1. I don’t want to get on a soapbox, but …

It’s all set up now. The timing is perfect, the investment has been made and Steve Sarkisian is on the way to building a monster at Texas.

A monster that can take over the SEC.

“I came here to win a championship,” Sarkisian said earlier this month during a national signing day press conference. “And then if I can get one, I want to get two. I’m borderline obsessed with it at this point.”

Just like Nick Saban was when he arrived at Alabama. Or when Kirby Smart took over at his alma mater Georgia.

When the right coach is in the right situation — and everyone is pulling in the same direction — the results can be intoxicatingly devastating.

It should come as no surprise then that Texas last week made official its intentions of moving forward in Year 1 of the SEC — without hesitation or reservation. A 4-year contract extension for Sarkisian nearly doubled his salary (to $10.3 million annually), and laid out a clear vision of the future in the SEC.

Nick Saban is gone, and there’s a breach in the SEC. And guess who’s moving into town?

The greatest revenue-generating program in college sports, complete with a head coach recruiting in the geographic footprint of the richest state for high school talent, and NIL money to burn.

Or as one Power 5 coach told SDS, “It was only a matter of time before (Texas) got their s— together.”

As absolutely crazy as that sounds in the year-to-year grease fire of competing in the SEC, Sarkisian is about as close to a lock at winning a national title at Texas — much sooner than later — as anyone since the Mack Brown golden years of the 2000s.

Timing, everyone, is everything.

When Brown arrived at Texas, the program was stagnant, headed nowhere and bleeding elite recruits from the state of Texas. Legendary coach Darrell Royal told Brown Texas was like a box of BBs, and the box had fallen to the floor and split at the seams.

The job is getting all the BBs — from the president to the student managers washing the jerseys — back in the box together.

Texas nearly got there with Chris Simms, made it with Vince Young and could’ve gotten there again with Colt McCoy — in less than a decade. Brown, to this day, swears Texas beats Alabama in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game if McCoy isn’t injured and lost on the 1st drive of the game.

Then the box dropped to the floor again, and Charlie Strong couldn’t put all the BBs back in place. Tom Herman couldn’t, either.

Because when everyone pulls in the same direction, it’s nearly impossible to stop it from gaining championship traction. It’s inevitable.

That’s what we saw in 2023 with the Texas win at Alabama. What we saw with the Big 12 Championship, and the final 4 throws in the end zone in the last-second Playoff semifinal loss to Washington.

It’s only a matter of time before the next, final step of winning it all.

2. Building for the now

Sarkisian and Texas agreed in principle on the framework of an extension before Saban retired from Alabama — and before Tide AD Greg Byrne kicked the tires on the possibility of Sarkisian returning to Alabama.

Saban’s retirement simply sped the process, and also helped Sarkisian secure a long-term deal for DC Pete Kwiatkowski, who was behind courted by NFL and college teams.

Investing in Sarkisian means investing in his plan, and where he wants to take Texas and how to get there. There’s too much positive momentum to make any drastic change in course.

Star quarterback Quinn Ewers decided to return for his final season instead of leaving for the NFL Draft, and his top backup — former No.1 overall recruit Arch Manning — stayed, too.

The Longhorns added a handful of impact players from the transfer portal (more on that later), and a 3rd straight top-5 high school signing class has the roster primed for another big season.

Not since Brown’s team won the 2005 national championship — after winning the Rose Bowl in 2004 — has Texas had this type of momentum. There was no chance Alabama was getting Sarkisian, no way Texas president Jay Hartzell and AD Chris Del Conte were heading into the SEC all hat, no cattle.

This is what happens when you’ve found what works and will do anything to keep it. This is how championship programs are built and sustained, how coaching careers are cultivated and strengthened and built for the long haul.

Not by throwing good money after bad in hopes of recreating what once was somewhere else. There’s a difference between throwing money at a coach whom you believe can win a championship — or reach the Playoff, or both — and one who has done it.

This is what winning looks like at the highest level of college football, and within the framework of the most profitable college sports program.

It’s only going to get better.

3. Texas takeover, The Epilogue

There was no wasted motion. No projects.

Every addition through the transfer portal over the past 2 months has been with pinpoint addition.

There were losses on the defensive interior, so Texas got DT Tiaoalii Savea of Arizona, a disruptive space eater over the 2nd half of the season for the Wildcats.

