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September 22, 2011
The easy recipe for a 13-team SEC schedule
Author's Note: The math was simple. NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168-c that requires "round-robin" regular-season competition, though, could require two additional West games, resulting in an unbalanced total (i.e., four teams in the West playing nine SEC games). Accounting for that (unless the bylaw is amended) isn't so simple. Thanks to readers who pointed that out.
TUSCALOOSA | We don't know how many members the Southeastern Conference will have next season, but 13 seems like a possible number. So I decided to work out a feasible schedule based on 13 teams this morning.
First, we assume that every SEC member will play eight conference games.
Second, we assume Texas A&M goes into the SEC West Division.
Third, there must be 18 inter-divisional (East vs. West) games to balance the schedule.
That means three teams in the West play six divisional games and four teams in the West play five divisional games. There is no way, with 13 teams, for the division with an odd number of teams to play a perfect intra-divisional round robin.
For the sake of reducing travel time for student-athletes, let's say the three teams that are farthest west geographically - Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M - play six division games and the other four teams in the division - Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State - play five. No one is tampering with the Iron Bowl or the Egg Bowl, so let's say the following two games are eliminated: Alabama vs. Ole Miss and Auburn vs. Mississippi State. That makes your West schedule complete.
Then you schedule your East vs. West games. Alabama could actually have the three games against East teams that it would have had in 2012 anyway: Georgia, Tennessee and Vandy. Auburn would play (hypothetically) Florida, Georgia and Kentucky. All the current "permanent" East-West pairings - Alabama-Tennessee, Auburn-Georgia, LSU-Florida, etc. - would remain intact.
Obviously, there are all sorts of variations possible and this is just one hypothetical. But the intra-division schedule I used came up with these games (listed by East Division school).
Florida: Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M.
Georgia: Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss.
Kentucky: Arkansas, Auburn, MSU.
Tennessee: Alabama, LSU, MSU.
South Carolina: Arkansas, Ole Miss, MSU.
Vanderbilt: Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas A&M.
Again, that is just one possibility of many, and can be tweaked if necessary. But you just work out your home-and-away and your dates (the devil is in the details, but that's what league offices are for), and you've got a 13-team schedule.
Alabama's hypothetical home-away schedule would be (home) Auburn, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Georgia and (away) Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and LSU. That's what it would have been in 2012 anyway, with the exception of substituting Texas A&M for Ole Miss.