The SEC decided to stay at eight conference games moving forward and the league that dominated the BCS era is now taking a victory into the College Football Playoff era. While plenty debate the eight-game versus nine-game schedule, CFP director Bill Hancock has let the nation know there will be no premium placed on more conference games.
In other words, "Dear SEC, you keep doing what you're doing and we'll judge you based on all 12, or 13, games."
Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News reported Hancock's point on the totality of the schedule being judged. Both ESPN's Joe Schad and USA Today's Greg Schroeder added to the discussion with more from Hancock.
For the SEC, that simply means continuing to be graded based upon its on-the-field results. Teams, like Georgia and South Carolina in 2013, that want to schedule two Big Five opponents are welcome to do so and attempt to navigate the waters. Others, like 2013 Auburn and Alabama, are free to play the one required Big Five team and then dare the committee to leave them out of the mix.
Very much in the same way that Baylor is staring down the selection committee through its nonconference scheduling plans, outside of the nine-game Big 12 schedule.
A one-loss SEC champion getting dinged in the playoff because a Big Ten team plays nine games? Mike Slive's constituents will believe it when they see it. After all, the committee is eschewing the computers and the BCS formula in favor of deciding on teams through discussion. Which, Allen Kenney of Blatant Homerism jokes, should be quite the process.
Entering 2014, four SEC schools are not compliant with the new eight-plus-one format of the SEC: Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. That will change going forward. Meanwhile, there are seven other teams not playing a Big Five squad, something Amy Daughters of FBSchedules.com points out.
The SEC is not stopping its teams from scheduling tougher. Rather, the league is betting on its own strength to bridge the gap between nine Big Five contests and a possible 10 from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12. A sound gamble for a conference that has been given the benefit of the doubt for much of recent history.
After all, when the totality of the schedule is reviewed, is a win over Kansas or Purdue in conference truly worth giving the edge to a Big 12 or Big Ten team? Is an ACC team with Notre Dame on the schedule to be lauded for beating Virginia as one of its eight-plus-Notre Dame conference games? Would a 2013 win over Cal or Colorado be worth boosting the Pac-12?
The SEC is betting not, and rightfully so. The difference between a bowl-eligible Colorado State or Florida Atlantic, where strength of schedule is concerned, will be negligible compared with conference teams at the bottom.
True rewards on the conference schedule will be manifested through quality wins, something the SEC has had no problem with recently. The strength will come from the top and in a conference that routinely places teams in the Top 15, there will be plenty of strength.
Until the College Football Playoff committee proves it will give preference to nine-game conference schedules, the SEC is in a solid position. Changes may come down the line where scheduling is concerned, but for now, even as fans, media and other conferences grow frustrated, the Southeastern Conference has won its battle.