Debating cross-divisional rivalries

May, 24, 2013
5/24/13
4:30
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It sounds like the SEC is trying to get everything in order to be able to announce the 2014 schedule next week at the spring meetings in Destin, Fla.

At this point, it’s doubtful that the league will go to nine conference games in 2014, although I think that is inevitable down the road.

What is most intriguing to me about the whole schedule debate is whether or not permanent cross-divisional rivalries will survive. Really, the two that are soaked in tradition and are probably worth fighting for are Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia.

For old-school SEC fans, those two rivalries are staples, even though Tennessee hasn’t put up much of a fight against Alabama over the past six years.

Several in the media are suggesting that it’s time to do away with permanent cross-divisional games. Certainly, LSU’s Les Miles is in favor of doing so with the Tigers facing Florida every year.

One thing to keep in mind, regardless of which way this whole thing goes, is that the SEC has been and always will be cyclical. In other words, making a long-term decision on league scheduling based on what’s happened over the past 10 years might not be the wisest choice.

For instance, Tennessee won 10 of 12 games against Alabama from 1995-2006. Obviously, that was pre-Nick Saban.

Moreover, Florida and Tennessee had played just nine times in 35 years prior to the SEC expanding in 1992 and splitting into two divisions. There was no rivalry to speak of between those schools, but it became one of college football’s hottest games in the 1990s.

Look at what LSU went through during the 1990s. The Tigers had seven losing seasons from 1990-99, but have rebounded nicely.

Did anybody see South Carolina being a legitimate player in the league race for the longest time? In the Gamecocks’ first 18 years in the league, they finished with a winning SEC record just three times.

Ultimately, my guess is that tradition will prevail and that the Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia rivalries will survive on a yearly basis. That is probably the way it should be.

Is there a way to balance the schedule in other ways? Maybe there is a hybrid format out there that would work.

However it shakes out, I think the surest bet is that we’ll see the SEC playing nine conference games in the near future.

Chris Low | email

College Football

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