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Sep 11, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Captains meeting before the game between Auburn and Alabama State at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics
Sep 11, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Captains meeting before the game between Auburn and Alabama State at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

The Importance of SEC vs Big 10 Football

Saturday was a great day for college football. Upsets, Top-25 matchups, and game deciding final plays between power five opponents gave fans a taste of December in week three. It also marked the first time two ranked teams from the SEC and Big 10 played one another in a regular season contest since Michigan and Florida in 2017.

The Auburn Tigers travelled to Happy Valley for the first time in program history and experienced one of the greatest atmospheres the game had to offer. Penn State behind a sea of white came out victorious 28-20 pended two potential game winning drives from Bo Nix. 

The packed-out Beaver Stadium marked the largest crowd in college football this season coming up just shy of 110,000. Games you might compare this too would come from the likes of Notre Dame or Ohio State visiting Michigan in the Big House. Only the biggest conference games with seasons on the line would you see record breaking attendances like Penn State and Auburn Saturday night.

To make more sense of the matter, the table was set for prime time. Two ranked programs from Power Five conferences on white out night will make for great football. The SEC and Big 10 in their 88-year history together don’t play as often as they should during the regular season. During this time, the two conferences have played 166 times including over half of these matchups played at neutral sites for Bowl Games.

There has been an upward trend over the past four decades in matchups between the two conferences. The 1970’s averaged 1.2 games per season where the 2010’s saw that number grow at a steady rate to 4.6. Unfortunately, this happened through the addition of more bowl games giving room to schedule contests between the SEC and Big 10 in season finales.

The matchup just makes sense if the goal is to bring balance to college football. It’s an unfair game when schools are snubbed a playoff spot when analysts speculate what MIGHT happen if two teams played. Limit the number non-conference tune-up games and give fans more matchups worth paying for.

After Saturday’s win against Auburn, DT Derek Tangelo said “I feel like we could’ve played anyone to be honest… just to have the atmosphere and crowd rocking really motivated me to get a win” in response to the atmosphere of the matchup against the SEC.

After speaking with more players about matchups like Saturday, many welcomed the idea of more regular season games against the SEC. The chance to compete against the best not only at the end of a season is what the game needs. Poor regular season scheduling comes as a result through the fear of loss. Top tier programs cannot afford (literally) to finish a season with three or more losses.

In the NFL, even six loss teams will make the playoffs and sometimes go on to win a Super Bowl. College football is sinical when rankings are determined on paper instead of the gridiron. Auburn now stands 2-1 with a loss to a top-10 team, but no one is to say their playoff hopes have vanished. Early season Power Five matchups promote losing and still give teams hope their season is not over. Bowl games have become expendable and there is no reward for some teams outside of the top-15.

College football needs a change in culture with how much it works to control the game. More two loss playoff teams from a wider range of conferences create equal opportunity for any program willing to battle the best. The SEC and Big 10 are the beginning of this revolution that will change the game of football when implemented.  

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