Here are 8 SEC rivalries that will flourish after Texas football, Oklahoma join | Toppmeyer
I still haven’t gotten over the last round of conference realignment.
The SEC was just more than a year into being a 14-team conference when I began covering the league in 2013.
I can tell you, the addition of Texas A&M made the conference stronger, the addition of Missouri made it colder; and beyond the SEC’s borders, things got wonky.
Geography became irrelevant.
Nebraska and Rutgers, separated by nearly 1,300 miles, joined the same conference. That’s an easy road trip compared to the nearly 1,500 miles you’d need to cover to get from Texas Tech to its now conference mate, West Virginia.
Conference names became misnomers. The Big Ten features 14 teams, the Big 12 houses 10 and the Western Athletic Conference includes a school from Chicago.
Worse, rivalries got disrupted.
Realignment even tarnished Thanksgiving. Texas vs. Texas A&M, usually played on the holiday or Black Friday, was one of my favorite rivalries. The teams haven’t met since 2011.
That rivalry will resume after Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC in 2025 as the conference grows to 16 teams.
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Unlike the last round of SEC expansion, this one will restore lost rivalries, build new ones, and a restructured conference scheduling format will increase the frequency with which certain current SEC members meet, enhancing rivalries.
Here are eight rivalries that will benefit from OU and Texas joining the conference.
Alabama vs. Oklahoma
This isn’t a rivalry yet, but these are two iconic brands.
They’ve met six times, most recently in 2018, when Alabama beat the Sooners in the Orange Bowl, a playoff semifinal.
It’s unclear how often these teams will meet. Likely, it won’t be on an annual basis, but SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has vowed that no teams will go as long between matchups in the expanded conference as some do now. Currently, SEC teams in opposite divisions can go up to seven years between matchups.
If the SEC eliminates divisions, Alabama and OU could play as frequently as every two years. At worst, they’d likely meet once every four years, if the SEC elects for eight-team divisions, with Alabama and OU on opposite sides.
The two programs combine to claim 25 national championships.
Alabama vs. Oklahoma would show the soul of college football.
Texas A&M vs. Texas
More than a decade apart will not have cooled this rivalry. Just the opposite.
The Aggies will be boiling over Texas’ presence in the SEC and eager to prove they’re little brother no more. The Longhorns will want to show they still rule the state.
Please, schedule-makers, designate this an annual Thanksgiving week matchup.
Alabama vs. Georgia
The SEC now has twin powers, thanks to Georgia’s rise. The Bulldogs recemented this series as a rivalry by beating Alabama in the national championship.
Four of their past five matchups have occurred in either the SEC Championship Game or College Football Playoff, but the teams will meet more during the regular season following expansion.
And it's easy to envision those meetings usually featuring a pair of top-five teams.
Arkansas vs. Texas
Many Arkansas fans consider Texas to be the school’s top rival, according to Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman, despite the fact that, before last September, the teams hadn’t met since 2014. But this rivalry dates to the 19th century, and the teams used to clash annually as Southwest Conference members.
Some football fans still mourn the SWC’s demise, and getting these teams together more regularly will be a welcome throwback to that era.
Auburn vs. Florida
The Florida Panhandle houses plenty of Auburn fans, and this was once a sneaky good rivalry that got somewhat overshadowed by the Iron Bowl and Sunshine Showdown.
Even after the SEC split into divisions in 1992 – Florida went to the East, and Auburn entered the West – these teams continued to meet annually through 2002. However, the SEC eventually decreased from two designated interdivision rivals to one. Annual installments of AU-UF became a casualty.
After the league expanded to 14 teams, the rivalry became mostly a memory.
The fire should be rekindled once the teams meet more often after expansion produces a schedule reconfiguration. Their 2019 game – a sellout at The Swamp – showed an appetite remains for this rivalry.
Ole Miss vs. Tennessee
As long as Lane Kiffin is Ole Miss' coach, this matchup will bring sizzle.
Vols fans either became so inebriated or incensed by the Rebels, Kiffin and the officiating during last year’s game that they pelted the field with debris in protest. One fan even chucked a golf ball from the stands at Kiffin, the polarizing former Vols coach.
This series simply requires more frequent tee times, which will occur after expansion.
This matchup will be especially important to Memphians. That battleground city is marked by a notable presence of Vols and Rebels fans.
LSU vs. Texas
Like Oklahoma-Alabama, these teams have limited history, but the ingredients exist for a rivalry.
LSU fans spill into Texas. Longhorns fans have a presence in Louisiana.
Plus, Austin has a dining scene that rivals delicious Cajun food, so even if the football doesn’t deliver, the food always will in this series.
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Tennessee vs. Auburn
The Vols have no shortage of rivals, a list that includes Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Auburn belonged in the conversation, too, before the SEC’s shift into divisions in 1992 interrupted these teams from playing annually.
Bruce Pearl coaching Auburn basketball makes this a natural hoops rivalry, and the football rivalry would be enhanced by more frequent meetings.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.