Texas got edge rusher Trey Moore from UTSA (14 sacks in 2023), and elite All-ACC safety Andrew Mukuba from Clemson.

And then the help for Ewers, a continuing process of building pieces around the star quarterback and giving him every opportunity to play at a high level.

Texas added WR Isaiah Bond and TE Amari Niblack from Alabama, and WRs Matthew Golden (Houston) and Silas Bolden (Oregon State). That’s 2 speedy options on the outside, a gifted slot receiver in Bolden, and an athletic matchup problem at tight end.

Every move was made with intent and purpose, not unlike what the Texas administration did by extending Sakisian and declaring its intentions. It’s a new time, a new day in the SEC.

And Texas is ready to fill the breach.

4. The schedule future

While Del Conte publicly stated last week that the SEC was still considering a 9-game league schedule, much of that will be dictated by the new Playoff format.

The format of the remaining 2 years on the original Playoff contract — the 2024 and ’25 seasons — will be the top 6 conference champions and 6 at-large selections unless there’s unanimous agreement to format change.

There’s a chance the format could switch to the top 5 conference champions, and 7 at-large bids, a move the current Power 4 conferences prefer with the dissolution of the Pac-12.

That’s not the key to a potential 9-game SEC schedule — the new Playoff contract format is.

That format begins in 2026, where both the SEC and Big Ten prefer 12 at-large selections, and no automatic qualifiers. The format hasn’t been decided, and — here’s the key — doesn’t have to be unanimously approved.

Don’t expect the SEC to move to a 9-game schedule without a Playoff of all at-large selections. It doesn’t make sense to use the strength of the conference against itself when positioning for Playoff spots.

5. The Weekly 5

The top 5 football-basketball coaching combinations in the SEC.

1. Lane Kiffin and Chris Beard, Ole Miss

2. Kalen DeBoer and Nate Oats, Alabama

3. Mark Stoops and John Calipari, Kentucky

4. Josh Heupel and Rick Barnes, Tennessee

5. Hugh Freeze and Bruce Pearl, Auburn

6. Your tape is your resume

An NFL scout analyzes a draft-eligible SEC player. This week: Alabama CB Terrion Arnold.

“A perfect example of a player with a bunch of raw talent developing into an elite prospect over the course of a career. I saw him early on there, and it was obvious he could play. What I loved about him was his eagerness to be coached. He wanted it, he needed it. Once you start to play consistently, once you gain confidence, it grows like the summer grass. You can’t stop it. Long, athletic, aggressive, great hands; he has it all. He’s absolutely a top-10 pick.”

7. Powered Up

This week’s Power Poll, and 1 big thing.

1. Georgia: Bad sign for the rest of the league: Georgia has cruised through the first 2 months of the offseason without drama or distraction.

2. Texas: He’s not the most heralded Alabama transfer, but MLB Kendrick Blackshire could be as impactful as WR Isaiah Bond and TE Amari Niblack in a position of need on the defense.

3. Ole Miss: Already with the No. 1 portal class, Ole Miss is pursuing Michigan transfer S Keon Sabb, currently the No. 1 available player in the portal.

4. Missouri: Wildly underrated this offseason: In 5 years, this is QB Brady Cook’s first offseason as the unquestioned starter. It’s his team.

5. Alabama: An SEC coach to SDS: “You don’t lose guys like (Caleb) Downs and Bond and Niblack and (Kadyn) Proctor and (Seth) McLaughlin and, hell, who else am I missing? You don’t lose that and keep chugging along. Those are big losses.”

6. LSU: As good as the offensive line could be (maybe the best in the SEC), there are still questions at center, where redshirt freshman DJ Chester is likely first up.

7. Tennessee: Loss of RBs coach Jerry Mack to the NFL’s Jaguars is but a bump. The key to the offseason: Coach Josh Heupel has held onto DC Tim Banks, who had other opportunities in the NFL and college.

8. Oklahoma: An omen of sorts: OU will play its first season in the SEC with a completely rebuilt O-line. All 5 starters either left for the NFL, or the transfer portal.

9. Texas A&M: A rebuilt cornerback room now consists of Florida transfer Jaydon Hill, Alabama transfer Dezz Ricks, UAB transfer BJ Mayes and K-State transfer Will Lee — all starters in 2023.

