BLOG — In two years, Ole Miss’ football team will be required to schedule at least one opponent from the Big 12, Big 10, ACC or the Pac 12.
That’s the noticeable change in the new Southeastern Conference scheduling format announced by the league office Sunday night. Each SEC team will continue to play eight conference games, six coming within the division and two from the other division. One of those cross-division teams will be a permanent opponent — Ole Miss will continue to play Vanderbilt out of the East — while the other will rotate annually.
But starting in 2016, each team will have to schedule a game against a team from one of the other Power 5 conferences. Ole Miss has played six such regular-season games in the last decade, playing Missouri (then in the Big 12) in 2006 and 2007, Wake Forest in 2006 and 2008 and Texas in 2012 and 2013.
The change, which was voted on by each SEC school, puts an emphasis on the teams’ strength of schedule as the sport enters its first year of the new four-team playoff. The league finished the BCS era by sending at least one team to the national championship game each of the last eight seasons, winning seven straight titles before Florida State beat Auburn 34-31 in January to snap the streak.
“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 non-conference schedule,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said 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 SEC could’ve gone to a nine-game schedule in order to knock a weak non-conference opponent off each team’s slate, but playing a Power 5 conference opponent each year takes care of that.
“The existing strength of the SEC was certainly a significant factor in the decision to play eight games,” Slive said. “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.” (April 27, 2014)