This is the third part of my six-part series about how to legitimize the national championship in college football by turning the regular season into a long playoff. For more details about the format on a national scale, check out the first article by clicking here or my bleacher report archive.
As part of the new "playoff season structure," all of the Division I FBS will be divided into four super-conferences whose champions will compete in a national semifinal. (How does "Football Four" sound?)
A newly-formed SEC would be one of these new 32-team conferences whose champion will earn a spot in the Orange Bowl against the Midwestern Big 32 Conference champion.
How will this SEC be arranged?
The new SEC would maintain its Eastern and Western divisions, but they would each have 16 teams by adding some ACC, Sun Belt, Conference USA schools, and Louisville.
On paper this seems to be the strongest of the four superconferences. Below includes the breakdown of the new SEC and predicted winners of the bracket based on early season results.
South Florida Group: Miami, FIU, FAU, South Florida—A Miami versus South Florida rivalry can emerge from annual first-round battles as they will be the dominant teams in the pool. Florida Atlantic and Florida International will most likely fight to stay out of the SEC cellar.
Predicted Winners: Miami and South Florida
North Florida Group: Florida State, Florida, Central Florida, *Jacksonville State—A strong group that raises the stakes of Florida State versus Florida. Also with the chance to play Florida State and Florida annually, Central Florida should be able to improve its recruiting to be competitive.
Predicted Winners: Florida and Florida State
Winners of these pools play against each other for Florida championship.
Predicted Winner: Miami
Georgia/South Carolina Region: Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, South Carolina—One of the toughest first-round pools in the nation with a four programs being BCS schools. The Georgia and South Carolina pool lacks the cupcakes of some other groups making every matchup in the first round of conference play competitive.
Predicted Winners: South Carolina and Clemson
Tennessee Region: Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, Memphis, Vanderbilt—With Tennessee down, this pool becomes a lot more evenly matched among all four teams. However, if the Volunteers can ever turn around their current troubles, they can potentially dominate the first round on a regular basis.
Predicted Winners: Tennessee and Vanderbilt
Winner of the two pools play in Deep South championship.
Predicted Winner: South Carolina
Alabama Region: Alabama, Auburn, UAB, Troy—This is one of the nation's strongest first-round pools. Alabama and Auburn are national powers while UAB and Troy are underrated non-BCS programs. The Iron Bowl will basically be the battle of the Alabama champion and a sweet-16 spot due to the weakness of Mississippi football.
Predicted Winners: Alabama and Auburn
Mississippi Region: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, UL Lafayette—Southern Miss is the most consistent program in the region with 16-straight winning seasons, while the SEC Mississippi schools have rarely been competing for SEC West championships. UL Lafayette is a close by filler to even out the region. However, with three relatively balanced Mississippi schools, it should be a pretty competitive field.
Predicted Winners: Mississippi State and Southern Miss
Winners of these pools face off in Mississippi/Alabama championship.
Predicted Winner: Alabama
Louisiana Region: LSU, Tulane, UL Monroe, Louisiana Tech—This region is basically LSU and a bunch of cupcakes as LSU dominates the state in football with no BCS conference in-state rival.
Predicted winner: LSU and Louisiana Tech
Kentucky Region: Kentucky, Louisville, Bowling Green, Western Kentucky—This is by far the weakest division of the SEC, basically giving LSU a spot in the sweet-16. However, the Kentucky versus Louisville rivalry will have a playoff implications. On the other hand, this would be a pretty strong basketball pool.
Predicted Winners: Kentucky and Louisville
Winners of these pools face off in the Kentucky/Louisiana championship.
Predicted Winner: LSU
SEC East Championship: Miami defeats South Carolina.
SEC West Championship: Alabama defeats LSU.
SEC Championship (Sugar Bowl): Alabama defeats Miami.
Overall, the SEC is a strong conference. The SEC West, however, sets up very favorably for LSU and the Alabama schools to advance deep into the SEC playoffs. The SEC East is significantly stronger than the SEC West and the Florida pools could help create and revive some interesting rivalries (Florida State-Miami, Miami-Florida, Florida State-Florida, UCF-Florida, Miami-USF).