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MATT'S SOMEDAY MORNING MUSINGS: Realignment - Three's A Crowd

Each week, our Executive Director, Matthew Redding (5’11, 185, 4.78 40-yard dash, $4.99 on Wish, 5.49 on TEMU) sits down with a cup of coffee and ponders life in the world of College Football and beyond. Ask him anything on Twitter (@TheBarningMan) and he may answer it next week over his breakfast. This week, he’s thinking about the madhouse that has become conference expansion - Again - and if it will ever end

Sorry for the delay. Let's get to it, shall we?

I've made some pretty dumb bets in my life. Not for money or anything like professional sports betting, but fun stuff like "bet you won't call that girl" or "drink this or your stupid" type stuff. When it comes to money though, I never touch it. I've had too much rotten luck to believe I'll get anything of any significance from that sort of gambling.

This year, however, because of Patrick Mahomes winning the MVP curse and the phenomenal team Howie Roseman built, I almost sprinkled some cash on the Eagles to beat the Chiefs in Super Bowl 58, and I felt fantastic about it... Until I got cold feet the day of, and decided not to throw money down.

Good call, since Oklahoma Legend Jalen Hurts fumbled the game away. It was one of many times I would have lost money in the world of sports. I think, if we're all being honest, we all would have lost money on that bet when you look at the superstars on the Eagles roster. And no one would be faulted for it. Much like how no one would have faulted you for betting on the Big 12 to be the first power five conference to crumble instead of the Pac-12 or even the ACC.

"Well well well, how the turn tables" - Michael Scott - Matt Redding.

It felt like yesterday that Texas and Oklahoma slapped the Big 12 in the face and announced they were leaving for the SEC. The Big 12 conference suddenly looked dead in the water, and this was coming off years of debate that the conference might be old news anyways, due to the lack of hard-nosed defenses being the problem for top contenders to make any impact in playoff season (outside of Oklahoma, who was always ousted early if they qualified). It was clear that Texas and Oklahoma wanted to go where championships were being won, and the SEC presented the best pathway. Plus, more money from TV deals helped, but who wasn't watching these historic programs to begin with? TV exposure wasn't the problem.

Credit Bob Bowlsby and Brett Yormark for keeping the ship afloat. What was supposed to turn into a coffin for an old-school conference became a raft that carried them to new seas with BYU, Houston, Cincinnati and UCF coming aboard.

Nobody could have guessed what would come next. Of course other conferences would respond to the SEC's power play, but the B1G raiding the Pac-12 for UCLA and USC? Arguably, that was bigger news than Texas and Oklahoma leaving. Geographically, it makes no sense, but who cares nowadays I suppose.

The bleeding hasn't stopped for the west coast since. Right after hiring Coach Prime, the Colorado Buffalos have decided to revert to the Big 12 and Oregon and Washington are also looking to join their Pacific Time brethren to the B1G. To add insult to injury, the Big 12 is also looking to steal the two Arizona schools for their new conference (the Big 18? 20? I've lost count).

I have been critical in previous articles on the Pac-12's response. Who wants to watch San Diego State instead of Oregon anyhow? Where is the new TV deal and is it going to be with Comedy Central? They would be lucky if Cartoon Network took them on at this point. As I've said before, if the Big 12 wrote the guide to surviving conference expansion, the Pac-12 skimmed through it and then threw it out to go play the fiddle while Rome burns to the ground.

But then my new point of focus in the wild frenzy of college football is what else we get to witness- If we're digging one grave, perhaps we may as well dig two. Who would have bet that the ACC, the thorn in the SEC's side in recruiting and championships, would go next?

I wouldn't have. We all would have lost MAD money on that news.

It seemed that Clemson's championship success was enough to make the ACC a formidable foe for the Southeastern Conference. Recruits were leaving Georgia and Alabama to go play for Dabo Swinney and create the Clemson dynasty after the likes of Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence defeated mighty Alabama in the national title game.

Heck, Clemson was in just about every playoff it felt like. They would lose to the Ohio States or LSU's, but they were right there. Let's not forget that Florida State made an appearance in the first series, ironically losing to the Pac-12's Oregon Ducks in 2014.

