Auburn's Gus Malzahn joins Nick Saban in advocating for nine-game SEC schedule
Both of the SEC West's premier coaches are now aligned on their scheduling preferences
ATLANTA -- Gus Malzahn has become at least the second SEC coach to advocate for playing nine league games.
"I've changed my tune. I'm all for the SEC having nine conference games to equal out the league as far as schedule," Auburn's coach said during a break Thursday at the 2018 SEC Media Days. "I think Nick [Saban]'s been the only one for it."
Saban, Alabama's coach, has long supported the SEC playing nine conference games. The SEC has played eight each season since 1992 when it added South Carolina and Arkansas to get to 12 teams. (The league has since moved to 14 teams after adding Missouri and Texas A&M.) The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 all currently play nine conference games.
Coaches and administrators across the country have supported, from time to time, across-the-board consistency in the number of conference games played by Power Five schools.
The "6-1-1" eight-game model was the clear preference of the SEC when the league last conducted a review of scheduling in 2014, according to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. SEC teams play all six of their divisional opponents, plus a permanent crossover rival from the other division as well as a rotating crossover opponent.
Since 2014, the SEC has mandated teams play at least one Power Five opponent in nonconference action.
The SEC certainly hasn't suffered in the BCS and College Football Playoff eras by playing only eight conference games. Last season, Alabama played for the CFP National Championship for the third time since 2011 despite not winning its division. The SEC has played in 11 of the last 12 national title games.
SEC teams have won nine of those games.
"I think it's the best for us moving forward," Malzahn added. "I think it would put more equity as far as strength of schedule in the conference."
Reminded that SEC teams would be playing five conference road games every other year (four at home), Malzahn understood "that is the negative part. I do know that would be part of the deal."
Malzahn didn't say exactly, it but his motivation may be Alabama. The Tide's permanent crossover opponent is Tennessee, which has been mediocre of late. Auburn's crossover is Georgia.
"I kind of went a 180," said Malzahn.
Malzahn added that he changed his mind on the subject "recently" based on "East-West, two new teams added to the league."
Malzahn is in the first of a new seven-year, $49 million deal with the Tigers.
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