It seems like every offseason for the last three or four years, one of the hot-button issues has been the future SEC schedule—which became a pressing issue when the conference added Texas A&M and Missouri, extending the time it takes to get through the opposite division.
The conference put to bed any discussions in the near future in April by announcing its long-term scheduling format through the year 2025. That format keeps the "6-1-1" structure, which means each teams will play their six divisional opponents, one rotating cross-division opponent and one permanent cross-division rival. There is also a requirement to play at least one team from a power-five conference each year.
Week 2 of the 2014 season is clear evidence that the eight-game conference schedule was a bad choice.
|SEC's Week 2 Schedule (All Times ET)|
|Noon||Florida Atlantic||Alabama||SEC Network|
|Noon||Arkansas State||Tennessee||SEC Network|
|2 p.m.||UAB||Mississippi State||ESPN3|
|4 p.m.||Eastern Michigan||Florida||SEC Network|
|4 p.m.||Nicholls State||Arkansas||SEC Network|
|4:30 p.m.||Ole Miss||Vanderbilt||ESPN|
|7 p.m.||East Carolina||South Carolina||ESPNU|
|7 p.m.||San Jose State||Auburn||ESPN2|
|7:30 p.m.||Sam Houston State||LSU||SEC Network|
|7:30 p.m.||Lamar||Texas A&M||SEC Network|
|SECSports.com / Highlighted Game is an SEC Game|
There's only one conference matchup in Week 2—Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt at LP Field in Nashville—and none of the out-of-conference matchups are against teams from power-five conferences.
This isn't the exception, it's the rule.
Ten of the 14 teams in the SEC will play teams from the power-five conferences in 2014 even without the mandate in place.
Sure, there are some teams that have two or more "power five" games set up in the future, including Georgia's intra-state rivalry game with Georgia Tech coupled with a home-and-home series with Notre Dame in 2017 and 2019. That's no different than life without the mandate. Georgia just wrapped up a home-and-home with Clemson, while keeping its rivalry with Georgia Tech intact.
Weeks like this—with no compelling matchups on the slate—are likely to continue in the future.
The SEC isn't just an athletic conference anymore. It's a television programming department. The programming this week on its shiny new network leaves a lot to be desired.
Take a look at the SEC Network schedule of games on Saturday. Anything of interest?
Unless you're a fan of a specific team, that's a weak schedule with the exception of the Eastern Michigan at Florida game—which will be the debut of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's offense in Gainesville following last week's rainout.
What would have been good this weekend?
Alabama vs. South Carolina would have been fun. How about Auburn vs. Florida? LSU vs. Tennessee, perhaps?
Any game that would have determined the landscape of either division would have been fine. Any game of importance would have been fine. Any game worth watching would have been fine.
Instead, the encore of the SEC Network's Week 1 splash echoes with a resounding thud.
As it stands, there are 56 SEC games each year on the schedule.
A nine-game schedule would bump that number up to 63. At least a few of those seven additional SEC games would fall on weeks that are typically devoid of compelling matchups, and they'd, at the very least, have an impact on some aspect of the SEC standings.
Would it impact the college football playoff? There would be pluses and minuses. There would be more changes for top teams in the hunt for the playoff to lose, sure. But a ninth conference game would eliminate criticism from coaches in other conferences—which has already begun.
With nine of the top 10 distributors on board, the SEC Network's launch will go down in history as one of—if not the—most successful launch of a cable network in television history.
It'd be great if some the early-season games made it worth watching in Week 2.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93 XM 208. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.