Almost anyone talking says Texas A&M are fed up with being in a conference with the Longhorn prima donnas and is leaving the Big 12 - 2. The question is not if. The question is when and where to? The SEC is a natural. The Aggies have a history with both Arkansas and LSU. Based on what happened last year, it is apparent the attraction is mutual.
It is highly unlikely the SEC will add just one team. Unless a particularly juicy package could be put together, the odds are against the league adding four schools at one time. This means to balance A&M, the SEC will probably add one more team for now.
An incomplete list of candidates mentioned from time to time are:
North Carolina State
For political reasons Oklahoma will most likely not be allowed to go to a conference, which won't take Oklahoma State. If the SEC could get the Sooners, they may take Oklahoma State also. The negative of adding two teams from the same state, which is neither a large media market nor a recruiting hot bed, may more than offset the positive of adding the University of Oklahoma, one of the all time great programs in the NCAA.
North Carolina and North Carolina State present a similar problem as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. North Carolina is a substantially larger TV market (9.5 million population v 3.6 million) and a deeper recruiting pool than Oklahoma, it still presents the downside of two schools in the same state. Then there is the issue, do the Tarheels and Wolfpack want the SEC? My guess is both schools are more than happy with the ACC and would want way more than the SEC is willing to give to make the move.
The chances of adding Georgia Tech or Florida State are almost zero for two obvious reasons:
1. Adding a second team in Georgia or Florida doesn't enlarge the SEC's media footprint or enlarge the recruiting pool.
2. Conference schools already in those states, the University of Florida and the University of Georgia, will likely resist giving an instate recruiting rival the cachet of being in the SEC. All else equal for most kids, playing football in the SEC is much more prestigious than either the ACC or Big East.
Before anyone gets excited and points out that Tennessee and Vanderbilt are in the same state as are Alabama and Auburn, I want to point out those four schools were charter members of the SEC. None of the four is likely to leave the conference in the foreseeable future.
Virginia Tech would be a good fit for the SEC. They would allow the SEC into the Washington DC market and the fertile recruiting grounds of the Virginia Tidewater area. Lane Stadium is within decent driving distance of Kentucky and Tennessee. Florida is closer than Miami. All the SEC schools except LSU and the Mississippi schools are closer than Boston College.
As with UNC and NC St, the question is does VA Tech want the SEC? Barring an offer they can't refuse, Virginia Tech is not likely to make the jump to the SEC. And is the SEC willing to make such an offer?
1. The Hokies spent the best part of at least three decades trying to get into the ACC. It took intervention by the state governor to finally get VPI into the conference. Naturally the Virginia Cavaliers would probably be more than happy to see the Hokies go.
2. Virginia Tech is a very big fish in a relatively small football pond. Are they willing to trade that for being just another good team among several other very good teams?
West Virginia has little chance of being invited into the SEC. Despite being competitive, the Mountaineers bring neither a TV market nor a deep recruiting pool to the table. Nor do they have the prestige of an Oklahoma.
The SEC would probably gladly accept Maryland in the east to match the Aggies in the west. Like Virginia Tech, the Terrapins will not only get the SEC into the Washington DC market only more so. Additionally they would bring in Baltimore and provide a foothold in Philadelphia and Delaware.
The same question must be answered with Maryland as with the other ACC schools. Would MD want to make the move? Maryland is a charter member of the ACC. They are reasonably competitive in the ACC. Would they be competitive in the SEC? Or would they join Vanderbilt and Kentucky fighting to stay out of the SEC east cellar? As with Virginia Tech, the Terps will probably need an offer they can't refuse. Would the SEC make the offer? Travel is another problem for Maryland. The closet SEC opponents, are over over 400 miles away. Texas A&M would be around 1,500 miles.
If any of the three ACC schools mentioned can be lured away, it is Virginia Tech. The Hokies have the least time in the ACC and except for UVA are least tied to other schools in the conference.
The discussion brings us to Missouri. Adding Missouri would get the SEC into the St. Louis and Kansas City markets. Its 6 million population puts about midway between Oklahoma and North Carolina. While the state isn't a recruiting mecca it is not completely dearth of talent. Adding MO would cause a realignment of the SEC divisions. One scenario would be Alabama and Auburn moved to the East and Vanderbilt to the west, giving both divisions seven teams. Driving distance for most games would not be overly burdensome for division members.
With the Big 10 + 2 door apparently closed, Missouri would probably jump at a chance to get out of the Big 1 and little 9, which make up the unstable Big 12 - 2 and into the very stable SEC. Unlike the Big 12 - 2s convoluted system for distributing money, the SEC divides the riches equally among all members.
Based on the situation as it is today, if the SEC were to admit Texas A&M, the most likely matching school is Missouri. This is not to say Missouri would be the SEC's first choice. I'm sure the conference would rather take a school into the east to balance the Aggies. As stated, some of the schools in the east bring more to the table than Missouri. Further taking a team from the east would make scheduling much simpler and not force a realignment.