Running in Southeastern Conference circles for most of my adult life, the debate on future football schedules has been raging for several years. The addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the conference only threw gasoline on those fires. It’s a good problem for the SEC to have, but it’s an unsolved issue nonetheless. The Sooners and Longhorns’ intentions to jump away from the Big 12 together went from a secret, to a rumor, to Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork’s strong denial that conference leadership would allow for such a deal to be struck, to accepted fact within hours. And lost in the schedule debate was that OU and Texas’ future became clear at SEC Media Days 2021, the third of four straight days where the conference’s coaches answer more ridiculous questions about their teams than at any other time of year.
It’s been nearly two years of speculation about the inferno and no clear answer has been given as to what model the SEC will adopt next season, because placing Texas and Oklahoma, and separate divisions to keep them even won’t happen. The topic grew in intensity this week at the conference’s spring meetings in Florida, where Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said it was “the most overrated conversation in the world.” That’s truly odd since it’ll be the biggest part of the schedule for the two-time-defending-national-championship head coach. If there’s a coach in the SEC that wants the least change to how the league conducts conference schedules, it’s Smart.
Georgia plays in the easier of the league’s pair of divisions, the SEC East. And retaining the current system, with the crossover game being Auburn, nearly guarantees the Bulldogs a New Year’s Six game with current standards. UGA plays the sextet of Vanderbilt, Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee every year, alongside a now-Hugh-Freeze-coached Auburn team, and a random SEC West opponent. Why on Earth would Georgia want change when the only team that presents a legitimate challenge at the moment is Tennessee? We all seem to forget that only six teams have appeared in the SEC Championship game since Mizzou and A&M joined the conference in 2012. Georgia, Alabama, LSU, Florida, Missouri, and Auburn. Does that change with Oklahoma and Texas coming aboard? Nope.
Ideas have been pitched for four four-team pods, with every team playing three schools each season, and rotating between the rest. There have been proponents for a re-shuffled pair of eight-team blocks with no guaranteed crossover game, meaning every school would play each other at least once in every 4-year period. And others have pitched the wild west, because the SEC can, I guess. Because no structure won’t end up being an issue. I think the latter is the best option so there’s less of a case of keeping Davids and Goliaths in harder-to-change roles. Like pairing Missouri with Texas A&M, Texas, and Oklahoma. The Tigers wouldn’t see an SEC Championship game ever again.
What’s my best prediction for what the SEC does to balance out the divisions as best it can? Major regional rivalries need to stay, so just pair them all up together. Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and LSU in one group of eight to make the new SEC West. The new SEC East of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Auburn appears more loaded now, but that will change after a few years of this slate playing out. Smart saying it’s the most overrated conversation is stupid since the king of college football hasn’t made it clear how it’ll operate past this season. And the weird part is, no matter how the conference is shaped, does anyone think the reign of terror from Georgia, and Alabama will end?