'SEC only' playoff part of the discussion for the future of the conference




 

Now, this would be fun.

As a fanbase, we can stop beating around the bush and say this: SEC Football is better than anything else in college football. If it was possible, the SEC could probably send at least three teams to the College Football Playoff every year, and it would be no worse of a product.

Alabama, Georgia, and Texas A&M all would have been worthy participants in the playoff last year, but that's not something the fans would ever get under the current format of the college football postseason.

With college football planning to stick with the current playoff format through the 2025 season, an SEC playoff would be a fun way to add a bit more flavor to the end of football season for the schools not named Alabama and Georgia.

After SEC commissioner Greg Sankey worked with Bob Bowlsby and other commissioners to develop an expansion plan that made sense for everyone, "The Alliance" of Big 10, ACC, and Pac-12 conferences backed out at the last minute, citing "more pressing issues" at the time.

Sankey hasn't held back in vocalizing his disappointment as the playoff expansion talks fell apart.

"People apparently didn't take me seriously when I said we can leave it at four," Sankey shared with the media a few weeks ago. "So I sat there watching that (Alabama-Georgia) game, thinking they just thought I wasn't serious."

The SEC seems to be weighing its options, and nothing is set in stone yet with so much in play. ESPN had more on this with some words from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.

Sankey stressed that no seismic change is imminent. But he did mention that an SEC-only playoff, in a variety of forms, was among the nearly 40 different models that SEC officials discussed at their recent meetings.

"As we think as a conference," he said via Pete Thamel of ESPN on Monday, "it's vitally important we think about the range of possibilities."

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin echoed that notion to ESPN:

"We have an incredibly strong league, one that will be even stronger once Oklahoma and Texas join." Stricklin shared with Thamel. "The focus should be on how we as a league use that strength to further position the SEC as we face new realities. Commissioner Sankey has encouraged our athletic directors to think creatively, and an SEC-only playoff is a different idea that we should absolutely consider an option."

Sankey is dead on here. There are so many strong programs in the SEC, and at least one more is on the way when the Sooners and Longhorns join.

This is something to watch over the next few years, as many things could push these ideas forward or backward. Is this posturing by Sankey and the SEC? Could they be using their leverage as the strongest conference brand in college football to put pressure on the rest of the Power Five, namely "The Alliance?" Could he be testing the waters on this idea to see how schools and fanbases feel about an SEC playoff that could be worth big-time money in their next media rights negotiations?

The SEC hasn't committed to what the schedule will look like with OU and Texas as they might stick with divisions, or they could go with four-team pods. Adding Texas and Oklahoma to the big-time brands the SEC already boasts gives them incredible drawing power.

I like the three and six schedule with three games against permanent rivals annually and rotating through the other six. Coincidentally, I designed my own four-team pods for the SEC, and this is what I came up with:

Pod 1

 

Oklahoma's Nik Bonitto (11) tries to get to Texas' Casey Thompson (11) during the Red River Showdown college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Texas (UT) Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. Oklahoma won 55-48. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Terry - The Oklahoman

  1. Oklahoma

  2. Texas A&M

  3. Texas

  4. Mizzou

Pod 2

 

Nov 6, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws under pressure against LSU Tigers defensive lineman Neil Farrell Jr. (92) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama won 20-14. Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

  1. Alabama

  2. Auburn

  3. LSU

  4. Arkansas

Pod 3

 

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

  1. Ole Miss

  2. Mississippi State

  3. Kentucky

  4. Vanderbilt

Pod 4

 

Nov 2, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray (11) runs out of the pocket against the Florida Gators during the second quarter at EverBank Field. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

  1. Florida

  2. Georgia

  3. South Carolina

  4. Tennessee

Takeaways

Are Vandy and Tennessee rivals? Should I feel bad for not putting them in the same pod?

Anyway, one way an SEC Playoff could work is by taking the winner of each pod by conference record and seeding them one through four. Throwing in a wild card or two and giving the top two teams a bye could also be fun.

This is definitely something that has the potential to be not only great entertainment but also good for the health of the college football postseason. Bowl Game opt-outs are still a massive problem and, at least in the SEC, a tournament would help alleviate that issue.

Imagine home playoff games in a college football atmosphere.

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