More SEC titles for Nick Saban without divisions?


This week the NCAA Division I Council voted to remove conference title game requirements for conferences with at least 12 members.

Previously, these conferences had to have divisions, with the winner of each conference advancing to the conference championship. Now the conferences decide who plays in the title game.

Immediately, the Pac-12 announced that it would drop the divisions. Other conferences could follow, including the SEC. That could be in the near future or as soon as Texas and Oklahoma join forces to create a 16-team conference.

If the SEC changes its lineup, it would place the two teams with the highest conference win percentages in championship play.

How would that change things for Alabama Football and the SEC? We will see. But looking back over the past 15 seasons shows that if divisions hadn’t existed, there would have been some changes for previous SEC championship games.

Now, the exact matchups would likely have been different during the non-division regular season, resulting in different scheduling. So it’s not a perfect translation. But it’s still an interesting what-if exercise to determine the two teams based on the conference win percentage.

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This wouldn’t have had the same clout as it does now after the back and forth between the two coaches over the past week, but it would have been a fun game in 2020 nonetheless.

Instead, Alabama played Florida in the conference title game that year. The Crimson Tide had a perfect record to win the SEC West while the Gators went 8-2 (.800) to win the SEC East. Texas A&M finished second in the West, 8-1 (.889).

With a higher winning percentage in the conference than Florida, the Aggies would have faced Alabama.

There’s a little asterisk in that 2020 had a unique all-conference schedule, but Texas A&M’s only loss was in the second game of the season to Alabama.

Alabama-Florida was a convincing championship game nonetheless. The Crimson Tide won 52-46.

Alabama might have entered a few more SEC championships

Saban had a remarkable run in his 15 seasons at Tuscaloosa, with nine appearances in the SEC championship game. However, had there been no divisions, he might have trained more.

In 2017, 2013, and 2011, the Crimson Tide had the same conference record as either or both teams playing in the conference title game.

In 2017, Alabama was tied 7-1 in conference play, along with Auburn and Georgia, but the Tigers had the neck-and-neck tiebreaker over the Crimson Tide. Alabama and the Bulldogs did not play during the regular season.

In 2013, a similar situation applies. Just swap Georgia for Missouri. In 2011, LSU (8-0) and Georgia (7-1) played for the conference title. Alabama had the same record as the Bulldogs but did not have a head-to-head matchup.

Many of the current tiebreakers for naming division winners are based on division play, which would not apply in a non-division setting. So new tiebreakers would have to be established.

Other possible changes

Years that could have been different depending on the tiebreaker are 2012, 2010 and 2007.

In 2012, Alabama and Georgia faced each other, and each had the same 7-1 conference record as Florida. But the Gators lost to the Bulldogs. Florida didn’t play the Crimson Tide that year.

In 2010, LSU would have been in the SEC championship against Auburn. LSU had a 6-2 record while South Carolina, who actually faced Auburn, was 5-3.

Then there’s 2007 when LSU (6-2) and Tennessee (6-2) played in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia had the same record but lost to the Volunteers. The Bulldogs did not play the Tigers that year.

Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men’s basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly

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