The SEC wants to have its cake and eat it, too. The other conferences shouldn't lend it a fork.
The SEC's long-awaited resolution to its scheduling question is to not do a dadgum thing. It will continue to play eight conference games with just this one caveat—each school is mandated to play another Big 5 conference team each season beginning in 2016.
But why should the other four of the Big 5 conferences accommodate this? What's in it for them?
By the 2016 season, the SEC will be the only one of the Big 5 conferences to play only eight conference games. The ACC also plays eight, but five conference members must play Notre Dame each year, so technically that makes it 8.35. The Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten will all be playing nine conference games by 2016.
|Scheduling Scheme for Big 5 Conferences|
|ACC||8 (plus 5 teams play Notre Dame each season)|
|Big Ten||8 (increases to 9 beginning in 2016 season)|
|* Does not currently have conference championship game|
Our previous extensive study of the 2014 out-of-conference (OOC) schedule already revealed that, across the board, the SEC plays the weakest non-conference games. Each of its 14 members plays one FCS team in its four OOC games, and six of them don't play any OOC games on the road. Four SEC members have OOC schedules ranked in the bottom 10 among 124 non-independent FBS teams.
By keeping the the eight-game conference schedule, the SEC essentially tips the competitive scale in its favor for both the top and bottom teams. For teams vying to get into the four-team College Football Playoff field, they improve their chances by needing to win fewer games against top competition. For the cellar-dwellers, they may qualify for a bowl berth with a mere 2-6 conference record.
So what's the incentive for the other conferences to help out the SEC by scheduling OOC games? So the SEC can make sure its top team—or even a second team—make the CFP field annually? So the SEC can have more bowl teams? So the SEC can have more attractive games in its inventory for the nascent SEC Network?
The commissioners of the other Big 5 conferences should issue an edict telling their member schools that, aside from existing contracts, they should not schedule SEC teams for OOC games in the future, unless they're extremely high-profile games approved by the conference offices.
Jim Delany should make sure to tell Maryland and Rutgers: "You like the $45 million TV money that will soon fill up your coffers annually? Good, don't you dare be a patsy for some SEC powerhouse."
The reality is that most Big 5 conference teams already play at least one fellow Big 5 OOC opponent—in 2014, only 10 teams won't do that, and four come from the SEC. Essentially, the SEC is preferring the status quo that made it the undisputed on-field powerhouse during the BCS era and enriched it through television and postseason revenues so it now outearns all other conferences except the Big Ten.
And the other conferences should just like it and ask for more of the same?
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