I have read two specific arguments from Florida fans against the 6-1-1 scheduling the SEC is keeping for the time being: The first is that playing LSU every year is unfair, and the second is that Florida fans want to be able to travel to SEC West schools more than the 6-1-1 allows.
Neither of those are wrong. But I don't think they matter.
Yeah, playing LSU every year is unfair. But playing LSU at home is better than playing, oh, Auburn on the road, or Alabama on the road, or Texas A&M on the road, all things that Florida could be swapping LSU at home for in even-numbered years.
And don't bring an argument that LSU plus Florida State plus the SEC East every year makes the Gators' schedule intolerably hard. Florida's won a national title three times in seasons in which it played LSU and in the three seasons since the 6-1-1 format came into effect in 1992 that have seen Florida sweep LSU at home and Florida State on the road, Florida's won two national titles and come within a Lane Kiffin upset of Notre Dame of playing for a third.
The SEC schedule is hard for every team, because the SEC has so many good teams. The marginal differences do matter on a year-by-year basis. But the idea, for a program like Florida, is to compete for national titles, and Florida's schedule, as long as it definitely has LSU on it, will never ever be kept out of a national title game because of strength of schedule. If you recognize that while decrying the "unfairness," we can have a discussion.
I'm more sympathetic to the latter complaint, because I, too, like traveling. College Station was a fun experience, though I imagine it's never going to be quite as good a trip as it was for those lucky few of us who saw Texas A&M's first SEC game and Johnny Manziel's first collegiate game and a Florida win at Kyle Field in 2012. I want to go to The Grove in Oxford just like every other SEC fan, and I'm planning on making the trip to Tuscaloosa for Florida-Alabama this fall. I'm even curious about Starkville.
But let's be real: The best SEC West road trip is to Baton Rouge and/or New Orleans, and Florida gets to make it like clockwork, something no other SEC East team gets. Go to Baton Rouge whenever possible, save up for Florida's trips to Tuscaloosa and Oxford and the Columbia where they don't play "Sandstorm" so much, or just go to games in those SEC towns when Florida's on bye. If you need the Gators to be your excuse for college football tourism, consider stepping up your breadth of interest in the world.
Those two complaints are going to persist, too. However, I'm not sure that a nine-game schedule (and the 6-2-1 slating it would assuredly bring), a divisional shakeup (which would theoretically move Auburn to the East and Missouri to the West and make protecting rivalries easier), or a 6-2 format (which would produce screeching from Alabama fans the likes of which we have yet to experience) actually helps Florida solve all of its problems all that much.
The Gators aren't dropping Florida State, the clear best annual opponent available for an SEC team outside the SEC until Texas stops ignoring Texas A&M like it's auditioning for Awkward. or something, and a nine-game SEC schedule in addition to an annual game against FSU would really push the "If Florida's good enough, the schedule won't matter" to its logical endpoint, one that might include moving the Florida-Georgia game back to campus. Florida having to play Auburn annually, instead of Missouri, would make things incrementally more difficult on average. And a 6-2 format would just piss off the Florida fans who quietly enjoy the Florida-LSU rivalry as it is.
If I could make Florida's ideal SEC schedule, I would start by putting the SEC Championship Game in Tampa and selling tickets that somehow stayed with Florida fans forev ... uh, I mean, I would probably try to make it as easy for the Gators as I could, but I would have a problem doing that because there's no such thing as an easy SEC schedule, just an "easier" one. Or Alabama's. Or Georgia's.
On Monday, I had a private discussion with Thomas Goldkamp about the SEC rule on one-year transfers he pointed out as a potential impediment to Jake McGee potentially transferring from Virginia to Florida to finish his college career, and we both noted something very weird: McGee, who's apparently interested enough in Florida that news of his transfer was immediately followed by reported interest, is in some kind of limbo, but Jon Horford, who is in the exact same graduating-with-one-year-of-eligibility-remaining-and-an-interest-in-Florida boat, is reportedly transferring to Florida in something considered a fait accompli.
This makes no sense and all of the sense in the world. McGee plays football and Horford plays basketball.
I suspect the vast majority of SEC fans probably wouldn't care about even an excellent graduate transfer in basketball, because one senior is not going to make or break a team. That hypothetical player has, certainly, been eligible for the NBA Draft, and elected not to go; he's not that great.
But say a really good quarterback — we'll call him Caleb Joker — is available, and has lost a quarterback competition while also earning his degree. Joker has one year of eligibility left, and he wants to go to an SEC school because he knows the easiest path to an NFL career is from an SEC school. Why, exactly, does he need to find a graduate program to sink a year into to play football at that school, other than to keep up appearances?
If Joker existed this year — and not Jacob Coker, whose two years of eligibility conveniently exempt him from the SEC's graduate transfer rule — you can bet your bottom dollar that Alabama fans would be shouting to the stars that the SEC was illegally restricting Joker's pursuit of
'Bama's 15th or 23rd or 87th title his career and education.
Florida fans won't be doing that for Jake McGee. Maybe we should.