SEC football fans should be excited about a 16-team league going division-less in a few years.
With the conference expanding to 16 teams with the additions of Oklahoma and Texas, SEC football fans should embrace a world of division-less conference play.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said on Thursday that the conference is looking to do away with the two-division format in the near future. It may still be a few years out before the Sooners and Longhorns join the league, but this move of getting rid of divisions feels like an inevitability. More importantly, the SEC is not going to embrace the four-team pod system either, which is fantastic.
This means the SEC is almost certainly going to enact the 3-6 model with three annual rivalries for each team, plus rotating between the other 12 so that everybody plays everybody in a home-and-home over a four-year period. The SEC has plenty of time to learn from the other leagues on what is good about going division-less, as well as areas where the division-less model can be improved.
No matter how soon this happens, there will be way more good than bad coming from this move.
SEC football: Greg Sankey says that conference will likely do away with divisions
To understand why the SEC and other leagues are doing away with divisions, you must first understand why they were put in place to begin with. It all stems from the NCAA bylaws to allow for a conference championship to even be played. The SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1992 with the additions of Arkansas and South Carolina. By going to divisions back then, a title bout was created.
While the Big 12 and later the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 would all embrace the divisional format in the final years of the BCS, it was the Big 12 that, in a way, helped bring an end to it in the 2020s. This is because the Big 12 went from 12 teams to 10 in 2012. The league was not allowed to have a championship game, thus killing its potential playoff chances. The Big 12 overruled, and won big!
Since the Big 12 won its case to hold a championship game, as the league plays a nine-game, round-robin regular season, it paved the way for other leagues to go division-less. The Pac-12 is playing without divisions this season, the ACC goes division-less next year and the expectation is for the Big Ten and SEC to follow. The AAC out of the Group of Five is already division-less anyway.
So why is this such a big deal for SEC fans? Well, it does three things. First, it allows the two best teams in the conference to meet in the title bout. Some years, the two best teams have been from the same division. This looks to be the case in the SEC East this season with Georgia being undefeated and Tennessee’s only loss on the year being to Georgia. Vols fans are not very happy…
The second thing going division-less does is it allows for all the teams in the conference to play each other with greater regularity. Under its current format, the 6-1-1 schedule has become antiquated. Everybody plays its six other members in- division, a cross-divisional foe and another team out of the other division annually. East teams do not play West teams often enough as is.
Finally, if the SEC were smart, it will embrace the 3-6 format, meaning each team would play three rivals annually, while rotating the other 12 teams on an every other year basis. This would allow major rivalries like the Iron Bowl, the Cocktail Party, the Third Saturday in October and the Egg Bowl to continue on as annual traditions while allowing for interesting other matchups to occur.
Ultimately, going division-less is only a good thing for the SEC, as it allows the best college football conference in the world to adapt on the fly. If an annual rivalry gets too lopsided or too stale, the league can pivot to keep things fresh and interesting. The best thing the SEC can do is look at how it works with the ACC beginning next season. They can learn from the ACC’s mistakes.
As long as the two best teams are able to play for a championship annually, SEC football fans win.
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