Whether it’s conference expansion, division realignment or satellite camps, there’s plenty of discussion each year to get fans through the long wait until football returns. But the thought of division realignment does bring up an interesting topic.
The cross-division rivals within the SEC stir up a lot of drama in regards to weighing whether keeping the conferences traditional rivalries are worth being stuck with tough game every year instead of an on-going rotation.
Let’s take a look at what teams will be helped and hurt the most by the annual cross-division games in 2016:
- Ole Miss: The yearly contest against Vanderbilt traditionally has them with the most advantageous cross-division game, and this year is no different. The Commodores should be somewhat improved in Derek Mason’s third season at the helm, but even with it being a road game for Ole Miss, that should be a relatively easy win for Hugh Freeze’s guys this season.
- Mississippi State: The Bulldogs’ cross-division game is with Kentucky, and that should set up nicely for a Mississippi State team who replaces a lot of key players in 2016. The Wildcats still haven’t found a way to get over the hump under Mark Stoops, and Dan Mullen has done a phenomenal job in beating the teams he should beat during his time in Starkville.
- Texas A&M: The Aggies’ yearly meeting with South Carolina is pretty favorable for a Texas A&M team looking to silence a lot of doubters this fall. The Gamecocks have some talent, but first-year coach Will Muschamp will have a lot to figure out to make Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin wish there was someone else from the SEC East on his schedule.
- Alabama and Tennessee: The Crimson Tide have taken advantage of the struggling Volunteers in the last decade, but Nick Saban got a firsthand look at how things are changing when Tennessee nearly knocked off Alabama in Tuscaloosa. With the Crimson Tide traveling to Neyland Stadium this fall, the Third Saturday in October has the potential to be the SEC’s game of the year.
- Florida and LSU: In what’s possibly been the best cross-division rivalry of the last decade, the Gators and Tigers are at a huge disadvantage with the yearly contest against each other. On paper, Florida gets the short end of the stick with many experts picking LSU as national title contender, but regardless, both teams don’t get any favors when they line up across from one another.
- Auburn and Georgia: It’s hard to judge just how good both the Tigers and Bulldogs will be in 2016, so the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry may not be as tough for one of these opponents as it is in normal years. However, records often go out the window when these two teams battle it out, so no matter the year, Auburn and Georgia are certainly hurt by the cross-division rival format.