Our Conference Mock Draft: SEC Edition

Our Conference Mock Draft: SEC Edition

No Bama, but we got Georgia, Auburn and Clemson holding it down!

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With the snake-draft format, I was the only one forced to make every selection in pairs. I focused on the rivalries that make college sports great to a fault, which got harder as the draft went along. I more than held my own, starting with a heavy hitter and securing one of the most underrated rivalries in college sports with my final two picks.

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1. Georgia

1. Georgia

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I had the last pick of the first round, meaning I’m the only one who had to always pick in pairs throughout the draft. Representing the new SEC, and having covered the league with boots on the ground in the past, my focus was on retaining as many of the old standards as possible, and combining it with the non-regionalized direction of college football. What better way to start than with the defending national champions and one of the sport’s strongest brands in Georgia? The best sports atmosphere I’ve ever been part of is on a Saturday game day in Athens. Football runs college sports. And the Bulldogs will be an indefinite national title contender, making them an ideal first-round pick.

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2. Auburn

2. Auburn

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The Iron Bowl gets a lot of credit for being the SEC’s top rivalry, and deservedly so with being in-state foes. With the Crimson Tide off the board, retaining one of the two schools from the state where the SEC is headquartered was key. Plus, Auburn has played Georgia more times than Alabama. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has been contested 126 times. The Iron Bowl only has 86. Having the Tigers as a tentpole for the new SEC is one heck of a get, even if it appears that No. 6 overall is too high for a program that hasn’t won a national championship since 2010. Auburn’s good at pretty much every sport.

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3. Clemson

3. Clemson

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How the mighty have fallen. With how dominant the Tigers have been on the gridiron over the last decade, to have them still available at No. 15 made me throw expansion into new frontiers to the forefront. Clemson is already deep in the conference’s Southern footprint and is one of the few football brands outside the current league that’s better than most in it. It’s really been one “down” year for Clemson where it had what most of the rest of college football would consider a great season. If I’m Greg Sankey, outside of Notre Dame who was off the board at No. 2, this would be my first call to expand beyond 16 teams. To get back to an even number, you’d have to bring in another team that strengthens your reach.

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4. Florida State

4. Florida State

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Holding onto at least one of college sports’ elite in the Sunshine State was key and the Seminoles have one of the most recognizable brands in the country. It’s weird to call FSU a sleeping giant but that’s where it currently stands. The Seminoles have every system in place to consistently compete for ACC titles. They’ve just fallen short more times recently than you can comprehend. A swift kick in the ass and joining a new conference should do the trick to awaken the Tallahassee beast.

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5. Ole Miss

5. Ole Miss

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This was a pure rivalry duo with most of the big brand names of college sports off the board. I may have leaned a little too much into the current SEC by taking the Mississippi duo here, but I don’t care. Both of their fan bases show up as the best act in town and will out-party everyone else. In Oxford, Ole Miss just won the College World Series and made the New Year’s Six last season. The Rebels are no rollovers.

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6. Mississippi State

6. Mississippi State

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The Bulldogs won the College World Series in 2021. They’ve had tons of success in women’s basketball recently. They compete in the hardest division to win in football in the SEC West. If not for getting beat up by larger piranhas every year, more success would come their way. Keeping the Egg Bowl together is huge for college football.

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7. Texas Tech

7. Texas Tech

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Another state important to the SEC’s footprint is Texas. When balancing out college sports, trading Texas and Texas A&M for two other Power Five Conference programs appears to be a step down. Yet, doubling down on the Lone Star State is best for business. I was targeting Baylor and Texas Tech here, but Beckwith picked the Bears right before my turns. I’ve visited Lubbock plenty in my travels in Texas and it’s such an underrated college town, probably because it’s in the middle of nowhere. Yet, the Red Raiders would be a great fit here.

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8. TCU

8. TCU

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Getting a team in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is a big deal. The most fertile recruiting ground in the country getting a view into the league is a plus, even if the Horned Frogs haven’t been in a high-level conference for as long as the rest of this league. Sonny Dykes is entering his first season as TCU’s football coach and put together a strong staff to compete. It’s a unique and different brand to add to the bunch.

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9. Cincinnati

9. Cincinnati

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This went against the rest of my draft strategy but having a team left on the board at the end of Round 9 that appeared in the College Football Playoff last season? I’ll easily add the Bearcats to the fold. A great city that’s definitely outside the footprint of the traditional SEC, but let’s throw logic a little bit out the window. Adding a quality school in the heart of Big Ten country is a good thing.

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10. Georgia Tech

10. Georgia Tech

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This is just to give Georgia, Clemson, and Florida State a close-knit rival. And to reinforce the city of Atlanta being SEC country. GT has been an oddball on a national level for a little while, but has developed some incredible talent over the years in Calvin Johnson, Joe Anoa’i (Roman Reigns), and Demaryius Thomas (R.I.P.). Adding more rivalries is always a good thing.

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11. West Virginia

11. West Virginia

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For my last two picks, I’m adding one of the most underrated rivalries in college sports, especially for two teams that have never shared a conference. The Mountaineers are a geographic outlier in the current Big 12. Imagine how much more an already-stout fan base would be energized without having to travel halfway across the country for road games. While it may not be the Backyard Brawl, WVU fans have no love lost for the Terps, holding a 28-23-2 all-time series lead.

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12. Maryland

12. Maryland

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The Terps have tried to hype up a rivalry with Penn State since joining the Big Ten, and it’s stuck to a certain degree. Giving UMD back West Virginia, Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech would be great for fans in College Park. Maryland is solid in a lot of sports and is a great choice to fill out this conference.

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