What a difference a week makes. No sooner do I get it out of my mouth that the Big 12 is on life-support and the unlikeliness of FSU leaving the ACC for that conference, the SEC and the Big 12 go and blow up college football again. With the announcement of the bowl game contract between the two conferences beginning in 2014, the landscape of CFB has changed dramatically once again and we'll likely see more dominoes start to fall very quickly now. For that reason, the SEC must now strike the coup de grace on southern expansion from other conferences to prevent further shuffling of the cards.
With FSU already opening back up the Big 12 option, all eyes will not only be on them but on the rest of their football power conference mates to see who jumps first. Even money says FSU, with Clemson and Virginia Tech to place and show. With the new BCS field seemingly narrowing down to the SEC, PAC-12, Big Ten and Big 12, you don't need a Tobacco Road degree to see even numbers and no room for a fifth-wheel conference. The ACC is a few moves away from being relegated to the same scrap heap that the Big East still finds itself in.
The writing is on the wall for the current four conferences locked into bowl agreements with each other to go mega, probably to at least 16 teams each, and it wouldn't surprise me that soon their champions would almost be guaranteed a spot in the upcoming four-team playoff, the plus-one. No idea how exactly conference champions would be determined with 16 teams--we can't yet figure out the schedule for 14. But the will of college football is being spoken.
And because the ACC, fresh from a new TV contract negotiation that still pales to other conferences, may soon be parted out, it probably behooves the SEC to go ahead and pick first and roll at least two--but maybe more--into the conference now to solidify our stance in the new CFB world. Feelers should immediately be extended to not just the football schools, but the basketball creme as well. We simply cannot afford to wait on this issue because it's getting ready to explode.
While conventional wisdom may say for the SEC to be preemptive and extend invitations to the likes of Georgia Tech, Clemson, FSU, Miami, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and North Carolina, old rivalries and long memories may say not so fast. As Jay mentioned yesterday, current SEC members may have problems with letting their current in-state rivals, now on the outside looking in, to waltz freely into their hard-won territory--Georgia and Georgia Tech, Florida and Miami and FSU, and South Carolina and Clemson.
There could also be scores to settle with old flames who spurned our love--like Georgia Tech, or denied our advances--like Florida State. College football memories are long. Forty-seven and twenty-two years, in the cases of those two schools. I think Auburn fans would dearly love to have the Yellow Jackets back into the fold, but we're not the only ones who would be deciding. Maybe Kentucky wouldn't want to see basketball competition like North Carolina join the conference. The differences could be petty, but oh, would they ever run deep.
Ironically, maybe the two Virginia schools and the North Carolina ones might be the best candidates, as they have little in common with current SEC members, and could be the freshest start. But looking at football only, only Virginia Tech of that group brings much to the table, and I think the current game we are playing in conference roulette is football.
This isn't the scenario I prefer with this sport. I still believe CFB should be built on regions, but that idea is rapidly becoming as anachronistic as the leather helmet. It's now all about the money, and with the money comes the power. And everyone is in a mad dash to secure their place. This is our reality now and the SEC must protect the brand it has labored for decades to build.
The SEC must now further expand the conference to keep others from poaching the big pelts. I think a good number would be four teams. Make them tell us no, now, with their only other option being traveling half way across the country five times a year. Put our cards on the table. We're the house. Make them go bust.
My four choices would be Georgia Tech, Clemson, FSU, and Virginia Tech. Tell yours in the subject line of your comment then explain why.