Big 12/SEC Challenge moving to January during league play


By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

DESTIN, Fla. – Many fans may roll their eyes when that FCS opponent appears on their team’s football schedule.

Some SEC coaches are beginning to agree with them, though not those at Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

The Football Championship Subdivision was once called Division I-AA and features much smaller schools.

The scheduling model at both Ole Miss and Mississippi State typically includes one FCS opponent.

Last year for Ole Miss, it was Southeast Missouri in Week 2. This year, it’s Presbyterian on Nov. 8.

MSU played Alcorn State in Week 2 last season and will play Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 8.

The games count toward the six-win requirement for bowl eligibility. That wasn’t always the case.

“Right now, you play the eight-game SEC schedule and another BCS opponent then probably two more quality opponents. I think it’s best for us to continue to do that right now. I’m not saying that can’t change,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.

Ole Miss and MSU both played non-SEC power conference opponents last year. There have been years that wasn’t the case, but going forward there will be no choice in the matter. As part of its decision to remain at eight league games for football scheduling the SEC has required its schools to play at least one member of a power conference as part of its four non-league games.

“I like it. We’ve played some pretty unique games. We played Jackson State. We were the first SEC team ever to play a team from the SWAC. That’s a pretty historic game in the South. We’ve continued to do that with in-state rivalry,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive said the conference will not dictate FCS scheduling either for or against. Not all coaches embrace the Mississippi point of view.

Florida coach Will Muschamp at the SEC spring meetings said Tuesday that the Gators will no longer play FCS teams.

Alabama coach Nick Saban takes the FCS idea a step further, saying SEC teams should play only against teams from power conferences.

That would eliminate not only FCS games but also Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA opponents – such as Southern Miss.

“The biggest hindrance of strength of schedule, there are still a lot of teams that are concerned about being bowl eligible, and they want to win six games. It’s important to them and their programs. I had that concern when I was the coach at Michigan State,” Saban said.

Saban is calling for an end to the six-win requirement and to allow a committee to select teams for all the bowl games – such as a committee will for the new playoff format and the way committees do for NCAA basketball and baseball tournaments.

“If there are 60 teams that get selected, you’ve got to be one of the top 60 teams. If you went 5-7 and played in a really hard conference and had a really tough schedule, and you had some quality wins, you qualify to go to a bowl game,” he said.

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