In both leagues, each team plays 3 teams from the other division each year. In the Big XII, whom everyone plays in a given year is determined by a straightforward rotating schedule. For example: In 2004, Texas played Missouri in Austin, at Colorado, and at Kansas. In
Now consider the Southeastern Conference. In an attempt to preserve traditional rivalries that existed well before the conference was divided into an Eastern and a Western division, each team in the SEC has one permanent opponent from the other side and the other 2 in a given year are determined on a rotationg home-and-home basis. The only problem is that there are only 2 such rivalries that the system is intended to protect: Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn. The other 8 teams in the league have no serious cross-divisional rivalries. But because those 4 schools insist upon playing one another every year, everyone else has to have a permanent opponent as well. This means that there are years in which the competitive balance of the league is badly skewed. LSU's permanent Eastern opponent is Florida. Compare that to Mississippi State (permanent opponent: Kentucky), Arkansas (South Carolina), and Ole Miss (Vanderbilt). This means that there will often be years in which LSU, Auburn, and/or Bama have to play 2 of the Big Three (i.e., Florida, Georgia and Tennessee), and there will also be years in which State, Ole Miss, and/or Arkansas have to play none of them. For example, Mississippi State won the SEC West in 1998 with an Eastern schedule of South Carolina, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. This can only be described as a joke. As proof that State was not, in fact, the best team in the SEC West that year, look no further than their 38-11 Cotton Bowl thrashing at the hands of the Longhorns.
We certainly understand that rivalries are a big part of what makes college football fun. But we would also argue that it is a conference's duty to do right by its student-athletes in terms of fair competition. The SEC scheduling system right now doesn't do that. It is important to note that Oklahoma-Nebraska is every bit as big and traditional a rivalry as either Auburn-Georgia or Bama-Tennessee--and that playing OU-NU two years on, two years off for the past 11 years has not caused the world to crumble. It would not crumble if the 2 SEC rivalries played under the same system, either.
But, Southerners hate a change...