South Carolina football: scheduling scenarios if Texas, Oklahoma join SEC

The South Carolina Gamecocks take the field. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
The South Carolina Gamecocks take the field. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images) /

How South Carolina football could be affected by UT, OU  joining SEC.

Scheduling issues were already a hot topic at this year’s SEC Media Days, with Florida head coach Dan Mullen pushing to remove the permanent cross-divisional rivalries in lieu of an even rotation. For the record, we agree with him.

Rather than play Texas A&M year in and year out, the Gamecocks would have the chance to take on every SEC Western Division foe over a four-year period. As it stands, the Gamecocks have faced Alabama just once since 2011, haven’t seen Mississippi State in five seasons (with the next scheduled matchup set for the ’23 season), and have rarely gotten the chance to play teams like Arkansas and Auburn.

A new wrinkle was thrown into the mix on Tuesday, as rumors began to be reported that both Texas and Oklahoma were interested in leaving the Big XII in hopes of joining the SEC. Adding two more teams to the conference would create a 16-team league, which would certainly offer some challenges when figuring out to schedule opponents.

How would adding these programs affect South Carolina football, and what would the SEC’s scheduling options be in this super-conference scenario?

The options 

Nine-game, two-division model

There would be a few options, the easiest being to just add the Sooners and Longhorns, along with Missouri to the West, and move Alabama and Auburn over to the East. This would keep the balance of East and West even at eight teams a piece, but it would also create problems in the current eight-game conference slate that the SEC installs. Could they move to a nine-game model and remove one out-of-conference matchup in order to keep two cross-division contests on the schedule?

It’s a possibility. Doing so would still allow league members the ability for all 16 SEC programs to play each other over a four-year period. Being able to shift Alabama and Auburn to the East would also allow the Tigers and Tide to keep their longtime rivalries with Georgia and Tennessee intact without doing it at the expense of other league affiliates. It would allow the SEC to keep its championship game between East and West, too.

In this scenario, South Carolina’s annual 12-game schedule would look something like this:

  • 7 permanent eastern division foes:
    • Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
  • 2 rotating western division foes (choose 2):
    • Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M
  • 3 out-of-conference foes:
    • Clemson + two others

This would likely be the simplest option, but there is another that might be gaining traction.

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Four-team pods

Earlier this morning on SEC Network, the idea of a ‘pod’ system was brought to the forefront. This model breaks up the 16 teams into four, four-team divisions based on proximity. In this scenario, the Gamecocks are linked up with Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky.

The proposed option sees teams play the three teams in their pod each year, while having to play two teams out of each remaining pod on a rotation. For example, the Gamecocks could see Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky on the annual slate, while playing a combination of Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas, and Oklahoma from the other three groups. Those final six teams would be replaced by six others the following season.

This would also call for the move to a nine-game conference slate, eliminating one of the four current out-of-conference matchups. It would, however, allow teams to not only play each of the other 15 SEC members, it would allow each team to host every affiliate over a four-year period. With only three locked in annual contests, the rotations around the league would be able to occur more quickly.

The assumption in this scenario is that the two teams with the best record would face off in the SEC Championship Game.

The ‘pod’ model would be much different than what we’re used to, but it may be the best fit for the student-athlete experience.

Talks of Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC have not slowed, with some saying it’s only a matter of time before the two programs jump ship to come to college football’s most prestigious league. There are, of course, obstacles, most notably a team like Texas A&M not wanting to add another league foe from the same state. With enough support, though, that may not matter.

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Are you in favor of adding Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC? Leave your thoughts below.