Nick Saban doesn’t think Alabama gets a fair shot when it comes to the SEC’s proposed scheduling format.
The conference will approve a new nine-game series that will no longer include divisions once Texas and Oklahoma join in 2024. In the new format, teams play three permanent rivals on an annual basis while rotating their six other games for the rest of the conference.
Alabama’s three proposed opponents include Auburn, LSU and Tennessee, a trio that Saban says puts the Crimson Tide at a disadvantage.
“I’ve always been in favor of playing more [conference] games,” Saban told Sports Illustrated. “But if you play more games, I think you should fix the three [opponents] right. They give us Tennessee, Auburn and LSU. I don’t know how they got there.”
Most cite Auburn, LSU, and Tennessee as Alabama’s biggest rivals. The SEC also takes into account the past 10 years of winning percentages when determining permanent opponents. However, Saban argues that Tennessee’s recent resurgence makes these numbers misleading.
“Some of those years Tennessee wasn’t as good as they were in the previous 10 years, but now they’re as good as they used to be for those 10 years,” Saban said. “We have three teams and two of them are in the Top 10 and the other is in the Top 10 a lot.…Look historically over a 25 year history, and the top three teams in the East are Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. You look at 25 years historically, Alabama, LSU and Auburn are the top three teams in the West. So we play them all.”
Tennessee snapped a 15-game losing streak against Alabama last season, beating the Crimson Tide 52-49 in Knoxville. Meanwhile, LSU handed Alabama its second loss with a 32-31 overtime victory in Baton Rouge.
Saban has previously expressed his desire to play more SEC games, but told Sports Illustrated that an eight-game schedule would provide better balance across the league. An eight-game list with 16 teams would only have one permanent rival and seven rotating opponents per season.
“I like to play more SEC games,” said Saban. “I think it’s good for the game and good for the fans. I think they have a better chance of getting the parity right by playing the eight games. I’m talking about the balance of who has who.”