The SEC is on the verge of becoming college football’s first 16-team Power 5 conference. Multiple reports indicate Texas and Oklahoma are both poised to depart the Big 12 and eventually join the SEC. The official arrival date of the Longhorns and the Sooners is uncertain, but there are no signs either program plans to depart from this current path.
The SEC is already college football’s No. 1 conference and has dominated the sport throughout the BCS and College Football Playoff era. In addition to the on-field prowess of Oklahoma and Texas, adding these two programs only increases the television value and money flowing into the conference.
While a 16-team SEC isn’t finalized yet, the new members create a dilemma for the conference: How will divisions look and what changes to the schedule could come in 2021? Of course, the league could choose a different path, including pods or no divisions.
How could a 16-team SEC look in the future? Here’s a guess at how the East and West Divisions could look:
Scenario 1: The East/West split by moving a few teams around
Analysis: This one is pretty simple and maintains most traditional ties. With Oklahoma and Texas joining, shifting Alabama and Auburn from the West to the East makes the most sense. Also, Missouri would slide to the West to reunite with its old Big 12 rivals. The winner of the West would meet the East in Atlanta to decide the conference title.
Scenario 2: No Divisions
Analysis: A 16-team conference with the top two teams playing for the SEC championship at the end of the year. Here’s how that could look using Athlon Sports’ projected 130 rankings for 2021:
4. Texas A&M
8. Ole Miss
13. Mississippi State
15. South Carolina
Scenario 3: Pods
Analysis: With 16 teams, the SEC could go outside the box and go with a pod system. The conference would create four pods with four teams in each. Each program would play the other three teams in the pod every year and match up against two programs from each of the other pods to create a nine-game conference schedule. As indicated by this proposal on the SEC Network recently, this system allows every program to host each team once every four years.
Pod A: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina
Pod B: Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Pod C: LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M
Pod D: Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas