The sooner we start seeing players in pads and coaches on sidelines, the better.

We have reached that point in late July when coaches make the rounds with the national media, and inevitably something semi-controversial comes out of it.

This year, coaches like Missouri’s Gary Pinkel and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney have been aggressive toward schools like Notre Dame, which choose to abstain from the college football conference experience, and the program’s worthiness to participate in the College Football Playoff.

That discussion got us to thinking about the plausibility of one of the SEC teams leaving the conference to become an independent program and trying to make it on their own like the Notre Dames of the world. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Who among the SEC would be able to survive as an independent in today’s football landscape?

My guess is that most of the conference’s programs would be just fine playing a schedule of 12 games of their choosing. Football is too important to each of the schools in the league, sans perhaps Vanderbilt, to see a significant decline in interest or investment as a result of leaving the SEC.

The real question is, who is equipped to thrive in an independent setting?

There are financial ramifications to such a decision that not all schools would necessarily find more profitable than the deal they have today.

After all, the $31.2 million in revenue sharing that each conference member received this year isn’t exactly chump change.

Here are four that could be best suited to be a successful independent program:

Remember, this is only hypothetical. None of these programs are actually considering a move outside of the SEC.

As one of the most successful and storied programs in all of college football, the Crimson Tide has a large and fiercely loyal fan base. Alabama’s athletic department is the top revenue generator in the SEC and one of the top in the country.

The Sunshine State is a natural appeal to out-of-state recruits, and there is no shortage of high-school talent inside the state. With a prime location, a premium education and a top 10 revenue generating athletic department, the Gators likely would fair just fine outside of the confines of the SEC.

Football at Tiger Stadium is not something that is dependent upon conference affiliation. The good folks of Louisiana take their LSU athletics very seriously, and that’s unlikely to change if the Tigers up and left the SEC tomorrow.

Texas A&M
There is a reason that Texas A&M is completing massive renovations to Kyle Field. People in Texas love their football, and the Aggies have one of the best products in the state. Sure, the SEC has probably heightened the program’s profile over the last three years, but this is a football institution that would be just fine without a conference affiliation.