Alabama vs. Tennessee: no more?
The Birmingham News is now chiming in with this report citing SEC sources who are echoing earlier reports from the Missouri end that the SEC is prepared to extend an invitation to the Tigers should the Big XII fall apart as is looking more and more likely. However, the big development from the Birmingham News report is that the tentative deal would involve Auburn moving to the East Division in football.
The Southeastern Conference and the University of Missouri have informally agreed that, barring new developments, the school will join the league and that Auburn University will move to the SEC East Division, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
A majority of presidents has endorsed the informal agreement, the sources said.
Obviously this has major implications for both of the Crimson Tide's two biggest football rivalries moving forward. First, with our biggest and most intense rivalry, the Iron Bowl, one has to assume that Auburn would become the cross-division foe the Tide faces every year. This is the solution that the B1G came up with when they placed Ohio State and Michigan in opposing divisions.
On the one hand, this most likely wouldn't change much about the Tide and Tigers' annual meeting on the last weekend of the regular season. That would be almost certain to continue no matter the outcome. On the other hand, it would then become possible for an Iron Bowl rematch a mere 7 days later if both teams were to win their respective divisions, as they would then meet again to decide the SEC Championship.
Things could change even more drastically for Alabama's "Third Saturday in October" rivalry with Tennessee. With the Tide adding an extra in-division opponent, that reduces the number of games against Eastern division teams from 3 to 2 (unless a 9th conference game is added, in which case the number would remain at 3).
In any event, with Auburn almost certain to take over as the Tide's yearly inter-division rival, the status of the Alabama-Tennessee game as a yearly event moving forward seems doubtful. The only way both rivalries could continue is for Alabama to play both teams every year, which would mean in an 8-game conference schedule, Bama would never play any of the other 5 teams from the East--Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky or Vanderbilt. Even if the SEC moved to a 9-game schedule, it would leave only one spot open for those other 5 teams on a rotational basis, meaning Bama would face each team only twice per decade instead of 4 times per decade, as is the case under the current format and would be the case if there was only one cross-division foe.
However the schedule format is worked out, if Auburn is in fact moved to the East division, the nature of both of Alabama's biggest football rivalries are at risk of changing forever.