What If ... Mizzou Were Already In The SEC (Intro)?

Mizzou in the SEC in the early 1990s? Good luck with that, Bob Stull.

(It's What If season, evidently, as I'm unleashing a different kind of What If series at Football Study Hall today as well.)

If you are a long-time reader, you knew this series was coming. To gauge the impact of something on the future, I tend to look at how things would have been affected in the past. We've heard about how the SEC is a major step up in football competition, and we know it will represent a significant change for Mizzou in terms of both football culture and rivalry. So to get a read for just how much things might change, we are going to flash back. And since Mizzou's move to the SEC a) has actually happened (unlike certain old "What If ... Big Ten" pieces) and b) is a really, really big deal, we're going to take this thing back a long way.

In 1992, Arkansas and South Carolina began play in a 12-team SEC. It was the first conference with two divisions and a championship game. As we saw from the recent The Play That Changed College Football documentary, this was an enormous change. The SEC nearly lost a national title contender in its very first year with a championship game, and in general, quite a few people were incredibly resistant to this sort of change. For this series, however, we're going to pretend the change was even bigger. Instead of stopping at 12 teams, the SEC went ahead and added Texas A&M and Missouri as well.

Now, we know this probably wouldn't have played out this way. (After all, it didn't in real life.) Missouri's football program was in shambles, and in 1992, simply having TV markets in your state wasn't much of a draw. With football still the primary driver of change, Mizzou didn't exactly have much to offer. But in new, Alternate 1992, they were invited nonetheless. They just were.

The conference's new alignment represented an almost seminal moment in college football's history. Other 'super conferences' adopted the 12-team, divisional format, including the Big 12, ACC, MAC and, recently, the Big Ten and Pac-12. The point of this series will be to gauge how Mizzou may have fared over the years, but before we get to that, I can't help myself: let's think about what this move would have meant for the college football landscape as a whole.

  • Instead of moving to 12 teams, the benchmark would have potentially been set at 14. The scheduling is messier, but there is no artificial barrier at 12 teams anymore.
  • The SWC has now lost two major programs and fallen to seven teams overall, and the Big 8 is now the Big 7 again. Think about what this may have meant. There is the distinct possibility that these two conferences would have merged as whole entities. Big 14 North: the remaining Big 8 teams; Big 14 South: the remaining SWC teams. Rice, SMU, TCU and Houston: still major conference teams. Congratulations, Rice! (It's also possible that the Big 8 could have moved to bring in teams like BYU, Air Force and Colorado State and attempted to move to 10-12 teams. Same with the SWC and programs like UTEP or New Mexico.)
  • Around this same time, eastern independents were jostling for position. Before Florida State agreed to join the ACC, there were rumors of a larger, more interesting Big East; plus, there was the specter of a potential Metro Conference for football that would include seemingly every major population base in the Eastern Time Zone. Though the 16-team proposal included South Carolina (and therefore was no longer realistic), it isn't hard to envision a 14-team Metro coming to fruition, even if Florida State were to still go to the ACC.

    Metro North: Boston College, Cincinnati, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, West Virginia
    Metro South: East Carolina, Louisville, Memphis State, Miami, Southern Miss, Tulane, Virginia Tech

    Without FSU and South Carolina, this conference is lacking a bit; instead, it is basically what would become the Big East, plus a few more southern schools that would end up in Conference USA. With the SEC going all the way to 14 teams, it is quite possible that this may have come to fruition, with Miami and an emerging Virginia Tech team anchoring the South while a revolving door of interesting teams takes turns leading the North. (That, or the ACC may have been more aggressive and pursued programs like Miami, B.C. or Virginia Tech earlier than they eventually did.)
  • When the WAC moved to 16 teams in the mid-1990s, it happened in part because of three SWC teams that became available -- Rice, SMU and TCU. With those three in a Big 14, the WAC potentially only moves to 12 or 14 teams. And without cultural differences like Rice-Fresno State, such a conference may have had a higher potential chance for survival.

So really, an SEC move to 14 teams may have spurred more major realignment changes to happen sooner. By the mid-1990s, we could have had a conference alignment that looked something like this:

SEC (14 teams)

East: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
West: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M

(It's also possible that, since you wouldn't be adding Mizzou and A&M to preexisting divisions, then something could have been drawn up that made a little more geographic sense.)

ACC (9)

Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia, Wake Forest

(Would there be extra pressure to at least move to 10 or 12 teams? And who would make the cut, with Miami still in major "rogue program" mode and Virginia Tech not yet emerging as a major program? Move north with B.C., Pitt and Syracuse?)

Big 10 (11)

Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

(Would there be extra pressure to at least move to 12 teams at this point? Would the Big Ten care?)

Big 14 (14)

North: Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
South: Baylor, Houston, Rice, SMU, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech

Metro (14)

Metro North: Boston College, Cincinnati, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, West Virginia
Metro South: East Carolina, Louisville, Memphis State, Miami, Southern Miss, Tulane, Virginia Tech

Pac-10 (10)

Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

WAC (14)

East: Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Tulsa, UTEP, Wyoming
West: BYU, Fresno State, Hawaii, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah

(And you know Boise State would eventually move into this conference once they were established.)

There would have been no Conference USA, really -- most of it would have either been absorbed by the WAC or Metro. So instead of (eventually) 120 or so FBS teams landing in 11 conferences, it may be something more like nine.

But I digress. Significantly. In the next post, it's time to play some (fake) games. Here is what you should know about Missouri's SEC schedules for 1992 and beyond:

  • Because of the presence of 11-game schedules, there is just no way the SEC would have even thought about nine-game conference schedules. Eight games it is. That means exactly what it means now (for at least a few years): six division games, one permanent inter-division rival, and one rotating home-and-home with the other six schools.
  • Missouri plays Kansas in non-conference every year. They just do. This is my imaginary world, and I can do what I want.
  • Missouri's permanent rival is Arkansas, not Texas A&M. To this point, Mizzou has no connection to A&M, so there is no natural tie there. Instead, we go with geography. And the Hog hate feels so good.

So in the next installment of this series, Mizzou will take on the following 1992 and 1993 schedules:

1992 (preseason rankings included)
9/12: at Illinois
9/19: No. 4 Florida
9/26: at No. 14 Georgia
10/3: Marshall
10/10: Kentucky
10/17: No. 7 Texas A&M (Homecoming)
10/24: at No. 21 Tennessee
10/31: at South Carolina
11/7: Vanderbilt
11/14: at Arkansas
11/28: Kansas

1993
9/11: Illinois
9/18: at No. 4 Texas A&M
9/25: No. 13 Georgia
10/2: SMU
10/9: at No. 9 Florida
10/16: South Carolina (Homecoming)
10/23: at Vanderbilt
10/30: No. 10 Tennessee
11/6: at Kentucky
11/13: Arkansas
11/27: at Kansas

Good luck, Bob Stull.

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