Fun fact, Notre Dame is technically part of the ACC except for football, but that's why during the COVID year they were easily let into the conference to compete. In fact, the ACC has been a prime focal point for expansion, adding Louisville way back when, and it was only a matter of time before the Fighting Irish finally pulled the trigger and joined up as well.

Now? You guessed it. Due to unequal TV structures and championship runs the two best programs in Clemson and Florida State are looking to join the SEC to stay atop the new era of college football.

Heck, Florida State might be out by tomorrow if they keep kicking and screaming like they've been reported to have been.

IF that happens, guess what? The madness continues. The B1G will likely swipe Notre Dame and whatever's left of the ACC. Maybe the ACC and the Pac-12 can combine and call themselves the Atlantic to Pacific Leftovers and join the Group of 5.

And all that will be left is the Power 3. The trinity of the SEC, B1Gish, and Big 28, laughing and dancing on the graves of their former competitors.

My question is simply this: Will it ever end? Obviously, but in today's ever-growing demand for success in college football, who knows when the carousel will fire back up and we're right back where we started? Will the Big 12 pull another shocker and suddenly spell the collapse of the B1G someday? Will they all merge and just become "The Conference" or "The CFL (College Football League)"?

(All names trademarked by me, commissioner of hypothetical football conferences).

Whatever happens to Oregon and Washington, who now solely control the fate of the Pac-12, and whatever happens to Clemson and Florida State, who have seemingly decided the fate of the ACC already, expansion isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Give it another two or three years after the dust settles, and we'll be discussing the best landing spots for Miami or Nebraska when they announce they're leaving for greener pastures- I mean, dollars.

The saddest part of expansion is always the dead traditions and rivalries. So be sure to watch the Bedlam rivalry this year folks. It's likely the last time we'll see it for another thirty years unless OK State joins the SEC.

Which, with how history is playing out, that'll happen sooner than later.

Matt's Monday Morning Mailbag -

"How far can Texas really go?" - Andrew

I've actually had several questions about the SEC newcomers after realignment, and I wrote last week that both could be in for a slap in the face when they arrive in their first year.

Beyond that, however? Perhaps there is more room for optimism.

Texas has been historically good, not counting the latter part of the Mack Brown era or the entirety of the Charlie Strong era. Tom Herman was only good for about 9 wins a year, but it was a solid foundation for Steve Sarkisian to come in and flip the program back upright. In the Big 12, this team, lead by eventual #1 overall pick Archie Manning, could be a shoo-in for the playoff every year like Oklahoma was under Lincoln Riley.

I like the Longhorns to be the first of the two to make some noise first for two reasons.

First, look at the head coach. Steve Sarkisian may have been bested by Brett Venables in the 2016 title game when both were coordinators at Alabama and Clemson, but the difference on why he had his 49-0 revenge game last year is because the man knows how to recruit the SEC landscape. Brett may have the defensive chops of an ACC recruiter, but trying to replace a generational quarterback in Caleb Williams was unsurprisingly harder than expected, and this is his first head coaching gig. In my opinion, he has a tougher sell to recruits who also have an opportunity to play with a Manning for the next two to three years at Texas. Sark already landed Manning and on top of recruiting Texas and the Southeast very well, he's also already had success as a head man at Washington and USC. That's the kind of experience that a blue blood like Texas has needed for a decade now to officially declare themselves "back".

Secondly, look again at who Sark landed at quarterback. He already proved he could develop the position with Tua and Mac Jones now starting on NFL Sundays, he recruited Bryce Young to Alabama before he left for Texas (we all saw why of course), and Quinn Ewers was a Heisman dark horse before his injury. Now, the nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning comes to the Longhorns to take over and lead Texas into the gauntlet of the mighty SEC. Point is, Texas is about to become the next QBU in college football, because five-stars go where the five-stars grow, and when the talent keeps rolling in it's hard to pull it away. Kirby Smart and Nick Saban are about to have bigger headaches outside of LSU and Auburn in the coming years.

So, a quarterback guru with SEC experience takes over a blue-blood with boatloads of money and talent while joining the best conference in America with a Manning at quarterback?

Give me an SEC Champion Texas Longhorns in 2026.



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