So the SEC and Big 12 have a new bowl deal together. That's cool. They've basically created their own Rose Bowl. Excellent. But there might just be much, much more to it if we think about conference realignment.
Let's say the Big 12 adds Florida State, who've spent the past two weeks as the subject of realignment rumors. Let's say FSU takes along Clemson and Georgia Tech to ease travel concerns, continue a couple of minor rivalries and give the Big 12 a strong foothold in the Southeast. Let's also include Louisville, who are publicly very interested, have been a reported target for months and almost made it in at the expense of West Virginia.
Are you seeing what I'm seeing? The scheduling arrangement opportunity? Let's try lining up the teams a certain way:
The SEC and Big 12 should pair these teams up. Have each team play eight conference games and its permanent cross-conference rival. That's at least nine legit games for each team, which should meet a playoff selection committee's requirements.
Almost half of them already play every year anyway, and more than half would if not for feelings hurt during the last wave of realignment. And this would restore the two rivalries college football lost when the SEC took Mizzou and A&M.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 will soon start up a new scheduling pact, enhancing their Rose Bowl bond. But the Big 12 and SEC have an even bigger reason to pair up and start scheduling regular season games on an official basis.
Among the less obvious pairings, LSU and TCU share a state border, ancient SWC mates Arkansas and Oklahoma are separated only by Tulsa, and Baylor and Vanderbilt are both private schools among football titans. In the loosest of connections, Texas Tech is currently led by Auburn's last coach. That one's a stretch, and I have no idea what the others have to offer, but that's only three games out of 14 we'd have to come up with a story for. All the others sell themselves every year. Maybe we come up with some sort of rotation system for non-essential matchups.
And then there's Alabama-West Virginia.
Think about this. The playoffs are starting in 2014. The new SEC-Big 12 bowl arrangement starts up in 2014. Bama and WVU are set to play in the 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff. What better way to introduce a cross-conference scheduling partnership than having two elite representatives play in at a big neutral site? That could even be an annual thing for the first week of every season. Pick two games from the 14-game list and send one to Atlanta, one to Dallas. There's not much any other conference could do to steal the spotlight at that point.
This is also a way around Florida and South Carolina not wanting to give their state rivals a recruiting boost by allowing them into the SEC. Florida and South Carolina don't have much say over who the Big 12 imports.
Big 12 and SEC fans would keep track of how their conference is doing throughout the year -- it would be like the ACC-Big Ten Basketball Challenge, but way, way bigger.
And keep it going. Both conferences would still be two away from 16, the number we're treating as some sort of event horizon. The SEC takes North Carolina, the Big 12 gets Duke? How could we split Virginia and Virginia Tech? Notre Dame continues making NBC money in the Big 12, Miami joins the SEC after being invited in 1990?
That discussion could continue forever, but the way the two leagues could shake out after only a couple realignment moves would make this whole thing so workable I kind of can't believe it hasn't already happened yet.