Tigers in the SEC?
With the emergence of the so-called, ‘Magnificent 7,’ it seems that Clemson Football’s ties to the ACC may be nearing an end.
Ever since Texas and Oklahoma announced their departure from the Big12 to the SEC, the landscape of college conferences has suffered a complete overhaul. With talks of realignment, and rumors of an ACC armageddon, now seems as appropriate a time as ever to reimagine Clemson’s future in college football.
Of course, all thoughts on a potential departure from the ACC are speculative. As of now, there is no reason to believe the ‘Magnificent 7,’ will be successful in their endeavors.
But, hypothetically, if the Tigers were to jump ship, the most logical landing spot for Clemson would be in the pride of southern football: the SEC.
Why the SEC makes the Most Sense
"“Clemson is an SEC school residing in the ACC. Simple as that.”-Blake Toppmeyer in The Tennessean’s “Here are 8 schools SEC should consider if it desires more expansion.”"
Here’s the gist: Clemson would take to the SEC like a duck to water.
Geographically speaking, the SEC is the most logical conference for the Tigers to play in. Seeing as another program in the state of South Carolina already competes in the conference (U. of SC), it would not expand the geographical coverage of the SEC beyond an extra couple hours of driving.
Similarly, unlike many teams who have successfully transitioned to the SEC–ie Mizzou, Texas A&M–Clemson has several well established rivalries already within the conference. In addition to South Carolina, Clemson also has historic rivalries with Georgia and Auburn, not to mention the significance of Clemson’s unprecedented feud with the Crimson Tide.
If these matchups were to become annual showdowns, it would only strengthen the magnitude of these rivalries, not to mention the extra media draw such games would usher in. The result would be improved ratings and more money, which benefit the university, as well as the conference in its entirety.
Most importantly, the caliber of Clemson’s football program is comparable to that of even the more successful SEC programs. The difference between Clemson’s resume and other teams that may hope to join the SEC is their pedigree: Clemson has become a national blueblood, thus making their market and media draw more appealing when compared to other programs.
It comes as no surprise that Clemson fans do not like the SEC. Of course they don’t, not with the constant media praise they receive and belligerent fans barking “S-E-C, S-E-C!” Even the conference’s motto, “It Just Means More,” seems inexcusably ignorant of the national landscape.
But, if Tiger fans were honest with themselves, football in the SEC would be much more exciting than in the ACC.
Week in and week out, Tiger fans would see Clemson battle the likes of LSU, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn… The significance of rivalry games like South Carolina and Georgia would be heightened, as conference implications would further highlight the importance of the matchups.
While a move may sacrifice some of Clemson’s standing rivalries-North Carolina, NC State, and Georgia Tech, for example- the opportunity to revisit classic feuds with Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, and develop rivalries against LSU, Florida, Texas, and Tennessee would contribute to a very interesting and exciting future for Clemson football.
What Would a Clemson–SEC Look Like?
While an Clemson-included SEC is certainly an intriguing idea, in actuality, it would not be as simple as slotting the Tigers into the SEC East.
With the addition of Oklahoma and Texas, the SEC will already have 16 teams in the conference, more than any other conference in D1 College Football. Furthermore, an additional team would have to join with Clemson–most feel Florida State would be the most appropriate transition partner–in order to keep the number of members even.
That would leave the conference at 18 teams, far too many to continue with the traditional SEC East-West divisional divide.
If the conference were to include Clemson and FSU, the SEC would need to adjust their schedule to accommodate the needs of the larger pool.
There seem to be two primary options for accomplishing just that:
1. Bye Bye Divisions
The simplest option is to eliminate divisions entirely. The ACC recently adopted a model in which each team plays three conference rivals annually, and some variation of the remaining conference opponents. A similar option could work for a larger SEC. To ensure a “true champion,” the two teams with the best records would meet for a conference championship.
2. The “Pod” Model
A more interesting approach would be to divide the conference into three separate divisions, or “pods.” Each pod would contain 6 teams, each playing one another every season (five games per team). An additional four games would be played against teams from the other pods, two from each, for a total of nine conference games.
Here is an example of a potential “pod” breakdown, based on geographical location:
Pod A (Southeast)
Clemson, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Pod B (Deep South)
Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Mississippi St., Ole’ Miss
Pod C (Southwest)
Arkansas, LSU, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M
The primary issue with this approach is determining who plays in a championship game. A logical option would be to have the two teams with the best records play, though, depending on the caliber of teams in each pod, a program’s regular season record may not accurately reflect their quality.
Regardless of how the SEC would decide to progress with their seasonal slate, there are numerous options that could succeed, even in a league with as many as 18 teams.
It’s all Speculation
The truth of the matter is this: the ACC will work to reach a deal in order to keep the ‘Magnificent 7’ from departing the conference. Similarly, several sources have reported the SEC has no intentions of expanding beyond the 16 teams currently tied to the conference.
With this in mind, it seems very unlikely that Clemson will depart from the ACC any time soon.
But, then again, who would’ve thought Texas and Oklahoma would join the SEC? Who would’ve imagined USC and UCLA joining the B1G? Cincy and Houston to the Big 12?
College football is changing, and fast. If the SEC ever does consider additional expansion, it seems the Clemson Tigers would be one of their best options.