Leland Wong: I'm not sure if eight or nine is better, but it makes sense for standardization and for all schools to play the same number of in-conference games and to have comparable difficulty for out-of-conference games. The SEC argues that strength of schedule will still be the largest determinant for making the playoffs, but if you play fewer of the rigorous in-conference games in favor for more cupcakes, it's harder to evaluate your team because nothing is learned when one of the automatic-qualifying schools squashes FCS's Nowhere State.
The proposal for eight conference games plus one out-of-conference game against a school from one of the big five conferences is fine and all, but it still must be adopted by all schools. It's not enough for the SEC to hide behind that proposal while all the other schools play nine conference games and at least one out-of-conference game against an SEC team.
boomtho: I think the argument for 9 vs 8 was diluted a bit through expansion. When most of the conferences were 10 teams, it just made sense to play 9 conference games - it was the only way to crown a true champion! Now, for me, the most compelling arguments for the 9 game schedule are consistency and fan value. First, I think most conferences play 9 games. The SEC playing 8 games is therefore going to make it harder to compare resumes across conferences. Second, most fans presumably aren't excited to watch their team pile up points against some random lower division opponent (note: Cal fans would LOVE for an easy win in these type of games!) If SEC teams are able to have strong ticket sales while still playing multiple terrible OOC opponents, good for them - but I don't think the model is repeatable outside of a handful of schools.
As for the Big 12 proposal, I'd be more OK with that if the majority of conferences currently played 8 conference games. As it stands now, I'd see that as a step backwards for most, and thus I can't get behind it.
Nick Kranz: I love how the SEC is trying to have their cake and eat it too with the move to force schools to play one power conference school as a part of their non-conference schedule.
It should be embarrassing to those schools that such a rule is even necessary. Pac-12 schools have been regularly playing nine conference games along with at least one game against a power conference school for years now. I hope nobody is fooled by the SEC's attempt to pretend they are agreeing to create a difficult schedule when they're really just mandating a bear minimum that most conferences already surpass.
Secondly, the move is mostly toothless. Arkansas can still put together a schedule of Arkansas St., Georgia St., Stephen F. Austin and Indiana/Wake Forest/Colorado/Kansas/Cal (sob). Are we supposed to be impressed by a schedule like that? It's a rule designed to sound impressive without actually meaningfully changing the current practices of their member institutions.
Vlad Belo: I am rather meh at the whole 8 vs. 9 game conference schedule controversy. At risk of coming off as a naive simpleton, I think the conferences that stick with an 8-game schedule do so at their peril. Now that we don't have the BCS and have a college football playoff selection committee, I feel confident (for now) that the committee will take into account the rigor of, say, one team's 9th conference game compared with another team's extra non conference game, especially if that extra game was against an FCS opponent. I think the SEC even recognizes this, as I heard an interview recently with Florida coach Will Muschamp indicating that the SEC debated a moratorium on conference members playing games vs. FCS teams.
Berkelium97: I am vehemently opposed to 8-game conference schedules because I don't believe the strength-of-schedule argument carries as much weight as many of us expect. An underappreciated and critical aspect of the 4 game OOC schedule is that it (usually) gives everyone an extra win. Sure, your strength of schedule will take a hit when you play Nincompoop St., but that will even out over time. Consider a common scenario where every single one of your conference opponents gets an extra win from an additional, weak OOC opponent. By playing those teams in conference play, your strength of schedule may actually improve because you're playing 8 teams whose records are better than they would have been otherwise. As a result, you get 11 of 14 teams in the ACC making bowl games and 10 of 14 teams in the SEC making bowl games, which makes it much easier to emphasize the "strength" of the conference as a whole when lobbying for a playoff position.
Until this potential loophole is made well known, these teams can continue to exploit 8-game schedules with little to no strength of schedule penalty.