It appears to be all but a done deal that the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners are leaving the Big 12, and the SEC clearly seems like it’s going to land both schools. Assuming that happens, the move could have profound implications on Tennessee football, for better and for worse. How much better or worse, though, depends on what the SEC does with these new teams.
What will the realignment of the conference look like? Will it remain two divisions, or will it split into four with a four-team playoff to win the title at the end of the season. Could there be a pod system in which each team plays three teams every year and the other 12 on a rotating basis, six a year, while the two with the best record play for the SEC title?
There are so many ways this could work out, and the route it goes will have a major impact on Tennessee football. Let’s go ahead and break down which realignment proposals the Vols should be rooting for. Here are the five best-case realignment scenarios for UT if the SEC truly does bring in Texas and Oklahoma.
5. SEC stays at two divisions with eight games
- Alabama and Auburn move to SEC East
- Missouri moves to SEC West
- Oklahoma and Texas join SEC West
- Teams play one opponent from opposite division on a yearly rotating basis
Don’t underestimate this scenario. The SEC will still try to make sure it maximizes the number of teams that reach bowl games in order to bring in necessary revenue, and that could mean sticking with eight conference games. Schools would play all seven other teams in their division and just one team from the other division, switching off every year.
That’s not an ideal scenario for fans, but it’s one that UT could live with. The Alabama Crimson Tide joining the East doesn’t hurt UT, as they have to play Bama every year anyway. It just evens the playing field with the rest of the East. Sure, the Auburn Tigers could make it more difficult, but UT usually gets a draw like that from the West anyway, and at least it’s a rivalry restored.
Now, depending on their draw from the West every year, they could have a brutal slate. However, staying at eight games with the Vanderbilt Commodores and Kentucky Wildcats still on the schedule annually would enough to get Tennessee football to a bowl game. Adding Alabama evens things up with other East foes, so this could work.