The Gateway to the Midwest is in the SEC Eastern Division, West Virginia is in the Big 12-formerly the Southwest Conference. What in the name of Lewis & Clark is going on!?!? While all this conference expansion has been happening some of the conferences have forgot about grade school when you learned that Never Eat Shredded Wheat could help you figure out North South East West. Some conferences have it right, the Pac-12 has its northern members in a Northern Division and southern member in a Southern Division. Wow something that actually makes sense, and lo and behold it works! When Texas A&M and Missouri latched on to the SEC, I immediately looked at a map and found which team I thought would be moving East. Auburn is the easternmost West Division institution, so logic dictates that they move to that division right? Channeling Lee Corso-Not so fast my friend! Things are not black and white, grey areas such as preserving the Alabama-Tennessee game, the Auburn-Georgia game; now Missouri-Arkansas are permanent rivals, as well as South Carolina-Texas A&M. So let me get this straight, the two teams that are the furthest away in the conference who have never had anything in common are now permanent rivals and the only game worth preserving is Alabama-Tennessee? I’ll explain. Moving Auburn to the East Division preserves Auburn-Georgia, making Alabama-Auburn permanent rivals preserves the Iron Bowl. Problem not solved, what about the Third Saturday in October? Now here comes the fun part, coaches and fans are going to love this. A nine game conference schedule, a 6-2-1 format where every team in the SEC has 6 division games, 2 cross division permanent rivals, and 1 game that rotates a home/home. How did I accomplish this? I have a friend named Microsoft Excel that I like playing around in and a spreadsheet was the only way I could take in all the data I needed to produce this next piece of information. By flipping Auburn to the East and Missouri to the West you balance the geography of the conference. Right now the conference looks like a rectangle that someone drew a line from the upper left hand corner to the lower right hand corner and exclaimed “Divisions!” So by flipping the two above mentioned institutions how did that make all the rivalry games satisfied, without further adieu here are the institutions listed alphabetically.
2 common opponents: Auburn (79 all-time meetings) and Tennessee (96 all-time meetings)
The Iron Bowl and the 3rd Saturday in October are the reason we have what we have now, this allows these two precious games to still be played annually.
2 common opponents: Tennessee (17 all-time meetings) and South Carolina (22 all-time meetings)
Arkansas’ common opponent upon entering the league has been South Carolina. After Auburn, Arkansas has faced the Gamecocks and Volunteers most among SEC East teams. Arkansas-Tennessee share a border as well, a good border war even though the schools are on opposite sides of the state.
2 common opponents: Alabama (79 all-time meetings) and LSU (49 all-time meetings)
The Iron Bowl and the Tiger Bowl, I believe that explains these two pairings.
2 common opponents: LSU (61 all-time meetings) and Mississippi State (54 all-time meetings)
The Gators have met LSU and Mississippi State the most out of SEC West teams.
2 common opponents: Ole Miss (45 all-time meetings) and Texas A&M (5 all-time meetings)
Here’s where the waters get murky. Since we took Auburn to the East the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is now a division game. The Bulldogs have faced Alabama most, but the Tide are already maxed out on opponents. We go down the list and find Ole Miss has the next highest total for Georgia. The Texas A&M matchup is out of necessity, someone has to play the old Big 12 schools. As I went thru the schedules, the other options for Georgia ran thin.
2 common opponents: Mississippi State (42 all-time meetings) and Missouri (5 all-time meetings)
Kentucky has been a cross division rival with Mississippi State since 1992 when the conference decided to make cross division rivals, we can’t get rid of this game if we can’t get rid of Alabama-Tennessee. I love a good border war and Kentucky shares a border with Kentucky (roughly 60 miles) and there is a little known area called the “Kentucky Bend” that the rivalry could be named after.
2 common opponents: Florida (61 all-time meetings) and Auburn (49 all-time meetings)
Florida has been LSU’s common opponent since 1992 and the Tiger Bowl is a game worth watching each and every year.
Mississippi State-Western Division
2 common opponents: Kentucky (42 all-time meetings) and Florida (54 all-time meetings)
Getting our information from above, Kentucky is Mississippi State’s first cross division rival and Mississippi State has played Florida the most out the original SEC East teams.
2 common opponents: South Carolina (5 all-time meetings) and Kentucky (5 all-time meetings)
Although Missouri has met Vanderbilt the most out of any SEC East school, Missouri and South Carolina have something even better in common. Columbia, South Carolina and Columbia, Missouri are the homes of these two institutions and that makes the Mayor’s Cup a rival. As mentioned above I love a good border war and Missouri-Kentucky share a roughly 60 mile stretch that makes a border war possible.
Ole Miss-Western Division
2 common opponents: Vanderbilt (89 all-time meetings) and Georgia (45 all-time meetings)
The Ole Miss-Vanderbilt rivalry is the most played such rival for each school amongst SEC schools. After Vanderbilt and Tennessee, Georgia has played Ole Miss the most and since Tennessee is maxed out on cross division rivals Rebels and Dawgs it is.
South Carolina-Eastern Division
2 common opponents: Missouri (5 all-time meetings) and Arkansas (22 all-time meetings)
The Mayor’s Cup is the reason for making the South Carolina-Mizzou game permanent. South Carolina and Arkansas were permanent rivals upon the Hogs joining the SEC in 1992 and the Hogs are South Carolina’s most played SEC West opponent.
2 common opponents: Alabama (96 all-time meetings) and Arkansas (17 all-time meetings)
As mentioned above the 3rd Saturday in October game is the reason we are all in this predicament. Tennessee shares a border with Arkansas, and a border war is what I like seeing in collegiate athletics.
Texas A&M-Western Division
2 common opponents: Georgia (5 all-time meetings) and Vanderbilt (1 all-time meeting)
Here’s the trouble when you add members with no history with teams from another division. Sure A&M has a long history with Arkansas and LSU but nothing really with SEC east teams. This is why Georgia and Vanderbilt get the Aggies.
2 common opponents: Ole Miss (89 all-time meetings) and Texas A&M (1 all-time meeting)
The Ole-Miss Vanderbilt game is one of the most played rivals in the SEC. The Commodores have only had a longer rivalry with a D-3 school named Sewanee who were both founding members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the Southern Conference, and the Southeastern Conference. By virtue of every other team having both cross division rivals, Vanderbilt will now play Texas A&M which makes sense because they are the westernmost school in each division.
This may never happen the way I am suggesting but I believe I have been fair to each member institution of the SEC and preserved most of the longest tenured rivalries in the conference.
Data for the game was researched using http://www.winsipedia.com/