With the Big Ten announcing they’re only playing conference games this fall, there’s a sense we might see all the Power Five conferences move in that direction quickly. That’s eight games for SEC teams instead of 13, so there’s an obvious sense the league might try to add one or two more.
There are all kinds of conversations worth having here, starting with whether we should be playing football or not, of course. I’m in no way trying to answer those questions in this post, nor am I convinced that we absolutely should play this fall no matter what. As many of you know, in the real world I’m a United Methodist pastor; we haven’t been in our building in 17 weeks, and just had church at a minor league baseball stadium last night. Who knows what next week will bring?
But if the SEC does go to conference games only and chooses to add two games (and not seek to add even more and play a true 13-game round robin), how can they do it most fairly?
I took the existing cross-division match-ups and added two more for each team, looking for the most balanced setup possible. I used the preseason 2020 SP+ rankings to group teams in four tiers for each division:
- Florida, Georgia
- Kentucky, Tennessee
- Missouri, South Carolina
- Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M
- Ole Miss, Mississippi State
From there, in creating the schedule I added up the points for each team you’d face per their tier. This was governed by two basic ideas:
- No one from the SEC West plays both Florida and Georgia (EDIT: Fooled by a copy/paste error, this is actually impossible. If every team is going to play four cross-division games, someone has to play both Florida and Georgia. I gave that distinction to Auburn, as was the plan in my original notes before I thought I’d gotten away with not having to. For more on this, check out our full 10-game proposal here).
- Everyone from the SEC East who plays Alabama also plays Arkansas
That leaves us with something like this:
- Florida: Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss (9 tier points)
- Georgia: Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Arkansas (10)
- Kentucky: Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State (10)
- Missouri: Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, Arkansas (10)
- South Carolina: Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas (9)
- Tennessee: Alabama, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Arkansas (10)
- Vanderbilt: Auburn, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Arkansas (10)
- Alabama: Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina (9)
- Arkansas: Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina (9)
- Auburn: Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt (10)
- LSU: Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Missouri (9)
- Ole Miss: Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt (9)
- Mississippi State: Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Vanderbilt (10)
- Texas A&M: Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Vanderbilt (10)
There is no perfect balance unless everyone plays everyone. Six of the league’s teams got nine tier points for a slightly tougher schedule, but that group includes Alabama, LSU, and Florida so you have some of your best teams playing slightly tougher schedules.
It feels like a fair trade for Tennessee: you’re already playing the presumptive top and bottom seeds from the West, so let’s add one team from the top in A&M and one towards the bottom in Ole Miss.
What would you do differently?