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What a podless SEC football schedule could look like

A drastically different SEC schedule format is on the horizon. Let’s make sure it’s the correct one.

NCAA Football: Florida at Texas A&M Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

We’re deep into the offseason, and that means we’re once again being productive at work and spending quality time with our loved ones talking about what the SEC football schedule might look like when Texas and Oklahoma join the conference.

There was a lot of chatter on Twitter about whether A&M wants Texas in their “pod” or not (pods being groups of four teams you’d play each year - essentially mini-divisions). But the question shouldn’t be whether A&M and Texas should be in a pod together. The real question is, why should we even want pod scheduling?

Years ago, an SB Nation article by Jason Kirk and Bill Conelly outlined a different and, in our opinion, better format for conference scheduling if divisions go away (which recent news has made even more likely) in a 14-team SEC. So how might this look in a 16-team conference when Texas and Oklahoma come on board?

In what we call the “3-6-6” format, there would be no divisions, no pods, no subgroups of any kind within the conference. What you’d have instead is each team having three permanent “rivalry” games each year, and six rotating opponents (six in even years and the other six in odd years). That means you’d play nine conference games (up from the SEC’s current eight), but you’d also

  • Maintain your team’s most important rivalry games
  • Face EVERY conference team in a 24-month span
  • Have EVERY conference team come to your home stadium in the span of four years

Sounds a lot better than the current setup in which Georgia has yet to come to College Station, and A&M has yet to visit Lexington (and if it weren’t for the one-off COVID schedule, they wouldn’t have gone to Knoxville yet either). It also removes some of the obstacles that the pod format faces to please everybody. For example, Alabama wants to play Auburn and Tennessee, Auburn wants to play Alabama and Georgia, and Georgia wants to play Auburn and Florida, but you can’t fit all five of those teams in a pod. Eight-team divisions would be even more of a nightmare, where a seven-team division schedule and one permanent cross-division opponent would mean you’d have only one game per year to face the other seven teams in the conference. That means you’d have teams in your own conference who would only visit your home stadium once every 14 YEARS! No thank you.

What would the 3-6-6 opponents look like?

SEC Permanent Opponents

TEAM RIVAL #1 RIVAL #2 RIVAL #3
TEAM RIVAL #1 RIVAL #2 RIVAL #3
Alabama Auburn LSU Tennessee
Arkansas Missouri Texas Texas A&M
Auburn Alabama Georgia Mississippi State
Florida Georgia LSU South Carolina
Georgia Auburn Florida South Carolina
Kentucky Oklahoma Ole Miss Vanderbilt
LSU Alabama Florida Texas A&M
Missouri Arkansas Oklahoma Vanderbilt
Mississippi State Auburn Ole Miss South Carolina
Oklahoma Kentucky Missouri Texas
Ole Miss Kentucky Mississippi State Tennessee
South Carolina Florida Georgia Mississippi State
Tennessee Alabama Ole Miss Vanderbilt
Texas Arkansas Oklahoma Texas A&M
Texas A&M Arkansas LSU Texas
Vanderbilt Kentucky Missouri Tennessee

For Texas A&M, this would mean that in 2025 you could theoretically have a slate of Arkansas, LSU, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss and South Carolina, followed by a 2026 slate of Arkansas, LSU, Texas, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Those are some insanely challenging schedules, but would also be incredibly fun.

Who would go to the championship game?

Without divisions, the teams who make the championship game could become a bit more muddy, but ultimately, yield a better product. Instead of worrying about imbalance between the divisions, you can simply send the two best teams to the title game using either the tiebreaking procedures that already exist, or using Playoff ranking as the tiebreaker. As Jason and Bill said:

Imagine getting the 2011 Bama-LSU rematch out of the way before the BCS (hey, Oklahoma State!). South Carolina’s rematch against Cam Newton’s Auburn went poorly, but maybe Arkansas or LSU could’ve competed? In 1995, 10-1 Tennessee would’ve gotten one more shot at 11-0 Florida, instead of the Gators batting around No. 23 Arkansas.

Anyway, imagine the Kick Six turning a likely Alabama-Missouri into an immediate Iron Bowl rematch.

Revamped SEC scheduling may still be years away (as late as 2025 potentially), but no matter when it happens, this is clearly the superior setup. Unless you think otherwise.

Poll

Which scheduling format would you prefer in a 16-team league

  • 74%
    This 3-6-6 format
    (1813 votes)
  • 14%
    4-team pods
    (345 votes)
  • 11%
    8-team divisions
    (273 votes)
2431 votes total Vote Now