Is It Time To Eliminate Permanent Cross Division Rivals?
University of Florida coach Dan Mullen was at the podium in Hoover, Al. for SEC Media Days 2021 when he was asked about hosting the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide to open its SEC schedule.
The Crimson Tide hasn't traveled to "The Swamp" since 2011, a trip in which Alabama defeated Florida 38-10, in fact, the two sides haven't met in the regular season in seven years. The last three times the Tide and Gators have squared off it's been in Atlanta, in the SEC Championship. Mullen's Gators lost to Nick Saban's Crimson Tide in last season's SEC Championship 52-46.
"I think it's really exciting, I'll get the commissioner in trouble here but I'd love to maybe do away with the permanent cross-over team so you get these types of games more often. I think for the players, for the fan bases," said Mullen. "I really think it's exciting to see some more of the mixing up of the teams from the west and playing two different teams each year instead of a permanent crossover, I think that'd be really exciting so you get this matchup. It's going to be an exciting day, it's going to be a great atmosphere, it's going to be a fun game to be a part of."
Is it time to do away with the permanent cross-division rival? Mullen is correct, a second rotational opponent would mean more opportunities to travel throughout the conference and experience other fan bases.
Keep in mind Florida is 3-7 in the last 10 years against its cross-division rival LSU Tigers (1-2 under Mullen) so perhaps this is just a ploy to alleviate his schedule each and every year but look closer at each permanent rivalry. Have they really been rivalries lately?
The Crimson Tide has defeated its cross-division rival 14 years in a row, almost making the post-game victory cigar a simple formality for Alabama fans.
The Texas A&M Aggies have waxed its cross-division rival South Carolina Gamecocks all seven years they've played in the SEC. Missouri has taken down Arkansas in six of its seven SEC contests.
Mississippi State holds an 18-12 record over its cross-division rival Kentucky, since they began playing every year, with a 7-3 record over the last decade.
In "The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry" the Georgia Bulldogs maintain a 9-2 record over the Auburn Tigers in the last 10 years.
Only the vaunted Ole Miss and Vanderbilt rivalry has been that on the field in the last decade. The Rebels are 6-4 over the last 10 years and the two sides are 8-8 over the last 16 years.
Boredom, blowouts, and predictability aren't enough to throw tradition in the trash and while I long for the Tide to get to experience all the great venues and fan bases in the SEC East it's not enough to discontinue "The Third Saturday in October".
Alabama and Tennessee have played every year since 1944 and the two schools are not alone in sharing rich history with its cross-division rival. Georgia and Auburn's matchups date back to 1944 consecutively, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt haven't missed a year since 1970 and LSU and Florida have met each year since 1971.
Instead of eliminating the permanent cross-division rival the SEC should mandate a ninth game on the schedule. The ninth game could replace one of the cupcake weeks and further elevate the status of the Southeastern Conference. Schools would maintain long-held rivalries and experience two rotating programs from the opposite division.
The conference already proved more games are feasible in 2020 by playing an altered 10-game schedule. By reverting back to a simple 8-game league schedule it leaves the fans wanting more from their college football season.
Alabama's Nick Saban has been advocating for additional conference games on the schedule for some time now. His suggestion would add excitement and create comradery and ultimately revenue for the Southeastern Conference with an additional cross-division game.
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