The Southeastern Conference on Sunday announced the format for future football scheduling in the league.
The new format, approved in a vote by the league's schools, includes a strength-of-schedule component that requires all SEC teams to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basis beginning in 2016.
Kentucky will meet the requirement thanks to its annual Governor's Cup series with Louisville, which is preparing for the move to the ACC. The Wildcats and Cardinals have played annually since 1994.
Each SEC team will continue to play eight conference games per season, including six against division opponents and two against the other division. The non-division opponents will feature one "fixed" team and one rotating team. Kentucky's permanent SEC West opponent will be Mississippi State.
A nine-game league schedule had been widely rumored to be under consideration, but the SEC chose to give its programs more room to keep non-conference rivalry games of their choosing, provided they meet the new requirements.
"This has been a thoughtful and deliberative process that has resulted in maintaining the current format and adds a provision that will bolster our collective annual non-conference schedule," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement released Sunday. "Critical to maintaining this format is the non-conference opponent factor which gives us the added strength-of-schedule we were seeking while allowing continued scheduling flexibility for institutional preferences, and acknowledges that many of our institutions already play these opponents.
"The concept of strength-of-schedule is based on an entire 12-game schedule, a combination of both conference games together with non-conference games. Given the strength of our conference schedule supplemented by at least one major non-conference game, our teams will boast of a strong resume' of opponents each and every year."
SEC Fixed Non-Division Rivals:Alabama (west) vs. Tennessee (east)
Arkansas (west) vs. Missouri (east)
Auburn (west) vs. Georgia (east)
LSU (west) vs. Florida (east)
Ole Miss (west) vs. Vanderbilt (east)
Mississippi State (west) vs. Kentucky (east)
Texas A&M (west) vs. South Carolina (east)