April 27, 2014
Auburn celebrate winning the 2013 SEC championship
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — The Deep South's oldest football rivalry will remain on the schedule cards for Auburn and Georgia after the SEC announced Sunday that it will continue to play its current eight-game conference schedule.
The SEC will not go to a nine-game conference schedule, as had been discussed, but the league will require all teams to play at least one game against a team from the ACC, Big 12, Big 10 or Pac-12 beginning in 2016. The SEC is calling that mandate a "strength-of-schedule component."
A nine-game conference schedule may have caused a scheduling upheaval that could have ended the Auburn-Georgia series. Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs said keeping the game against Georgia was his school's "No. 1 priority" in the scheduling discussion.
"Auburn has been a part of that game for over than 100 years, " Jacobs said. "The relationship and the history and heritage between Auburn and Georgia was something we couldn't afford to let change. Fortunately, we were able to keep it."
Auburn has ventured into playing big-time non-conference opponents. The Tigers will play Kansas State of the Big 12 this season, and will play Louisville in 2015.
The SEC format stays the same with six league games against division opponents and two games against non-division opponents. One of the non-division opponents will be a permanent annual opponent — in Auburn's case, Georgia — and the other non-division opponent will rotate each year.
The permanent non-division games include Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Tennessee, LSU-Florida and South Carolina-Texas A&M.
"This has been a thoughtful and deliberative process that has resulted in maintaining the current format and adds a provision that will bolster our collective annual non-conference schedule," said SEC commissioner Mike Slive in a statement. "Critical to maintaining this format is the non-conference opponent factor which gives us the added strength-of-schedule we were seeking while allowing continued scheduling flexibility for institutional preferences, and acknowledges that many of our institutions already play these opponents.
“The concept of strength-of-schedule is based on an entire 12-game schedule, a combination of both conference games together with non-conference games. Given the strength of our conference schedule supplemented by at least one major non-conference game, our teams will boast of a strong resume’ of opponents each and every year.”
Slive also said: "The existing strength of the SEC was certainly a significant factor in the decision to play eight games. In fact, just last year, five of our schools comprised the top five toughest schedules in the nation according to the NCAA and nine ranked in the top 20.
"A number of our schools play annual ACC opponents, and recent history shows our schools are already playing a significant number of strong non-conference opponents across the country on a home and home basis or in neutral site games.
The league said from 2006 through games scheduled in 2015, SEC teams will have played 132 games against schools from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12. More than half of the SEC schools have played two or more teams from those conferences in a single season at least once during that period and several schools have done it in multiple seasons.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: