At last week’s Regions Bank Pro-Am Classic, Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn was asked for his thoughts on the idea of Auburn and Missouri switching spots in the SEC; Auburn to the East and Mizzou to the West. After stating last year to ESPN that he believed “there would be discussion on that [topic]”, he again showed support for the change.
“You look at the map and obviously it makes sense. There’s a lot more to it than just the map and all that [though].”
In terms of the map, he’s right. Missouri is much farther West than Auburn is, but that has little-to-no significance on the conference. What does it have significance on? Auburn’s schedule difficulty.
Instead of playing LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas A&M each year, they would face Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina (in addition to the ‘Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry’ against Georgia).
In order for the Iron Bowl to remain an annual rivalry game, Alabama would have to lose their game against Tennessee, as the SEC only allows one annual cross-division rivalry game.
The first meeting between the two teams came in 1901, and earned the date and name of “Third Saturday of October” in 1939. Alabama currently leads the series 53–38–7, and are on a ten game win streak (there is even a Twitter account dedicated to counting the days since the last time Tennessee beat Alabama).
Should this change take place, SEC Commissioner, Greg Sankey, will need to change the current scheduling system in order to appease those who would otherwise lose massive rivalry games and the money that comes with them.
While Missouri is a team that could be on the up-rise, nobody in the conference – or in the country – would rather watch Alabama play Missouri every third Saturday of October instead of Tennessee. The Tide have played Missouri twice since they joined the SEC – including once in the SEC Title game – and both have been blowouts: 42-10 and 42-13.
Ultimately, the only team it would benefit is Auburn as their schedule would become substantially easier, they would not lose any significant rivalry games (except for the budding rivalry with LSU), and would have a much higher chance of making it to the SEC Championship each year.
At the end of the day though, is being farther East or West really all that significant? Is it important enough to shut down another team’s historic rivalry?
Only time will tell.