Tennessee football: SEC must raid Big 12, ACC to counter alliance

Sep 22, 2018; Knoxville, TN, USA; SEC logo on the field at Neyland Stadium before a game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Florida Gators. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 22, 2018; Knoxville, TN, USA; SEC logo on the field at Neyland Stadium before a game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Florida Gators. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports /

Well-played ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12. As the SEC jumped the gun on expansion by adding the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners, the other three conference decided to form an alliance, which was announced Tuesday. How this affects Tennessee football remains to be seen. What is clear, though, is the SEC has to respond.

Look, both sides have leverage. The SEC is by far the most powerful conference when you look at the overall brand value of the teams. It’s also true the league has a major deal with ESPN and will be the focal point of the dominant sports network for decades to come.

On the other hand, if the other three major Power Five conferences in three different regions all combine, it may be enough to counter the league’s leverage, particularly when it comes to negotiating TV contracts with other networks. As a result, the choice is clear for the SEC in how it should respond: raid the SEC and more Big 12 teams.

Before this alliance gets off and running and finds a way to ice out the SEC or reduce it long-term, Greg Sankey has to beat them to it and get more teams from the ACC. The Clemson Tigers and Florida State Seminoles have already reportedly reached out to join the SEC, and we wrote back in early August about why Tennessee football fans should root for that.

However, the league shouldn’t stop there. With 33 of the 65 Power Five teams located in a confederate state, a border state, the SEC should focus on taking half the Power Five and becoming its own power conference to counter its alliance.

Only one of those 33 schools, the Maryland Terrapins, are in a conference, the Big Ten, that is stable enough not to lose schools. Nobody else is, so the SEC must start with raiding the ACC before the alliance gets too strong.

That means bringing in FSU and Clemson but also bringing back the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and adding the Miami Hurricanes. GT left years ago over scholarship limit rules, which are still abused to this day, but it’s not like ACC schools don’t abuse them.

If FSU and the Florida Gators are in the SEC, you know Miami will join. So start there. Clemson and the South Carolina Gamecocks being in there along with the Georgia Bulldogs will entice GT to go back to the league. That’s how you lock them up.

Then move over to the Virginia Tech Hokies. They would jump at the chance to join the SEC and could be a natural rival to Tennessee football. Finally, move into North Carolina territory. The Duke Blue Devils and UNC Tar Heels are interconnected wherever they go and will try to salvage the ACC, where they have their power. That’s also true of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

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As a result, the N.C. State Wolfpack is where the league can expand next. They’d love to get out of the Duke/UNC shadow, and the SEC is the place for them to be. Now, you’ve got Clemson, FSU, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Miami and Virginia Tech.

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Here’s how you decimate the North Carolina powers and bring them to the league. Go over to the Big 12 after that. It makes sense for them to wait to raid the Big 12 further until they have more power, as the Big 12 isn’t part of the alliance.

Once those teams are added, though, the league needs to add the remaining southern teams in that league, which include the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the TCU Horned Frogs, the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Baylor Bears. Then you add the West Virginia Mountaineers, another border state team.

At this point, the Virginia Cavaliers are isolated with WVU and VT in the SEC, so they’ll be willing to join as well. Finally, the remaining southern schools in the ACC are just the other three North Carolina schools, they’ll have to join. The Louisville Cardinals will then come on board as well.

All of a sudden, the SEC has its NFL league. There are 32 teams across the border and southern states to build a conference. Formatting the divisions become easy, and Tennessee football may have a few more natural rivals after that.

Once this happens, you’ll have the SEC and the other alliance come together to form one major alliance with a focus on the College Football Playoff, as the Big Ten, Pac-12 and what’s left of the ACC will be reorganized as well. It’ll basically be two leagues organizing a format.

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Again, we have no way of knowing how that affects Tennessee football. However, the SEC needs to get moving now and further expand to make sure it always has the power to rival this alliance, regardless of what the future holds.