The release of the SEC scheduling format came with very little change in the end. All SEC teams will continue to play eight games. Six will come against their division foes, one against a permanent foe from the other division, and another that rotates on a yearly basis. The only big change came when it was announced that starting in 2016, SEC schools will have to take on an opponent from either the Big 10, Big 12, ACC, or PAC-12 every season.
1. Teams will continue to play eight conference games.
I think the whole conference wins in this move. The teams of the SEC play a difficult schedule, and only having eight conference games instead of nine should not hurt the conference come tournament selection time. This move will be constantly compared with the PAC-12 and its nine game conference schedule. The PAC-12 will also play a game against a Big Ten conference foe each year as well, so in theory, that could give a bump to the conference over the SEC.
Perhaps the losers in this move are the fans. SEC fans love football, especially when that football comes against other SEC foes. No one would have lamented seeing their squad take on another SEC foe instead of a directional school.
2. The SEC established permanent cross-division foes.
One of the more contentious issues, and it should be, in the scheduling format comes with the permanent cross-division foes. From the viewpoint of someone that does not sit in on these discussions, I still find it hard to think that this is not done for the benefit of four schools: Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, and Georgia. These four schools have a long standing rivalry, and the elimination of cross-division foes would eliminate these matchups most years.
While some schools wanted to see a switch to two rotating cross-division opponents, this did not happen. Instead, each team will play the other six teams in their division, their permanent opponent, and a rotating opponent from the other division.
For those wondering, the matchups are as follows: Alabama-Tennessee, Auburn-Georgia, LSU-Florida, Mississippi State-Kentucky, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt, South Carolina-Texas A&M, and Arkansas-Missouri.
Winners: Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee
Draw: Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Missouri
Losers: LSU, Florida, Kentucky, Texas A&M, South Carolina
Mississippi State goes into the winner category because of all of the teams in the SEC East, Kentucky has proven to be the weakest over the past five to ten years. The other four teams listed in the winners category come away happy because they get to keep longtime rivals on the schedule every year.
LSU and Florida lose in this scenario because this, on average, is arguably the toughest of the cross-division matchups each season. Texas A&M and South Carolina lose in that they have insanely long road trips, and if the schedule gods are evil one year, South Carolina could have back-to-back road games at College Station and Columbia, Missouri. Kentucky loses, because, well, it's Kentucky football.
In the draw category, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt remain rivals in what has become a close SEC contest over the past few years. Arkansas and Missouri might benefit from the closer matchup against each other.
3. SEC teams must play a team out of the Big 10, Pac-12, ACC, or Big 12 each year.
The SEC decided that if the conference will keep its eight-game conference schedule, each team needs to play another team from a power conference to enhance the strength of schedule for each team. This should be of a major benefit to fans who do not enjoy seeing their teams take on four cupcakes in the out of conference schedule.
Winners: South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, LSU, Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
The scheduling of such game will be a bit difficult, but for many teams, it will not be much of a challenge. Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida, and already have rivalry games against ACC foes. LSU and Alabama have both played the type of out of conference games the SEC will require many times in the past few years. This change, which will increase the strength of the Aggies schedule could help open the door to renew their rivalry with Texas or perhaps start a new rivalry with a former conference mate out of the Big 12. The Tigers also win in this situation because they have scheduled such a game since 2008, and it will not be much of a schedule change for them. Arkansas is practically in the same boat as is Auburn. Tennessee has played one of the most varied out of conference schedules since 2008 playing teams from the PAC-12 and Big 12. They add the ACC in 2016 when they take on Virginia Tech. Outside of 2009, Vanderbilt has played at least one out of conference foe from a BCS conference. The team has played Wake Forest during that time frame, but they have also played Northwestern and Duke among others.
Losers: Mississippi State, Ole Miss
The Mississippi schools will face the biggest change out of the SEC teams in their scheduling philosophies. Mississippi State has played BCS conference foes very rarely in their out of conference schedule. Going back to 1999, the year in which Mississippi State played Oklahoma State, the Bulldogs have only faced Oregon (2002, 2003), West Virginia (2006, 2007), Georgia Tech (2009), and Oklahoma State in 2013. In fact, it was not long ago that Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin seemed to have little plans on taking on a tougher schedule. The Bulldogs will have to do so now.
Ole Miss has not played many such opponents either outside of a home and home with Texas the past two seasons. The Rebels do have matchups with teams such Fresno State sprinkled into that timeframe as well. In that period, Ole Miss played Texas Tech (2002, 2003), Missouri (2006), and Wake Forest (2006, 2008).