College football fans, rejoice!
Auburn announced Wednesday that is has scheduled a home-and-home series with Clemson that will start at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2016 and conclude at Memorial Stadium in 2017.
The first meeting of that series becomes the latest addition to a stacked schedule of of games on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016:
Despite playing in different conferences, the Tigers and Tigers actually have a long-running series that dates all the way back to 1899. They played fairly consistently through 1971, but took a long hiatus before meeting in the 1998 Peach Bowl. After meeting again in the 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl, the schools decided to renew the regular-season rivalry with a three-game series in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Auburn won the first of those three meetings, and Clemson won the final two.
The first two games of that recent series were a home-and-home setup, but the third was played at the Georgia Dome to open the 2012 season. Now they are returning to the traditional format, and ESPN 680 Radio host Mark Ennis—like the ostensible majority of people—is happy that the games will be played on campuses:
For Auburn, playing Clemson will satisfy the new SEC mandate for at least one nonconference opponent to come from a power-five league. Despite having many weaker opponents to choose from, the Tigers agreed to play a Clemson team that always manages to be competitive, and they deserve some credit for doing so.
Clemson also deserves some credit, as it is no stranger to playing the SEC blue-bloods. It will finish a home-and-home with Georgia in 2014, and it also plays an annual rivalry game against South Carolina.
One can only hope that the College Football Playoff will compel teams to schedule more nonconference games such as this one. In the past, losing early could derail a team's national title hopes in September. But now, there's a chance that it won't be as crippling.
"We don’t think in terms of most deserving on the resume," said CFP selection committee chairman Jeff Long on how the four-team playoff will be chosen, per Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News. "We’re focused on the best four teams and the best ranking in the [playoff] top 25. Again, our focus is the best, not deserving."
Agreeing to play each other gives Auburn and Clemson a chance to prove their merits in the first few weeks of the season. Even if they lose, showing well against a good team is something the selection committee will take into account. It's hard to say that for sure until we see the process in action, but it certainly seems like the case.
And if it is, games like this could be the start of a very cool trend in college football scheduling.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT