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What Conference Realignment Will Actually Look Like For The SEC

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Texas and Oklahoma are more than likely going to end up in the SEC. Now that we’re approaching the 48-hour mark since the news of their potential departure first broke, we can now safely assume that’s where this is heading.

So what does that mean?

Well, it means the SEC is about to become a 16-team super conference. Now running a conference of that size could become difficult, especially when it comes to scheduling. So on Wednesday, OutKick founder Clay Travis discussed dividing the new super conference into four four-team subdivisions.

On Thursday, I released my proposal for what those four divisions of four teams each could — and should — look like.

It was a proposal based on a few things I wanted to see happen, which included Arkansas in a reborn Southwest Conference-type of division, the Alabama-Mississippi schools running side by side, and being able to properly use directional names for divisions, even if it provides Tennessee with an easy path back to relevancy.

If they were paying me the big bucks, I would go with that proposal, which you can view here.

Today, we’re shifting focus to what I think will happen — if they go with a four-division structure.

If Oklahoma and Texas move to the SEC, I highly doubt they’re keeping a two-division system. As Clay pointed out in his recent piece, there’s a way to eventually get each of the four SEC division winners an automatic bid to the College Football Playoff, at least when it expands.

I agree, so I think the benefits of the four-division system are simply too much to pass up. In my opinion, that’s where they’re heading. So now it’s time to predict how the SEC will actually structure those pods.

Geography will play a significant role, but maintaining a competitive balance and preserving key rivalry games will also be taken into serious consideration. There’s no way to make all 16 teams happy, but this is as close as we’re going to get.

If I were a betting man, the structure I have included below is what I’d bet the milk money on. As long as Texas A&M can get along with Texas, this seems like the most plausible scenario for the SEC after all, even if it isn’t what I’d do.

Note: We have to do away with the North, South, East and West division names because of two centrally-located groupings. But as long as they don’t name them something dumb like the “Legends” and “Leaders” divisions, we should be alright.

Division A

Teams

Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M

Permanent Cross-Over Opponents

  • Missouri – Arkansas, South Carolina
  • Oklahoma – Florida, Vanderbilt
  • Texas – Kentucky, South Carolina
  • Texas A&M – Arkansas, Ole Miss

Why It’ll Happen

The only potential snag with this division will be Texas A&M wanting to maintain at least some independence from Texas. Otherwise, it’s almost perfect. Selfishly, I wanted Arkansas in here instead of Missouri, but replacing them with the Tigers only takes this from a Southwest Conference flashback to a mini-Big 12, circa 2011.

The two most important games to preserve here were Missouri-Arkansas and Texas A&M-Arkansas, considering their recent history. Despite moving the Razorbacks out of the division, we were still able to achieve that goal, so I guess it works out fine.

The Red River Rivalry will continue to play a meaningful role in whoever ends up winning the division, as will the renewed matchup between longtime rivals Texas and Texas A&M. From a competitive standpoint, this will be a fun division to monitor.

Texas and Oklahoma will eventually take this division over, but A&M should at least make some noise in the initial stages. And who knows, maybe Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies have positioned themselves to remain in the conversation long term.


Division B

Teams

Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina

Permanent Cross-Over Opponents

  • Florida – Oklahoma, Tennessee
  • Georgia – Auburn, Tennessee
  • Kentucky – Miss State, Texas
  • South Carolina – Missouri, Texas

Why It’ll Happen

I would’ve loved to have seen the competitiveness of this division with LSU in the mix, but Kentucky isn’t the worst replacement option. With that said, any fan of Florida or Georgia will absolutely love this scenario compared to my preference.

At least the Wildcats are already familiar with their opponents, I suppose.

A key part of this switch is that it will allow the Georgia-Tennessee game to remain intact. I’ll admit, that’s a big win. Keeping that contest, Florida-Georgia and Florida-Tennessee all in play will mean three of the biggest SEC East matchups will stick around.

For some reason, that Kentucky-Texas pairing feels like an intriguing add, and the Kentucky-Mississippi State cross-over remains unharmed as well. We’ll also get to see those 2008-09, 2020-21 matchups between Florida and Oklahoma potentially develop into a long-term rivalry.

Georgia is the clear-cut favorite in the immediate future, but Florida should continue to push them in the East like they have for years.


Division C

Teams

Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss

Permanent Cross-Over Opponents

  • Arkansas – Missouri, Texas A&M
  • LSU – Alabama, Auburn
  • Miss State – Alabama, Kentucky
  • Ole Miss – Texas A&M, Vanderbilt

Why It’ll Happen

This is where things get crazy. Look, I loved the idea of having Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss all in the same division. But I also had this notion stuck in my head that Alabama’s two cross-divisional games had to be Tennessee and LSU.

