How a hypothetical nine-game SEC schedule would look based on Big Ten’s new ‘Flex Protect Plus’ model

With the SEC (Texas and Oklahoma) and Big Ten (USC and UCLA) preparing to add two members to their respective leagues in 2024, it is apparent the old way of scheduling conference games by divisions just won’t work anymore. While the SEC recently settled on a stopgap eight-game conference slate for the 2024 season, the Big Ten seems to have found a long-term solution. 

On Thursday the league announced 11 rivalry games will have “protected” status in its “Flex Protect Plus” model, which will help ensure that all teams play one another at least once every two years. 

Sure, settling on a coherent nine-game model was simpler for the Big Ten since it was already playing nine league games before the additions of the Bruins and Trojans. Still, the SEC could learn a thing or two from the Big Ten’s announcement as it mulls over a long-term scheduling structure.

What would a potential SEC schedule look like if it adopted the Big Ten’s new format? Below is a projection for the 2024 and 2025 seasons within a nine-game model. For this exercise, we protected 11 rivalries and included “two-play” opponents, just like the Big Ten. “Two plays” essentially serve as a home-and-home between conference opponents over the 2024 and 2025 seasons and will change every two years — meaning teams will have different “two plays” for the 2026 season — so that every team faces each other at least twice over a four-year period. 

Teams in italics are permanent rivals | Teams with asterisks (*) are “two play” opponents


Ole Miss*

Breakdown: Some of the holdup on moving to a nine-game SEC schedule with three permanent opponents seems to be Alabama’s reluctance to accept a format that would require it to play Auburn, Tennessee and LSU each season….


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