It’s old news: Texas and Oklahoma are going to join the SEC in.. a few years? Next year? At least by 2026. A few years back it was supposed to be those teams moving to the PAC. Conference changes are inevitable and have always happened, yet for some reason this one is being talked about differently. Is this the end of college football as we know it?
I doubt it. The SEC at 16 isn’t a “super-conference” and the way they can align the two divisions could be a great mix of Old SEC and Old SWC/Big 8. Let’s take a look at what I think is THE IDEAL way to shake out these divisions.
Let’s keep it at two. It makes sense to have 8 teams in each. You’ll still have the crossover game and you can keep it at 8 conference games if that’s how they want to roll with it. That also makes sense from a playoff standpoint.
Each team would play each team in its own division plus 1 rotating crossover game. Alternatively, if they wanted to move to 9 conference games, they could have 1 consistent opponent and 1 rotating opponent from the other division. The table above reflects what I would consider a solid crossover opponent for each. LSU-Florida is the only one that really should be preserved, everything else is up for debate.
Option 1: The Geographic Pods
|Texas A&M||Ole Miss||Georgia||Tennessee|
|Arkansas||Mississippi State||South Carolina||Vanderbilt|
I know what you’re thinking: these pods are not very well balanced. Bama and Auburn get the Mississippi schools? Texas, OU, A&M all in the same pod‽ LSU, Florida, and Georgia together‽ Pod D is horribly weak! The schools are all clustered near each other. It keeps in-state teams together in the same pod and tries to hold up historic rivalries.
Option 2: The Improved Geographic Pods
|Ole Miss||Texas A&M||Kentucky||South Carolina|
How geographic is this? It’s pretty close for all teams. We keep western teams in western pods and eastern teams in eastern pods, but we shift things around a bit to avoid horribly imbalanced pods (think Florida/Georgia/Alabama/Auburn who are in a natural cluster). This pod structure would require that teams have at least 1 constant opponent (rivalry game) that is preserved each season, but maybe even 2 would be more appropriate.
What could a schedule look like for a pod system like this? Let’s take a look at the case of Florida and we’ll use Option 2 because I like the balancing better. Keep in mind that this isn’t a week-by-week schedule, rather a look at the list of teams they would play within their overall schedule. First we’d have the teams within their pod, followed by rivalry games, then filled in with a rotating slate of teams that changes each year.
|Auburn *||Auburn *||Auburn *||Auburn *|
|South Carolina *||South Carolina *||South Carolina *||South Carolina *|
|Vanderbilt *||Vanderbilt *||Vanderbilt *||Vanderbilt *|
|Georgia **||Georgia **||Georgia **||Georgia **|
|Tennessee **||Tennessee **||Tennessee **||Tennessee **|
|Texas||LSU||Ole Miss||Miss State|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4|
As you can see here, Florida would play every single team in the conference at least once every 4 years. They could fidget around with this format by having only 1 rivalry game or by adding a 9th conference game and it would still. hold up.
So what do I prefer? The pod system seems more interesting to me from a scheduling perspective. It’s more different conference teams to play each year, but it does complicate the conference title game. You could effectively end up having an SEC playoff to determine the winner of the conference itself before the regular playoff. Or maybe they’d go with the top 2 teams regardless of pod based on conference record. Tiebreakers would go to normal divisional tiebreakers (record against pod, head to head, ranking). It’s possible they’d still have a 3-way tie or at least a 2-way tie for 2nd place, but I don’t think it would happen too often to break it.
All I know is that I’m psyched to see this newly expanded SEC in action.