That’s not true if Tennessee is in the same division as Alabama.

This scenario also opens the door for Mississippi State to take Tennessee’s place as one of two cross-over opponents for the Crimson Tide, which I felt was important considering those are the two closest schools to one another geographically.

And with LSU now in the same division as Arkansas, that means the Auburn-LSU game can continue on as well. Once again, I’ll admit that’s a net positive compared to my preferred proposal, especially since it’s one of the more underrated SEC West matchups annually.

In most seasons, this division will be LSU’s to lose. That has to thrill fans, especially when comparing it to my proposal that would’ve had the Tigers facing off against Georgia and Florida each and every year.


Division D

Teams

Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

Permanent Cross-Over Opponents

  • Alabama – LSU, Miss State
  • Auburn – Georgia, LSU
  • Tennessee – Florida, Georgia
  • Vanderbilt – Oklahoma, Ole Miss

Why It’ll Happen

Yeah, Tennessee fans aren’t going to be happy with how this worked out compared to my proposal. If you want something done about it, get me into some power position within the league office and I’ll take care of you guys, I promise.

Granted, Vandy fans aren’t happy either, but they knew going in they were going to take a beating, regardless of who lined up across from them — no offense, of course.

Speaking candidly, I had a vision pushing me towards a Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt division. That arrangement would have been the jumpstart needed to get the Vols program back on track. Not saying Kentucky and Missouri wouldn’t have been competitive, but those programs aren’t Alabama and Auburn.

Even if Tennessee does show some level of improvement in the coming years, it’s now likely that they’ll remain the division’s third-best team — at least for the foreseeable future. That’s unfortunate because I truly believe this is a program poised to bounce back at some point.

To make matters worse for them, their two cross-over games are now Florida and Georgia. That’s a brutal — although necessary — run considering they already have to beat Alabama and Auburn to win the division. Unfortunately, this will likely be the outcome if Texas and Oklahoma do end up joining the SEC.

Alabama already dominates the SEC West most years, and I don’t see that changing much here.


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Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.

Written by Clint Lamb

Clint Lamb is a College Football Writer for OutKick. Managing Editor for Roll Tide Wire. Sports radio host for The Bullpen on 730/103.9 The UMP. Co-host for The 'Bama Beat podcast through The Tuscaloosa News and TideSports.com.

10 Comments

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  1. I wonder if the SEC would consider taking OU with Oklahoma St instead of Texas. Obviously less monetary value but also a lot less of a headache without the Longhorns. SEC still gets what it wants, 16 teams, first to “super conference” status, and the pole position for future growth/changes in college football. Plus the SEC will still command an increase in money for new TV contracts. Small downside with the potential to avoid internal issues of having Texas. Also, they are still getting OU and another team, while on par with Arkansas and Missouri overall, has been very successful for the past 15 years. My bet is OU would be ok with it too, less headache for them divorcing from an in state rival.

    • Taking TX switches the balance of power. now you have more states with 2 teams than states with one team. the swing votes will be Louisiana, Missouri and Arkansas who all have no “alternative” credible D1 football programs in their state, but you could see them VERY interested in diluting Florida’s, and Georgia’s recruiting edge.

      Now add=up the two-team states:
      Alabama,
      Tennessee
      Texas
      Mississippi

      THAT’s 8.. now the ball is rolling!!

      Enter the swing votes: LSU, ARK and Missouri and you could have 11 teams that could be in favor of adding “in-state teams.” and 5 (OK, FL, GA, SC, KY) NOT interested.

      It might not be enough to get the other “in-state teams” into the conference, but it might give them a voting block to push the issue.

    • I think Clay was (mostly) onto the right solution here. He mentioned 8 conference games in his proposal, but it would actually be 10: play your three division foes plus the two annual rivalry games, then play 5 of the remaining 10 teams one year, the other 5 the next. That way every 4-year player plays every team home and away at least once. Makes sense.

    • The SEC with 4 OOC “cupcake” games still has the hardest schedules in the country. Then adding two more power teams, isn’t hard enough for you? O and currently teams don’t play all opponents in the conference in a 4 year span, so that still will stay the same….. BIG 10 Fan??

  2. What is with everyone on this 4 Divisions kick? 2 Divisions, 8 teams each. You play all 7 Division opponents and one crossover from the other side that rotates yearly. Teams can still schedule a big non-conference opponent or two (hopefully) and still schedule a cupcake or two to help out the smaller programs. The Mississippi/Alabama border is a natural dividing line for the set up. No need to overthink or complicate it.

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