What could SEC division realignment look like with Oklahoma and Texas? Let's break it down
Get rid of divisions.
Sorry. That was a knee-jerk reaction to the Houston Chronicle’s bombshell report on Wednesday that Oklahoma and Texas reached out to the SEC about joining the conference.
Yeah, my brain already went there. Maybe yours did, too.
If that wild message board fantasy became a reality at some point, what would that even look like?
Let’s dig into that. And by “dig into that,” I suppose we can look beyond the idea of getting rid of divisions for a potential 16-team SEC because I can see that too many people would complain about conspiracy theories if the scheduling gods didn’t go their way.
The easiest possible solution
Would you dare split up Oklahoma and Texas? You could. While Dan Mullen isn’t crazy about the permanent crossover matchups, you could drop Texas in the West and Oklahoma in the East and give them the annual crossover matchup against each other.
I just thought of the reaction of A&M fans if they found out that Texas was not only joining the SEC, but it was joining the division.
Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork on news that Texas and OU could be coming to the SEC: “We want to be the only SEC team from the state of Texas.”
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 21, 2021
You could keep those cross-division rivals and not worry about the potential blowback you’d receive for taking an annual game like LSU-Florida or Alabama-Tennessee off the schedule.
As far as the balance of power, it would probably give the East a bit more of a respectability, too. Florida and Georgia would have someone that could break up the pseudo-division title game in Jacksonville. Oklahoma is absolutely on that level.
Meanwhile, Texas would go to a division where it would have an even steeper climb to try and get “back.” But it would also stand to benefit off the SEC’s TV revenue stream, and if the thinking is that Playoff expansion is going to force teams to load up their nonconference schedules anyways, why not just build that in with conference play?
Anyways, back to realignment!
The geographical solution
If we’re doing the geographical solution wherein we don’t have Oklahoma in the East (or Mizzou), this is what that would like:
- Ole Miss
- Texas A&M
- South Carolina
Dare I say, that actually doesn’t look that imbalanced? It’s more balanced than the current structure of the league, which typically has about 4 contenders in the West and 2 in the East.
The East having Alabama, Florida and Georgia seems like it would have a case to be the best division in America, though that’s probably going to be the case for whatever division Alabama is in.
The SEC could justify these divisions by saying it simply wanted to side with geography so that it wouldn’t further sway the balance of power to the West. No conspiracy theories here. Just basic regional guidelines.
The “let’s get random” solution
Hey, before Wednesday, few things felt more random than the notion that Oklahoma and Texas were interested in joining the SEC. By day’s end, that became much more legitimate.
If we wanted to base this on the current strength of each program, here’s what my random formula spit out:
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina
Yes, I realize this makes no geographical sense whatsoever. That’s why it’s completely random, though probably not kind to those travel bills. Florida being in the West with Oklahoma in the East makes about as much sense as West Virginia being in the Big 12. But just open your mind and entertain this possibility for trying to make sure neither division is too top-heavy.
Which division would you rather be in? On one hand, the idea of Texas returning to power would make the West an absolute gauntlet. Auburn might not have Texas-level upside in terms of sustaining that level. Then again, Georgia, Oklahoma and A&M are all recruiting at a top-6 level right now, and they have their long-term coaches locked in.
You could easily go either way. That’s probably a good sign, even if it isn’t very practical.
What’s my solution? Oklahoma in the East, Texas in the West
I already hinted at this, but I think doing this checks the most boxes. By putting Oklahoma in the East, you’re instantly adding another contender to a division that needs just that. You can shift the balance of power to a more even place while not breaking up those permanent crossovers.
The downside? It’s really not ideal with the 8-game conference schedule. You would have to expand to a 9-game conference schedule in order for any scheduling variance to happen on a year-to-year basis.
Not everyone — especially Mark Stoops — is in favor of that. I, however, would be in favor of that, especially with the way teams are actually willing to load up the nonconference schedule in the 2020s with Playoff expansion around the corner.
Realignment could be wild across college football if Oklahoma and Texas do indeed bolt for the SEC, but this solution keeps the craziness (relatively speaking) at a minimum.