Tank Bigsby

Alabama would almost certainly be Auburn's permanent opponent if the SEC drops divisions and adopts a 1-7 scheduling format 

This past week, all 14 SEC coaches met in Destin, Florida for the annual SEC Spring Meeting to discuss topics such as NIL regulation and the elimination of divisions in SEC play. 

The division discussion came to the forefront after it became official that the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma would join the SEC in 2025, bringing the conference to 16 teams. 

While the SEC could keep the division structure and add Oklahoma and Texas most likely to the West Division, eliminating divisions altogether and transitioning to a format where teams would have either one or three recurring opponents has also been proposed.

The first proposed option is an eight-game format where teams would have one permanent opponent and face a rotation of seven teams (1-7). The second proposed option is a nine-game format where teams would have three permanent and six rotating opponents (3-6).  

While at first thought, the (1-7) option sounds attractive with its seven-rotating SEC opponents, which allows teams to play a wide range of opponents that they have not been able to in previous years, for teams like Auburn and Alabama that have multiple long-standing rivalries, the 1-7 model is less appealing. 

In a 1-7 model, Auburn and Alabama would almost certainly be slated as each other's permanent opponent every year. 

But both teams also enjoy storied rivalries against other teams as well, including “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry,” which has been played between Auburn and Georgia since 1892, and the “Third Saturday in October" between the Tide and Tennessee Volunteers. If the (1-7) format was enacted, those annual rivalries would likely go away. 

In recent reports after the SEC spring meeting, University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban offered his opinion on the topic. 

“I’ve always been for playing more conference games,” said Saban. “I’ve always been for improving the college schedule, trying to eliminate some of these games that we play that fans, players, supporters are not really interested in. I think the nine-game format is a start in that direction.”

While Nick Saban is wrong about a lot of things, he is right about this situation. The (3-6) format is a much more beneficial structure for Auburn (and Alabama) to be in. 

Auburn's rivalry with Georgia is crucial for the fans and for the program. It is a guaranteed sell-out no matter the team's abilities and is the oldest rivalry in the SEC, dating back to 1982 and only interrupted during World War II. There is too much history to stop this yearly game and a lot of fans would strongly argue that. 

One of the biggest arguments against the (6-3) structure surrounds the College Football Playoff. In the eight years of the four-team playoff format, a two-loss team has never been selected. 

Adding another SEC conference game could hurt a lot of teams' chances of making the playoff or being eligible for a bowl game. Many teams would rather play a weaker out-of-conference guaranteed win game than play a competitive SEC school when trying to make the playoff or just reach bowl eligibility. 

The current four-team CFP format is contracted to run through 2025 and how, or if, it will be expanded will certainly affect all this talk around SEC scheduling. 

If the CFP increases the number of teams in the playoff, we may see more SEC teams be on-board with the (6-3) format. More teams in the playoff mean more flexibility, most likely, with how many losses prohibit you from getting in.

While a decision is far away on the matter, a change from the traditional two-division model is most likely on the way. 

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