AU-UGA Series to Continue With New SEC Format

Jay Jacobs

The SEC has announced its new scheduling format for football with a requirement that all teams face a major non-conference opponent in addition to playing eight league games.

Auburn, Ala.--The Southeastern Conference's oldest football rivalry will continue on an annual basis with the league announcing on Sunday that the Auburn Tigers will keep the Georgia Bulldogs as their permanent opponent from the SEC East in the latest revision of the league's football schedule.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive announced that each league team will continue to play eight conference games per season--six against its divisional opponents and one vs. a permanent opponent from the opposite division. The other SEC game will be vs. a team from the opposite division that rotates onto the schedule on an annual basis.

For the first time ever the league is requiring teams to schedule at least one non-conference game each season vs. an opponent from a major conference beginning when the new schedule takes effect for the 2016 season. To meet the requirement an SEC team must face an opponent in either the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12.

Auburn's 2014 schedule would qualify with the Tigers playing a non-conference game at Kansas State. AU has not released a schedule for 2015 or beyond because of the uncertainty of the league scheduling format. However, Auburn has agreed to play in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game vs. Louisville, a program that is moving to the ACC. That game matching the Tigers vs. the Cards is scheduled for Sept. 5th, 2015 at the Georgia Dome.

The announcement of the new scheduling format was made on Sunday following a meeting in Atlanta of the league's presidents and athletic directors.

"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 annual non-conference schedule," Slive said.

Mike Slive

"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," he said.

"The concept of strength-of-schedule is based on an entire 12-game schedule, a combination of both conference games together with non-conference games," Slive added. "Given the strength of our conference schedule supplemented by at least one major non-conference game, our teams will boast of a strong resume' of opponents each and every year."

The commissioner said the new schedule came from a vote of all 14 of the league's institutions, something that has been in the works since the 2013 SEC spring meetings.

The other permanent inter-division matchups will feature LSU vs. Florida, Alabama vs. Tennessee, Ole Miss vs. Vandy, Texas A&M vs. South Carolina and Mississippi State vs. Kentucky.

"Tradition matters in the SEC, and there is no denying that tradition was a significant factor in this decision because it protects several long-standing cross-division conference rivalries," Slive noted. "It has been a hallmark of the SEC over our history to be able to make continued progress while also maintaining traditions important to our institutions."

In Auburn's case its rivalry with Georgia goes back to the initial year of Auburn football in 1892.

"Auburn has been a part of that game for over than 100 years," Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said. "The relationship and the history and heritage between Auburn and Georgia was something we couldn't afford to change. Fortunately, we were able to keep it."

Ricardo Louis makes a touchdown catch vs. Georgia in last season's Auburn victory over the Bulldogs.

"The concept of strength-of-schedule is based on an entire 12-game schedule, a combination of both conference games together with non-conference games," Slive said. "Given the strength of our conference schedule supplemented by at least one major non-conference game, our teams will boast of a strong resume' of opponents each and every year."

Auburn's Jacobs said the league gave a serious look at playing nine SEC games each season instead of eight. "We didn't know how it was going to go until we got into a room and talked about it," he said. "Nine games were discussed, eight games were discussed, the 6-0-2 was discussed and the 6-1-1. Everything was fully vetted. It came down to the eight-game schedule and the 6-1-1 was the best format for our league.

"The last eight years an SEC team has played for the national championship, and won seven of those," the athletic director added. "We feel like the eight-game conference format is the right place for us."

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