10. Kentucky: Bush Hamdan is Kentucky’s 5th OC in the past 5 years, including Eddie Gran (2020), Liam Coen (2021), Rich Scangarello (2022) and Coen (2023).

11. Auburn: Tigers were last in the SEC in long pass plays of 10+ yards (75 total). Freshmen signees Cam Coleman, Perry Thompson and Bryce Cain — and Georgia State transfer WR Robert Lewis (877 yards, 7 TDs in 2023) — will change that.

12. Florida: The loss of offensive line coach Darnell Stapleton to the NFL’s Washington Commanders means Florida will have 5 new assistant coaches in the 2024 season.

13. South Carolina: Forget about the why and how it happened: Shawn Elliott is good for South Carolina football. Good as a recruiter/teacher, even better as a positive presence in the football building.

14. Arkansas: It’s set up for new OC Bobby Petrino: Boise State QB transfer Taylor Green throwing to an experienced group of receivers (everyone returns from 2023) now coached by Petrino’s WRs coach at Missouri State (Ronnie Fouch).

15. Mississippi State: The SEC’s most underrated portal pickup: UTEP transfer WR Kelly Akharaiyi, a burner who averaged 21.5 ypc. in 2023, and had 1,033 yards and 7 TDs.

16. Vanderbilt: Beyond the obvious with QB Diego Pavia, Vanderbilt added critical pieces in the portal, including Day 1 starters in Edge Khordae Sydnor (Purdue) and CB Kolbey Taylor (Wyoming).

8. Ask and you shall receive

Matt: What are the odds the SEC and Big Ten have a “challenge” of sorts in football like the SEC does with the Big 12 in basketball? Would be great television. — Connie Fredericks, Cincinnati.


There are numerous ways to attack this joint agreement — or whatever you want to call it — between the 2 power conferences. It will begin structurally within game and sport (and postseason) management, and rules enforcement.

But it absolutely will eventually move to product (and competition) on the field. The obvious move is nonconference games, and the lingering question of how to market and/or execute them.

There are currently a number of heavyweight future games between the conferences that were scheduled prior to the recent working agreement. Moving forward — and with both conferences at full strength beginning in 2024 — it would be difficult to see marquee games between blue-blood programs without the ability to generate revenue.

The best way to do so is through neutral-site games. In other words, how much money will cities like Las Vegas, Houston, Atlanta, Orlando and Indianapolis pay for neutral-site games between the 2 power conferences?

How much could the conferences earn playing what amounts to a preseason bowl game in those cities? More pressing: Could one of those cities pay enough to entice 2 blue-bloods to give up a campus game?

LSU vs. USC in Las Vegas on Labor Day weekend was scheduled in August of 2021, nearly a year before USC moved to the Big Ten. If that game were scheduled now, the 2 teams could likely fetch a significantly larger payout.

There are big nonconference games on the horizon between the conferences that were scheduled prior to both conferences officially reaching full strength, but none as neutral-site games: Alabama and Ohio State play in 2027-2028, Georgia and Ohio State play in 2030-31, Oklahoma and Michigan play in 2025-26, and Texas plays both Michigan (2024, 2027) and Ohio State (2025-26).

There are 5 SEC schools without future nonconference games scheduled against Big Ten teams: Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas A&M.

9. Numbers

63. In an offseason of transition, there are 63 coaching changes in the SEC — and more on the way.

Tennessee and Florida both have staffs to fill out, and there are open spots on a few other staffs. Texas A&M, with new coach Mike Elko, has the most transition with 10 new coaches.

Mississippi State, with new coach Jeff Lebby, has 8. Alabama and new coach Kalen DeBoer has 7.

The number of new coaches at the remaining SEC schools:

Arkansas: 3
Auburn: 5
Florida: 3
Georgia: 2
Kentucky: 3
LSU: 5
Missouri: 2
Oklahoma: 2
Ole Miss: 3
South Carolina: 4
Tennessee: 0
Texas: 2
Vanderbilt: 4

10. Quote to note

South Carolina coach Shane Beamer: “It’s awesome to have Shawn (Elliott) back. He’s passionate about this state and the University of South Carolina. Wanted to be here. Really like the staff we have put together.”