All right, so there’s this bowl deal between the SEC and the Big 12, which is Mike Slive’s way of relieving himself in Jim Delany’s Wheaties, and which looks like Slive’s shrewdest move in many a moon. What interests most folks is how this ties into the coming playoff, but what interests me is the likelihood that this will lead to an SEC/Big 12 scheduling arrangement akin to that shared by the Big Ten and Pac-12. Jason Kirk sees a way this will work, though his scenario presumes that Georgia Tech will make the leap to the Big 12 with Clemson and Florida State, which has yet to make it even as far as the persistent rumor stage, so far as I have seen, so I think we may discount safely the possibility that the Yellow Jackets would be the Bulldogs’ Big 12 opponent under such an agreement.
If you think you know where I’m going with this, you’re right:
If the SEC is sticking to an eight-game conference scheduled (and it certainly appears that it is), and if the coming playoff will establish an incentive to play tougher non-conference games (and it certainly appears that it might), then the logical course is to avoid upsetting existing out-of-conference rivalries that are going to be played, anyway, without regard to the league affiliation of the SEC squad’s in-state rival (Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State, Kentucky-Louisville, South Carolina-Clemson), and start instead with a clean slate. If that means a Gator outfit that was going to play the ‘Noles, regardless, will get a different Big 12 team with which to tussle, in addition to the season-ending Sunshine State date, well, the Tribe didn’t mind playing Florida and Oklahoma in the same season last year, right?
Starting with Jason’s outline (rather than my previous idea) as a template, the new SEC/Big 12 scheduling agreement might look a little something like this:
Baylor and Vanderbilt are a natural fit, because both are small private schools who really have no business not being in Conference USA. Iowa State and Ole Miss likewise are playing on a level field, and both have had head coaches poached by Auburn. Speaking of whom, Tommy Tuberville returning to the so-called Loveliest Village as the head coach of the Red Raiders is simply too delicious a prospect to allow to pass by unrealized.
Newly-minted SEC members Missouri and Texas A&M would be able to back-door their way into renewing rivalries with Kansas and Texas, respectively, after the Jayhawks and the Longhorns threw similarly childish snit-fits when the Tigers and the Aggies bolted for the big-time. There would be nice historical symmetry to games pitting the Cowboys and the Gators (whose September 8, 1990, meeting gave Steve Spurrier his first victory as the head coach at his alma mater, by a 50-7 final margin that served as a harbinger of what the Saurians were about to do to the rest of the SEC), the Volunteers and the Wildcats (in a rematch of the Kansas State-Tennessee Cotton Bowl shootout that capped off the 2000 campaign), and the Gamecocks and the Seminoles (who, most often competing as independents, squared off 18 times during the 26 seasons from 1966 to 1991).
As Jason noted, Arkansas and Oklahoma share a conference affiliation from nearly a century ago and a common hatred of Texas, while the Horned Frogs, like many Lone Star State squads, periodically have dotted the Bayou Bengals’ schedule. The Crimson Tide and the Mountaineers are made to play a series with one another, as they have a Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic date set for 2014, and the most recent coaching search in Tuscaloosa caused brushes between the two, as Rich Rodriguez very nearly was taken away from WVU before ‘Bama hired West Virginia native Nick Saban instead.
Kentucky and Mississippi State could take whichever couple of schools the Big 12 brought in after the Jungaleers and the Seminoles to beef up to 14, because, let’s face it, they’re Kentucky and Mississippi State, so what could it possibly matter? Let’s see; that takes care of 13 of the 14 pairings . . . so with which final matchup does that leave us?
Oh, yeah. On the SEC side, it leaves us with the Georgia Bulldogs. On the Big 12 side, it leaves us with the Clemson Tigers. Well, all right, then. Let’s go with that, shall we? I love it when a plan comes together.
At first, I was ticked off by the thought that the SEC’s raid on the Big 12 might cause Clemson and Florida State to leave the ACC for a conference other than the one that makes the most logical sense for them, but, if it would be easier for the Red and Black to renew their non-conference rivalry with the Orange and Purple with the Country Gentlemen playing in the 14-member Big 12 rather than in the 14-member ACC, so be it. As I have written before, I’m perfectly happy to have the lure of lucre operate, however inadvertently, in the service of preserving or restoring sacred traditions, even in a roundabout way. If this is the direction in which we’re headed, anyway, then, yeah, I’ll be content to play conference games in Columbia, Mo., and College Station, Tex., while traveling to non-league outings in Atlanta, Ga., and Clemson, S.C., in our brave new world, which hath such creatures in it. I may not be wild about the means, but this particular end most certainly serves as adequate justification.