Round and round, realignment goes, where it stops, nobody knows.
That’s the refrain college kids will be singing on campus for years to come as college football continues to be reshaped by conference realignment. It happened nearly a decade ago. It happened last year. And it happened last week.
Unknowingly, Oklahoma and Texas resumed the conference realignment arms race last summer when they announced their intentions to move to the SEC. That move led to the Big Ten looking to keep pace with their southeastern counterparts by adding USC and UCLA to their mix that features teams predominantly in the north and northeast of the United States.
As the Big Ten and SEC grapple for conference superiority and television revenue, each has made bold moves to strengthen their brands. But it doesn’t look like that’s slowing down anytime soon as the Big Ten could add the Oregon Ducks and Washington Huskies to their ranks as well.
If the Big Ten does add Oregon and Washington, what would the SEC do in response? Well, here are 10 teams that could make sense for SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to consider if further expanding the SEC.
Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jake Coker (14) is brought down by Clemson Tigers defensive end Shaq Lawson (90) and defensive end Kevin Dodd (98) during the first quarter in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The ACC power has gone head-to-head with the SEC on the recruiting grounds and on the gridiron and come away with two national championships in the last decade, 2016 and 2018. Nestled in the southeast with a preexisting rivalry with the South Carolina Gamecocks, this one just makes too much sense.
Dec 29, 2020; Orlando, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King (1) warms up prior to the game between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Miami Hurricanes during the Cheez-It Bowl Game at Camping World Stadium. Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Though football hasn’t been the same for nearly two decades at the “U,” the Miami Hurricanes are in a major media market and have created a ton of buzz this offseason. Their hiring of Mario Cristobal from Oregon helped put them on a trajectory to get back to the top of the college football world. And wouldn’t it be great to get Miami vs. Florida every year? They’ve played just three times since 2005.
Sep 30, 2017; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Cam Akers (3) returns a kickoff in the first quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
We’re coming up on a decade since Florida State’s last national championship, but the former national power is still a name that draws on the gridiron. Aside from the 2020 COVID season, which limited nonconference play, the Seminoles have played in-state rival Florida every season since 1958. Adding an in-conference element to that matchup would provide a huge boost to the rivalry.
Mar 27, 2022; Philadelphia, PA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brady Manek (45) celebrates after the Tar Heels defeated the St. Peters Peacocks in the finals of the East regional of the men’s college basketball NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Center. Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Word is that if Clemson were to make a move from the ACC, the North Carolina Tar Heels would be under consideration as well. North Carolina may not be as big of a football draw as the others listed to this point, but you almost don’t need that when adding the basketball blue blood.
The SEC has really grown its footprint as a basketball conference in recent years and adding one of the greatest programs of all-time would provide nice symmetry to the Big Ten’s addition of UCLA.
Nov 27, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Christian Holmes (0) celebrates after an Oklahoma Sooners tackle during the second half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Oklahoma State won 37-33. Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
There’s just something about regional rivalries. While Oklahoma’s dominated the series, it hasn’t lessened the importance of this game for the state of Oklahoma. It’s a game that moves the needle on the national landscape. Maybe not in the same way as the Red River Rivalry, but Bedlam is a strong game and Oklahoma State is a solid program across the board. They’d fit right in with Ole Miss and Mississippi State of the expanded conference.
Also wouldn’t it be great to have Mike Gundy in a conference that features Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher, and Mike Leach, strictly from a personality standpoint.
Feb 12, 2022; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward David McCormack (33) reacts during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Allen Fieldhouse. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
If we’re going to go after North Carolina, which is solid in football but is mainly here for basketball, let’s go get another top basketball program in the Kansas Jayhawks. Sure, football is king, but there’s a place for Kansas basketball in a conference that already has Kentucky and (if added) North Carolina. The SEC is growing its basketball footprint and this would make them the premier basketball conference in the land.
Sep 3, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Josh Jackson (17) runs the ball past West Virginia Mountaineers defensive lineman Adam Shuler II (88) during the second half at FedEx Field. Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
A roundtable discussion from a couple of years ago over at Saturday Down South mentioned the Virginia Tech Hokies.
The other candidate that makes a ton of sense is Virginia Tech. Adding the Hokies would bring in another proud football program and give that school additional bragging rights over Virginia. Tech may even chip in to pay the exit fee if the SEC extended an invite. – Michael Bratton, News Editor, Saturday Down South
My grandfather was a Virginia Tech alum, and so I have always had a rooting interest in the Hokies. Blacksburg provides an incredible environment for a football game and they have a rich history. Like Oklahoma State, they’re a solid athletics program across the board and as mentioned by Saturday Down South’s Adam Spencer, it gives the SEC a footprint in Virginia.
Virginia Tech has a history with Miami from their time together in the old Big East. That would provide another natural rival for the Hurricanes and the Hokies who had some great battles for conference supremacy in the early 2000s.
Interestingly enough, they had Oklahoma they’d look into if the SEC were to expand.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Geographically, this wouldn’t make any sense. But that didn’t stop the Big Ten from adding USC and UCLA. Oregon is arguably the biggest football program in the country without an SEC or Big Ten home at this point. Their connection to Nike means they’ll always have a strong base for their athletic department. Though it looks more likely that Oregon will head to the Big Ten along with Washington, the SEC could swoop in with a pitch to lure the Ducks.
Jan 1, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) is pursued by Mississippi Rebels defensive lineman Sam Williams (7) in the third quarter of the 2022 Sugar Bowl at the Caesars Superdome. Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
History shows us that when conferences add membership or poach from another conference, they generally do so in pairs. If the SEC were to take Oklahoma State from the Big 12, who could be their traveling buddy? Why not the 2021 basketball national champions and Big 12 champions in football Baylor Bears?
Dave Aranda’s time at LSU gives him insight into how the conference runs and it keeps some of the heat that’s developed in the Baylor-Texas matchup. Two schools that are just an hour and a half apart.
Sep 25, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers cheerleader during the third quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Another Big 12 school that could make sense for the SEC is West Virginia. A solid program in football and basketball over the last decade, the Mountaineers always seemed a better fit on the east coast. Their passionate fanbase and Morgantown seem like perfect fits for the SEC.