Nine-game schedule is way to go

dshirley@macon.comMay 23, 2014 

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Georgia running back Todd Gurley, right, and the Bulldogs open their season against Clemson for the second straight year.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com Buy Photo

The eight- or nine-game conference schedule debate never has been one that interested me very much. It just never really seemed that important.

But that has changed.

Simply put, the SEC and ACC need to move to a nine-game conference schedule, and it needs to happen soon. With the College Football Playoff coming up this season, it would have been the perfect time to move in that direction.

The conferences, however, hesitated and took a wait-and-see approach to the new setup, and that’s understandable. It’s not clear just yet how the schedules will affect the new playoff, and the conferences wanted to take their time with any changes and see how that would play out.

Eventually they will see strength of schedule is going to play a considerable part in this, and a nine-game conference schedule certainly will help with that.

Yes, that could put teams like Georgia-Georgia Tech, Clemson-South Carolina and Florida-Florida State at a disadvantage because they have a difficult non-conference game to finish this season. But with the strength of schedule aspect of the playoff kicking in, those games, as difficult as they might be, will help those teams in the long run.

But the main reason that extra conference game should be added is just to have more of a true conference feel to cross-division games. Look at Georgia’s latest rotation for example.

It was announced Monday that Alabama will play in Athens in 2015, and that’s terrific for Bulldogs fans. The teams last met in the 2012 conference title game, but they haven’t played in the regular season since 2008. And after 2015, they won’t play again in the regular season until 2020 and won’t play in Athens until at least 2026.

That’s ridiculous. It’s almost like Georgia and Alabama aren’t in the same conference.

There should be one rule with these conference schedules: Each player from a team should have a chance to face every conference team at some time in his career. Whatever needs to make that happen should be done, and a nine-game schedule would help with that.

The days of each team in a conference playing all the other teams in one season are gone, and they’re not coming back. Tradition has been thrown out the door with the new, larger conferences that were forged by television money and greed from the university presidents.

So the conferences needs to adjust their way of thinking with scheduling and stop clinging to old traditions and rivalries. Sure, the Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee games are nice, but they shouldn’t hold up the conference from moving forward with scheduling. With an eight-game schedule, those games are keeping SEC teams from seeing all the other teams in the other division on a more consistent basis.

A nine-game schedule is a compromise that moves things in the right direction. It allows the traditional rivalry games to be played while also giving the conference some flexibility to make sure the conference’s teams face each other more often and at least keep some ties together.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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