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A 16-Team SEC is the Death of Divisions

Dale Zanine | USA TODAY Sports

Dale Zanine | USA TODAY Sports

In the SEC it just means more… teams.

Reports of realignment shook the college football world on day three of SEC Media Days when a Houston Chronicle report shared Oklahoma and Texas’ interest in joining the SEC. There have been plenty of non-denial denials since then. In this humble unsourced sportswriter’s opinion, it’s going to happen. Don’t worry, BBN. The sky is not falling for the Kentucky football program.

The first fear for Kentucky fans went to conference play. “If Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC West, Alabama and Auburn will move to the SEC East.” That is a logical line of thinking, but it will never happen. Two eight-team divisions in the SEC are the equivalent of two conferences playing under the same name, a la the Big 8 and Southwest Conference merging to make a Big 16.

Once the SEC grows to 16 teams, the league will eliminate the East and West divisions, add a ninth conference game and (finally) go to a pod scheduling format where the two teams with the best winning percentages advance to the SEC Championship Game. If you’ve never heard of pod scheduling before, Bill Connelly has detailed it extensively, but there’s a shorter version to that story.

— The league will be broken down into four pods (or four-team divisions). Those teams will play one another every single year, accounting for three SEC games.

— Each division will be paired with another for two years, essentially a cross-divisional home-and-home with four opponents, getting a team up to seven SEC games.

— For the final two SEC games, each school will play one team from the remaining divisions. This will get four-year players to every SEC stadium during their career and ensure that traditional rivalry games remain alive.

Based on geography, here’s one potential layout for the new scheduling format.

North
Kentucky
Tennessee
Missouri
Vanderbilt

East
Florida
South Carolina
Georgia
Auburn

South
Alabama
Mississippi State
Ole Miss
LSU

West
Texas A&M
Arkansas
Texas
Oklahoma

The most likely scheduling scenario, Kentucky will be sitting comfortably in undoubtedly the easiest of the four divisions. The other divisions may look different than the proposal above, but most in the profession believe Tennessee, Missouri and Vanderbilt will join UK in a scheduling pod. Sometimes the annual pairings will be more difficult than others, but the way college football works, at the absolute worst UK will have three top five-ish teams on the schedule (and that already happened, LAST YEAR).

Kentucky is in position to sit pretty once the realignment shuffles slows to a crawl. Even so, it never has been and it never will be easy for the Wildcats. That’s because one thing remains true. In the SEC, it just means more.

P.S. More Potential Wrinkles

Once this scribe finished writing, Bill Connelly created an alternative schedule that adjusts the annual rivals and still ensures that each four-year students visits all 16 campuses in the SEC during their career.

@ESPN_BillC

Elsewhere, the SEC Network had its own ideas.

@RossDellenger

There are seemingly limitless potential pairings. That’s what makes conference realignment talk so riveting. It will not be slowing down anytime soon.

UPDATE

Here’s another proposal, because why not?

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

8 Comments for A 16-Team SEC is the Death of Divisions



  1. easy
    12:20 pm July 22, 2021 Permalink

    The SEC network’s alignment, or something similar, seems definitely the most likely. No way would they allow such a weak, currently and historically, pod as us, Tennessee, Vandy, and Mizzoo, while the other pods get loaded down. And “pairing” two pods together, you might as well keep divisions because that’s the same thing schedule-wise.

    There will probably be pods with a permanent rival in each other pod, which keeps rivalries like Auburn-Georgia and LSU-Arkansas as yearly meetings. So that’s 6 permanent games, and then 3 rotating for the other 9 teams in the league.



  2. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
    1:31 pm July 22, 2021 Permalink

    Well I guess Texas and A&M would be playing again.

    Even if UK winds up in a not too terribly difficult pod, getting to the ATL just got exponentially harder IMHO. I could be overstating it because this thing is convoluted.



  3. big cat
    2:19 pm July 22, 2021 Permalink

    AMAZING how many effing “experts” we have…..especially the KSR netwirk of propogandists.



  4. The Original WTF Guy
    3:09 pm July 22, 2021 Permalink

    Why go to all this trouble and complexity?

    The goal should be to have four 16-team conferences each with 2 8-team divisions. The winners of each division paly for the conference title and those four move into the four-team playoff. You could expand the playoffs to 12 to account for deserving teams that just happen to be be in a very difficult division.

    I know that four 16 team conferences requires 64 teams, and I also know there are currently 66 P5 teams. So goodbye Vandy and two others because you would have to account for the addition of ND. Or not.



  5. Bluenblood
    3:58 pm July 22, 2021 Permalink

    Stop this. Lets just try and get through the year! That being said East Midwest South and West makes som sense!!



  6. bbn606
    6:35 pm July 22, 2021 Permalink

    They would never put UK with such a weak group. UK, UT, Bama and Auburn or UK Fl, Ga and SC would be more of a reality.



  7. WILDCATS1968
    7:56 pm July 22, 2021 Permalink

    I propose a pod of UK, Vandy, UT, and Georgia. Or if they are felling generous, UK, Vandy, and Ole Miss.

    Travel straight down and pair UK, Vandy, Ole Miss, Miss. State.



  8. WILDCATS1968
    8:11 pm July 22, 2021 Permalink

    If the do 8 team divisions :

    North : Missouri, UK, Arkansas, UT, Vandy, Georgia, Ole Miss, and either Oklahoma / South Carolina.
    South : Texas, A&M, LSU, Florida, Miss. State, Bama, Auburn, and either Oklahoma / SC.
    East / West

    East : UK, Vandy, UT, Georgia, SC, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama.
    West : Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, A&M, Ole Miss, Miss. State, and LSU