When the Southeastern Conference added two more members for the 2012-2013 athletic season, there were supposed to be many positive benefits for the league.
New major markets were added – notice all the big cities in Texas and Missouri. So, the television audience, and thereby revenues, would be increased.
Recruiting advantages were added, especially in the talent-rich Lone Star State … as if the SEC really needed any more advantages than they already have (weather, media exposure, national championships in so many sports).
Competition in non-football sports was added, specifically bringing in Missouri in basketball for the upcoming season.
And, more postseason bowl-eligible football teams would be added, producing more dollars for the conference and virtually insuring that the league would always meet its 10-team obligation to fill slots.
That last benefit should happen in most seasons. In fact, it probably will. But, at the mid-point of this first season with two new SEC members, that isn’t yet a certainty.
You can break it down into four categories:
Not Going to Happen:
Kentucky (1-6) – The Wildcats will probably have the nation’s top basketball recruiting class again this year. Unfortunately, we’re talking about football.
Auburn (1-5) – The Tigers will probably play in a postseason bowl again next season and in the seasons after. Unfortunately, we’re talking about the 2012 season.
Arkansas (3-4) – The Razorbacks will probably have a new head coach next year and a fresh start. Unfortunately, John L. Smith is the head coach now and games at South Carolina, at Mississippi State and against LSU are still on the schedule.
Will Definitely Be There:
Alabama (6-0) – Hard to see a regular season loss against this schedule, unless it happens in Baton Rouge. BCS bowl seems very likely.
Florida (6-0) – Already qualified with more wins ahead.
Georgia (5-1) – Game against the Gators looks like the only remaining regular season loss.
LSU (6-1) – Three tough ones in the next three games, but already qualified.
Mississippi State (6-0) – Toughest part of the schedule ahead, but who cares? They already have six wins.
South Carolina (6-1) – Despite disappointing narrow loss at LSU, Eastern Division title still in play.
Texas A&M (5-1) – Difficult games still ahead, but they play Sam Houston State … and they do have Johnny “Mr. Football” Manziel.
Tennessee (3-3) – When October ends, the Vols will have five losses. But, Tennessee does have an explosive offense and they play Troy, Missouri and Kentucky at home during their traditionally easy November schedule. Vanderbilt is the only away game. The Big Orange should be favored to win at least three of those.
That accounts for 11 teams with just eight qualified for the postseason. The ultimate outcome will be determined by three teams … the “Maybes.”
Ole Miss (4-3) – Surprisingly, the Rebels (oops, Black Bears) do still have a chance at this stage of the season. But, is it likely? Still to play are games at Arkansas, at Georgia, and at LSU, plus home games against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Arkansas and Vanderbilt are possible victories, but they likely have to win them both.
Missouri (3-4) – Kentucky and Syracuse are still on the schedule, but the Tigers still have to play at Florida, at Tennessee and at Texas A&M. They will have to win one of those.
Vanderbilt (2-4) – With just two wins, this one might seem unlikely, but the Commodores may have the best shot of the three teams. They host Auburn, UMass and Tennessee and play at against Kentucky, Ole Miss and Wake Forest. All six could be wins, but they must win four. An upset loss to Auburn on Saturday would seriously derail their chances.
In the long-term, all of the projected benefits from adding two new Southeastern Conference members will happen. The SEC, already the strongest athletic league in the country, will only get stronger. Ten conference teams will usually be playing into December and beyond.
But, in the short-term, at least from the postseason bowl perspective, there’s not yet a guarantee that getting more will avoid having less.