With Texas A&M to the SEC an all-but done deal, it's time to start talking about which team the SEC might invite to maintain their conference's even number of members. It's totally not, because it's GAME WEEK PEOPLE, but let's do it anyway!
Monday, CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd listed Virginia Tech, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina and Missouri as the most likely candidates for that last spot. Here are a few quick notes on each, in no particular order:
Maryland: The Maryland Terrapins are the newest addition to the speculation list. They'd theoretically provide the SEC the D.C. and Baltimore TV markets, but I'd be surprised to see the conference sell a team that far north to its Yankee-suspicious fan base. Unless you assure them they'd get to try again to sack the White House this time around.
Virginia Tech: Tech AD Jim Weaver has already said his school would decline a SEC invite, which you should take to mean absolutely nothing. The Hokies fit just about everything the SEC is looking for -- they're a solid football school that delivers at least one new TV market, they'd open up those eastern Virginia recruiting grounds and they're a national football brand. There are now murmurings that the Hokies would change their tune if invited, which, duh.
Missouri: Mizzou has likewise denied interest, but they too field a recently strong football program that could pick off portions of both the St. Louis and Kansas City markets. Like VPI, they'd butt the SEC right up against the Big Ten's turf while still remaining technically southern, which would draw widely mixed reviews from everybody down here.
Louisville: Loovul has (SURPRISE!) also downplayed their SEC desires, but come on. You guys play in a basketball arena named after fried chicken. Adding the upstart football program, and one of the nation's few noticeably profitable basketball programs (note we've made it this far without even mentioning non-football sports?), might make up for putting off the Kentucky Wildcats, who've supposedly held some sort of gentlemen's agreement with Georgia, Florida and South Carolina not to admit any schools from current SEC states.
I really don't get what the SEC would gain by adding the Cards.
North Carolina: I lied when I said these weren't in any particular order. North Carolina, you're a SEC school whether the world yet realizes it or not. You're lumped in with Duke due to college basketball's best rivalry, but let's be honest. Duke's football team isn't being torn apart for rampant cheating, now are they? Thus, some part of you cares about football more than any of us would like to admit.
If I were in charge of the SEC, UNC would be my choice. The Heels fit the SEC profile better than most realize, but I don't know if Mike Slive would kneecap his associate John Swofford by taking away the ACC's most important team. (FSU and Virginia Tech are more important for football, but UNC is the state school of the ACC's heartland, the cog in multiple rivalries central to the conference and, if the talent Butch Davis brought in is any example, a sleeping football giant.)
Virginia Tech and Missouri look like the best bets at this point, not that you'd be well-advised to wager on any of this. Hey look, football games to bet on!