Nine-Game Schedule Inevitable
Mark Richt and Nick Saban
Publisher
Posted May 30, 2013


The consumer is going to love the SEC Network. The SEC coach will not.

It’s only a matter of time before the Southeastern Conference plays a nine-game schedule. Anyone who feels otherwise is not being honest with themselves. That the new cable outlet will fatten the bank accounts of member institutions is not in question. The ramifications of the move, however, are yet to be known.

Consider the future for Georgia – keeping in mind that there are pretty much no rules beyond the Dawgs and Gators fighting in late October or early November and playing Georgia Tech to end the season (and even that might not continue 20 years from now).

TV, like any media outlet, must have content. The SEC Network is paying good money for legitimate content – each week. That means in the near future and beyond that more SEC schools will open up their schedules with a conference game.

Remember when Georgia used to open SEC play with South Carolina and Tennessee in back-to-back weekends in the 1990s? More of that is coming.

The easiest way to look at how the future will effect the Bulldogs is to have a look at the traditional SEC calendar to see where the anchor games exist, and where moving a Georgia game could benefit TV.

The opening game of the year in the SEC is usually the week when programs across the conference play weak openers. For years Georgia played directional schools, and then Mark Richt arrived to sprinkle in the likes of Boise State, Clemson and Oklahoma State to go with Georgia Southern and Western Kentucky.

There is no guarantee that Georgia will open with a non-conference game in the future. The game with South Carolina seems to be most logical to start the season considering the two have done that before, and where the game sits currently on the slate.

South Carolina has often been willing to play on Thursday nights at home to start the season, so that’s also possible in this new age.

The other game that sticks out in terms of being in a crowded time of the year is Georgia-Tennessee. Early October usually sees pretty important games: Auburn-Arkansas and Florida-LSU to name a couple.

Those games won’t all be played on the same weekend any more. Someone will move around, and Georgia-Tennessee is certainly likely considering that Florida-LSU has more national draw to it, and therefore would be most likely to be on CBS.

But the game in most flux seems to be Auburn-Georgia. The South’s Oldest Rivalry seems in jeopardy for a slew of different reasons as seen by the fact that Georgia had to be willing to go back to Auburn in 2013 to play back-to-back road games just to keep the rivalry going on a year-to-year basis while the SEC got its scheduling ducks in a row.

Georgia-Auburn isn’t as big a Georgia-Florida or Alabama-Auburn, so naturally when the SEC asked member institutions which game they would like to “protect” (for lack of a better term) everyone picked their hated rival. That left Auburn-Georgia and Tennessee-Alabama unprotected.

It also means there is no telling when Georgia and Auburn will play one another in the future. The game could be the first of the season or in late September or sometime in October. It could stay where it is right now, but something tells me this game will be the one effected by TV in the future. Remember that TV moved Alabama-LSU from that weekend because the weekend had become too crowded with South Carolina-Florida on that weekend as well. CBS wanted to broadcast at least two of those three games, and so the game was moved, and is now a staple of TV broadcasting in the fall.

But Georgia won’t have a dramatic change the likes of which Tennessee, South Carolina and LSU will see. The Tigers are playing Alabama, Texas A&M and Arkansas in November this season – that won’t be the case in the future as one of those games (probably Texas A&M) will be earlier in the season. Tennessee’s middle-loaded schedule will also be spread out more. South Carolina used to end its season with Tennessee, Florida and Clemson with Arkansas sprinkled in somewhere. That won’t happen in the future, either.

The big question, and it may seem extreme to ask right now, is if Georgia Tech will always be the season ender for Georgia. It seems silly to ask. The two in-state rivals have faced one another at the end of the season for more than a century. But TV is changing all sorts of rivalries, and this one is no more special than others.

There was a time when Tech was wondering out loud about playing this game at the start of the year. It seems very difficult to imagine, but that will be an option in the future – even if it is not a practical one. Its very easy, practical move if emotion is taken out of the equation. Tech and Georgia would face one another at the start of the season (as would Clemson and South Carolina), and Georgia would close the season with either South Carolina or Tennessee.

Seem strange? It is. It’s not something most people want. Just keep in mind people don’t get a vote anymore – TV does. Everything changes over time, and the only thing that is certain is that something will change with Georgia’s schedule in the future – just how much it will change is impossible to know.

The SEC used to determine a football champion biased on a six-game schedule each fall. Now the champion of the conference must compete in ten games total. The world is changing, and it is being broadcast live.


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