Nick Saban takes a moment before an Alabama Football Game
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Hey, SEC Teams: Stop Being Scared to Play Each Other

The SEC had a chance to move to a nine-game conference schedule in 2024, but a majority of teams voted against it.

In 2024, when Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC, the conference will remove divisions, but the league is sticking to an eight-game conference schedule, per SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.

On Thursday, Sankey said the eight-game conference schedule is "temporary" and could explore other avenues in 2025 and beyond.

First and foremost, removing divisions will allow the top two teams in the SEC to play in the SEC Championship, which will be a good thing, but sticking to an eight-game schedule despite adding two more teams will raise some eyebrows.

Sankey said that the eight-game schedule in 2024 will be based on "fairness and balance" and "traditional rivalries," but still, this allows four non-conference matchups, mostly against easy opponents. For example, the Alabama Crimson Tide play Middle Tennessee and Chattanooga this year, two matchups they could probably win with all of their players wearing two left shoes.

The lack of that ninth game could be viewed as a bit cowardly, and rightfully so—there will be 16 teams in the conference, and there can't be a ninth SEC opponent, which, in theory, should create a better matchup.

This decision came down to a vote, and those that voted against it are somewhat surprising. Even more, they're downright scared.

Which SEC Teams Voted Against a Nine-Game Schedule?

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

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While Oklahoma and Texas didn't have a vote, nine of the 14 current SEC teams voted against the nine-game schedule, including the following:

  • Alabama
  • Tennessee
  • Vanderbilt
  • Kentucky
  • Auburn
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi State
  • Ole Miss
  • South Carolina

Of these teams, sure, Vanderbilt gets beat up on enough, but still, Missouri voted in favor of the nine-game schedule. Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Texas A&M were the other teams that voted in favor of it.

Oklahoma and Texas also favored it, but again, they didn't have a vote.

An added SEC game would allow for more quality wins and could improve seeding, but it's telling when a team like Alabama shies away from this.

Saban was in favor of it once, per Alex Scarborough of ESPN, but has since changed his stance to wanting to play more Power 5 teams.

"I think one of the more difficult things with going to nine games is we've tried to schedule two out-of-conference Power 5 games to try to improve our strength of schedule over the next seven, eight, nine, 10 years. And if we go to nine games, we'll have to unwind that," he said. "My deal was always to play more SEC games because we couldn't get other people to schedule. So now I think there's more people in tune to scheduling. So having a balance is probably the most important thing."

Florida head coach Billy Napier cited the strength of schedule as a major factor for expanding the playoff to 12 teams in 2024.

But all this talk of strength of schedule doesn't make a whole lot of sense when the SEC as a whole plays less Power 5 opponents than any other P5 conference.


The 2024 schedule will be released on June 14, and Sankey says that the change from 2025 to 2024 "creates scheduling complexities."

"We have been engaged in planning for the entry of Oklahoma and Texas into the SEC since the summer of 2021, but the change of the membership date from 2025 to 2024 creates scheduling complexities that can better be managed with a one-year schedule," Sankey said. "Creating a one-year schedule will provide a longer on-ramp to manage football scheduling around existing non-conference commitments of our members. It will also provide additional time to understand the impact of an expanded College Football Playoff and engage with our media partners as we determine the appropriate long-term plan for SEC football scheduling."

What to Make of the Eight-Game SEC Schedule

Arch Manning #16 of the Texas Longhorns reacts before the Texas Football Orange-White Spring Football Game

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With Oklahoma and Texas coming to town, it's a bit of a bummer that the schedule will only be eight teams. While it may be just a one-year provision since the dates were changed from 2025 to 2024, seeing more matchups for Texas and Oklahoma would have been exciting, especially as Arch Manning becomes more prominent within the Longhorns program.

When you look at an SEC team schedule and see Middle Tennessee or Chattanooga, the question isn't whether or not Alabama will win but by how much.

This also allows for the potential of rivalries to be overlooked. Yes, the goal for the schedule makers is to have as many as possible, and even if they do, it could hinder the start or progression of other rivalries.

As far as no divisions go, that's a great call. It should always be the top two SEC teams in the SEC Championship. In 2022, it could've been Georgia and Tennessee instead of Georgia and LSU. Sure, Hendon Hooker was out for the Volunteers, but it would've been a more intriguing matchup. In other years, like 2020, it could've been Alabama and Texas A&M. Granted, that SEC Championship between Alabama and Florida had nearly 100 total points.

Perhaps this is just a one-year provision; if so, no big deal, but with 16 teams and no divisions, there should be as many inner-conference games as possible. The SEC still reigns supreme in college football.

MORE: The 12-Team College Football Playoff Would Have Been Bonkers in 2023