14th Man: Who Will Join A&M in SEC?
Florida State: 95/1
The Seminoles would be a great fit but, like most things in relation to conference expansion and realignment, what makes most sense doesn’t happen. Florida State would fit in perfectly with the rest of the SEC: It’s a football school with great tradition and a history of championships located in the South. But according to multiple reports, there are SEC teams who have agreed to vote against the inclusion of teams who play in the same state as a current SEC member. We know Florida wouldn’t want to compete against FSU more than it already does. So, this one is a long shot.
There isn’t another SEC team in Maryland, but we think the Terps are almost as long a shot to head to the powerhouse football league as Florida State. Sure, things are changing in College Park - did you see those uniforms? - but let’s be honest: Maryland is a basketball school with tradition in the ACC. We know that football is always a cash cow, but we see the Terps making decisions based on what’s best for their bread-and-butter sport. On the hardwood, they should be playing Duke and North Carolina, not Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
Georgia Tech: 60/1
Georgia Tech has two problems: It shares a state with Georgia, a strong member of the SEC, and it doesn’t have a great football identity. The Yellow Jackets have had their moments - and would likely jump at a move to the SEC - but we’re not sure that the league wants them. The pending addition of Texas A&M is attractive to the SEC because it would introduce the league to Texas, home of frenzied football fans in a new television market. Georgia Tech, while it fits the league’s Southeastern profile, is more of the same. And that’s not a good thing.
We don’t want to beat a dead horse, but in-state rival South Carolina might not allow Clemson’s entrance. But we think that, if the SEC sat back and thought about it, the league would realize that adding Clemson would strengthen the conference. The Tigers already have a Southern fanbase that rivals any in the SEC. Translation: They would fit right in. They already have a rabid rivalry with South Carolina that could be a positive for the SEC. Sure, the league wouldn’t be expanding its reach if it added Clemson, but there’s something to be said for adding a school that just feels like it belongs.
We know this: The SEC would love to add the Sooners. They are a big fish that would make its home an increasingly large pond. However, OU looks to be leaning toward the Pac-12 if it leaves the Big 12. Coach Bob Stoops doesn’t seem to be as sentimental as those at Baylor, which is trying desperately to keep the Big 12 together. Stoops believes that super-conferences are the next big thing. It seems like he’d have no problem lumping his school in with teams in either the South or West. If the Big 12 does indeed break up, both Texas and Oklahoma likely would head to the left coast.
The Horned Frogs are an excellent pick at 30/1 if we were betting on such things and, of course, gambling were legal. TCU is an up-and-coming program that can compete at the highest level - evidenced by its undefeated season and Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin in 2010. The Frogs also are located in that coveted Texas market - in the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth area, no less - which has SEC suits drooling. Yes, the program does have some growing to do before it can be compared with those already in the SEC. But the biggest stumbling block surrounds the Frogs’ move to the Big East next season. Would they be willing to severe that marriage already?
Louisville shares a state with Kentucky, but it’s clear that the Wildcats don’t have much clout when it comes to SEC football. The SEC may be willing to make an exception to its unwritten in-state rule for the Cardinals, who don’t have a historically strong football program - save for some recent success under Bobby Petrino - but are powerhouses on the hardwood, are in the South and have a great fan base. The addition of Louisville to the SEC’s basketball league would automatically strengthen it and add an intense intra-state competition between UL and UK.
As we’ve mentioned, Missouri is an after-thought when it comes to conference realignment. But we think that’s why there’s a better chance that they join the SEC. They don’t have any conflict of interest within their state, and the Tigers would introduce the SEC to a television market in America’s heartland. Sure, it’s not Texas when it comes to the state’s football craze - what state is? - but it could introduce the markets of Kansas City and St. Louis to the SEC. Plus, Mizzou has had double-digit wins in three of the past four seasons. Not a bad addition.
Virginia Tech: 12/1
There is no downside for the SEC if it adds the Hokies, who are a perennial national contender with a big profile. They also straddle the line for whom the SEC is looking. They are close enough to the South but also introduce a new television market, which could open the SEC to the an area close enough to Washington D.C. to influence viewers. But would Virginia Tech want to give up a good gig in the ACC? The Hokies have a much easier road to a BCS bowl in their current conference. But if offered, they may not be able to bypass the cache earned by being a football-playing member of the SEC.
West Virginia: 13/2
The best odds belong to the Mountaineers. Go ahead, Morgantown, burn some couches in celebration (wait a minute, that’s now a felony!) Either way, West Virginia should jump at the chance to join the SEC, which would be a big upgrade from the mediocre Big East. Mountaineer fans are as crazy as those in the SEC and the addition of WVU would introduce a new media market and a high-profile school to the SEC East. Culturally, they’d fit right in and we can already picture a great rivalry between West Virginia and Tennessee. What’s left to ponder?