A&M) being implemented.
You're welcome, SEC office.
(For a full view of the schedule, click here)