SEC/Big 12 plus-one would allow SEC/ACC rivalries to happen; see proposed matchups

“Vince’s View” By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

With the decisions by the Big 10 and Pac 12 to play conference-only football this season, it’s sparked the questions on if the other three Power 5 conferences will follow-suit.

What would a 10-game conference schedule look like in the SEC? I think adding 2021 and 2022 crossover opponents to the existing 8-game conference schedules would be the easiest, fairest solution.

I think conferences just playing teams within their conference that have the same health and safety guidelines and protocols is the most likely scenario. However, some want to see conference-only with a plus-one out of conference.

Bo Nix (10) throws a touchdown in the first half.
Auburn football at Florida on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 in Gainesville, FL
Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

SEC schools that have long-time non-conference ACC rivals have expressed the desire to maintain those games, even if the rest of the non-conference games are canceled.

The question is, how do you do that when only 4 of the 14 SEC teams have that ACC rivalry game?

Florida/Florida State
South Carolina/Clemson
Georgia/Georgia Tech

Any solutions to that question will almost certainly not involve any school outside of the Power 5 conferences. These decisions to cancel non-conference games are, in part, about consistency in COVID-19 procedures to assure safety to not put schools and their seasons in jeopardy because of smaller budget schools that can’t test as well (if at all) and come with an unknown on safety measures. Bottom line, even if schools are close in proximity, Group of 5 or FCS schools are highly unlikely as plus-one opponents.

My first thought on how to fill the plus-one non-conference game exception for the other 10 SEC teams was to look into the ACC. There are two problems with that. Notre Dame’s 6 scheduled games with ACC teams complicates things. Would the ACC have their 8 schools that aren’t playing Notre Dame schedule an additional ACC opponent or allow them to add a Power 5 school out of conference? Adding a conference game would make the ACC games unequal. That could be messy unless the rest of the schools get to add someone outside the conference from the P5. Another issue is, if you take the Notre Dame opponents off the table, there are very few matchups that make geographical sense when paired with the SEC.

Here’s one example of what I came up with to fill-out the plus-one for the 10 remaining SEC teams.

Notre Dame scheduled 2020 ACC opponents off the table: Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville

Miss State/NC State (already scheduled)
Tennessee/North Carolina
Auburn/Florida State
LSU/Virginia Tech
Ole Miss/Virginia
Vanderbilt/Boston College
Arkansas/Notre Dame (already scheduled)
Texas A&M/??? (a state of Texas Big 12 school, if available)

Not great no matter how you switch the pairings, right?

What’s a fun, clean solution to a plus-one format that keeps the four SEC/ACC non-conference rivalries intact by filling out that extra game for the other 10 SEC schools?

The Big 12.

The SEC needs to find that plus-one for the remaining 10 schools. The Big 12 has 9 conference games among their 10 schools. If they want to be level with the Big 10 and likely other P5 conferences by playing 10 games, they’ll need a dance partner from the P5s to get to 10 games. 10 teams needing games from each conference. Oh, and then there’s the fact that there are already as many games vs. Big 12 teams on SEC schedules in 2020 as there are ACC rivals, 4. Perfect.

Here’s what my 2020 SEC/Big 12 Football 10-Game Challenge proposal looks like.

Tennessee/Oklahoma (already scheduled)
LSU/Texas (already scheduled)
Ole Miss/Baylor (already scheduled)
Vanderbilt/Kansas State (already scheduled)
Texas A&M/Texas Tech
Miss State/Iowa State
Alabama/Oklahoma State
Auburn/West Virginia

Maintaining the four scheduled SEC/Big 12 matchups would be great. I think Tennessee traveling to Oklahoma would be safer and more likely than a much closer G5 opponent. If other P5 conference schools are deemed safe, the little bit farther travel shouldn’t change things.

The last 6 from each conference are the only ones I had to pair-up. Here’s my thinking on each with what I considered.

Missouri and Kansas are restarting their rivalry in the future, but why pass-up on dusting that off this fall? They haven’t played since 2011. But they’ve had 120 all-time meetings. Game history of the other 5 Big 12 schools: West Virginia (last year) Oklahoma State (2018) TCU (1990) Texas Tech (2011) Iowa St (2011 – 104 times)

Arkansas is an easy pairing with any of their old conference foes, but I went with the closest school, TCU. The Horned Frogs and the Razorbacks have played 70 times, the last coming in 2017. Game history of the other 5 Big 12 schools: West Virginia (never) Oklahoma State (future schedule) Texas Tech (2015) Iowa St (1973 – once) Kansas (1906)

Texas A&M and Texas Tech is another match-up that makes geographic sense. The Aggies and the Red Raiders also have squared off 70 times in their history. Their last meeting was 2011. Game history of the other 5 Big 12 schools: West Virginia (2014 – once) Oklahoma State (2019 – bowl game) TCU (2001 – 92 times) Iowa St (2011) Kansas (2011)

After I paired the 3 above fairly easily, that left me with Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State from the SEC versus Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Iowa State from the Big 12 to finish the puzzle.

Mississippi State and Iowa State have never played, while the Bulldogs have had prior meetings with the Cowboys and Mountaineers, so they come together next. Game history of the other 5 Big 12 schools: West Virginia (2007) Oklahoma State (2013) TCU (1936 – once) Texas Tech (1970) Kansas (1981 – once)

Alabama has West Virginia on their beefy future schedules, so I gave the Crimson Tide the Cowboys, who they’ve only played once all-time (2006.) Game history of the other 5 Big 12 schools: West Virginia (future schedule) TCU (1975) Texas Tech (2006 – once) Iowa State (2001 – once) Kansas (never)

That leaves Auburn with West Virginia. Those two have played just twice, most recently in 2009. Oklahoma State was a strong consideration since they’ve never played, but that would give Alabama the Mountaineers again. I’m sure Nick Saban wouldn’t mind WVU (his home state and an easier opponent,) but I went the other way. If you flip-flopped those last two, I’m good with that too. Game history of the other 5 Big 12 schools: Oklahoma State (never) TCU (1981) Texas Tech (1954- once) Iowa State (never) Kansas (1988)

This plus-one format would either be a 9th game with 8 SEC opponents or a 10th game with the 8 scheduled SEC games and the 2021 crossover added as the 9th game. No plus-one with rival games in 2020 in a 10-game SEC-only schedule with 2021 and 2022 crossover opponents is another option as well.

I know, it’s unlikely, but while I worked on this and while you read it, we both were able to think more about football match-ups rather than…well, you know.

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