Auburn routinely endures one of the nation’s toughest football schedules. The Tigers are the only team that must play Alabama, Georgia and LSU each season.
Regardless of which schedule format the SEC selects for its future after Oklahoma and Texas join, AU’s schedule should at least ease up a bit.
That would especially be true if the SEC approves a 1-7 schedule model. In that setup, each SEC team would have one designated rival it played annually, plus seven other rotating SEC foes.
Some rivalries would be sacrificed in the 1-7 schedule model. Auburn almost certainly would be paired with Alabama, continuing the Iron Bowl annually. Doing so would mean Auburn and Georgia would reduce to playing once every two years.
A 3-6 schedule model also is under consideration. That format would pair each SEC team with three annual rivals, plus six additional SEC foes it would play in alternate years. In that case, Auburn likely would play Alabama and Georgia annually.
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A 1-7 schedule setup would be a blow for rivalry enthusiasts and those (like myself) who favor an expanded conference schedule, but it’s a win for easing Auburn’s schedule, and the Tigers aren’t alone in that regard.
Including Auburn, here are six teams that should have a notably easier schedule if the SEC embraces the 1-7 model, as compared to a 3-6.
When Missouri joined the SEC, the Tigers needed an interdivision rival, so the SEC concocted the Battle Line Rivalry, which yielded an unwieldy trophy and a forced matchup. In a 1-7 model, Texas and Oklahoma and LSU and Texas A&M likely would be paired as rivals. If so, that should keep Missouri as Arkansas’ rival. That’s a bummer for Razorbacks fans who would enjoy seeing the old Southwest Conference rivalry with Texas renewed annually or the continuance of the Battle for the Golden Boot with LSU, but it’s a favorable draw for the ease of Arkansas’ schedule.
The interruption of “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” would be among the worst consequences if the 1-7 model is embraced. Auburn and Georgia have squared off in all but three years since the start of the 20th century, and those interruptions were due to World Wars. The preservation of this rivalry and others is among the reasons why I favor a 3-6 model. Yet, there’s no denying Auburn’s schedule would lighten if the SEC opts for a 1-7 setup.
Credit Mark Stoops with being Kentucky’s best coach since Bear Bryant, but he also benefits from the Wildcats routinely featuring one of the easiest schedules among SEC teams. An eight-game conference format would help UK continue that. South Carolina would be a logical rivalry partner, and the Wildcats could retain three layup nonconference games alongside its annual date with Louisville, which recently has trended in UK’s direction.
South Carolina Gamecocks
In a 3-6 schedule format, Georgia could be among the Gamecocks’ rivals. Avoiding an annual date with the Bulldogs would strip the Gamecocks of their best conference rivalry but also would be a win in their quest for bowl eligibility.
No one suffered more from the current rivalry schedule format than the Vols. Alabama has won 15 straight in the “Third Saturday in October” series. Some Vols fans possess years-old cigars, in hopes of one day getting to light up in triumph again. Tennessee could come away the biggest winner in a 1-7 schedule format. With Alabama and Auburn paired, that should mean the Vols would win the sweepstakes to land Vanderbilt as their designated rival. Pair that with a couple of games against Mid-American Conference foes, and Tennessee would be well on its way to bowl eligibility.
Why would I include future SEC member Texas on this list, considering the Longhorns’ annual rival in a 1-7 format probably would be Oklahoma? Because in a 3-6 format, Texas likely would draw Texas A&M, in addition to the Sooners. And while Texas vs. Texas A&M ranks among my favorite rivalries, the Longhorns will soon learn that the Aggies are no longer little brother.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: SEC football: Tennessee, Texas among winners in a 1-7 schedule model