Why Georgia (probably) won't go back to LSU until 2030

A word of advice to Georgia fans traveling to Baton Rouge for Saturday’s game with LSU:

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Enjoy it.

Because if the SEC scheduling model does not change, you won’t be going back until 2030.

Georgia-LSU is one of those strange SEC games that really hasn’t been played enough to be called a full-blown rivalry. The two were charter members of the SEC when it was founded in 1933. That was 85 years ago.

Contrast: Georgia and Auburn, who started playing long before SEC membership, have met 122 times. Saturday will mark only the 31st time Georgia and LSU have met in football. Only 11 of the 30 previous games have been played in Baton Rouge.

So if this game is on your bucket list I would take care of that this week.

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It’s really too bad because when Georgia and LSU get together at Tiger Stadium something exciting usually happens. The record in those 11 games is a dead heat at is 5-5-1.

“I hate to hear that because to me, it was the best road atmosphere I ever played in,” said former Bulldog quarterback David Greene (2001-2004), who started 52 games, including Georgia’s 17-10 loss at Baton Rouge in 2003.

“There’s no other place like it,” said Buck Belue, who was a freshman quarterback on the Georgia team that won 24-17 in Baton Rouge in 1978. “There is no other place you go where the fans rock the bus.”

Here is the explanation.

The SEC currently has a “6-1-1” scheduling model for conference games. That means each year a school plays the other six teams in its division, one permanent crossover team from the other division (in Georgia’s case it is Auburn), and a team from the other division that rotates on a yearly basis. So it takes six years for a team to play everybody else in the SEC. But once your players and your fan base have visited a venue not in your division and is not a permanent crossover, it doesn’t return to that venue for 12 years.

More succinctly put, the next group of Georgia players who will get to play in Tiger Stadium are now six years old.

“It’s an opportunity for a lot of our guys to play in a venue that a lot of Georgia players never got a chance to play in, and some in the future won’t get an opportunity to play in,” said Georgia Coach Kirby Smart, who played in Baton Rouge for the Bulldogs in 1998.

Which is why Smart and several other SEC coaches are wondering if it is time to consider going to a 9-game conference schedule, which is currently being done in the Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12. That way games like Georgia-LSU and Georgia-Alabama would come around more often.

Saban was the first SEC coach to advocate for a nine-game SEC schedule. He wants to be able to promise players that if they stay at Alabama for five years they would play everybody in the conference. Smart and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn have now come on board with the idea.

“I’ve always been in favor of a nine-game schedule but that’s not my decision to make,” Smart said to the media. “Does it affect a team getting to the playoff? I don’t know but I do know you have a lot more games to get up for, a lot more rivalry games.”

But here’s the reality: While this particular component of the SEC scheduling model isn’t ideal for players and fans who want to see these games more often, overall it has worked very well for the conference. The SEC has had at least one team in the national championship game in 11 of the past 12 seasons. The only blip in that stretch was 2014, when Alabama lost to Ohio State in the CFP semifinals. In two seasons (2011 and 2017) BOTH teams in the national championship game were from the SEC.

Also, the SEC has won nine of the past 12 national championships.

This week’s Associated Press media poll has eight SEC teams ranked. No other conference has ever done this. The SEC has done it 14 times.

The SEC sent a record 12 teams to bowls in 2016 and nine more in 2017. A nine-game conference schedule would guarantee seven more losses spread around the 14 conference teams.

The SEC took a hard look at every scheduling model available in 2014 and decided to stick with the status quo. The 6-1-1 model is scheduled to run through 2025.

“Our success as a league should not be attributed simply to our scheduling philosophy,” Sankey said during SEC Media Days back in July. “But year after year, our best teams have produced the best team in the country.

“The facts candidly speak for themselves.”

Yeah, they do. But it's still too bad.

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