The SEC has proved to be the dominant conference in college football over the last 20 years. In that span 11 national championships have been claimed in the conference, primarily through Alabama, LSU, Florida and Auburn.
It’s proved to be the premier conference in punching out players to the NFL. Of the nine college programs to reach triple digits in NFL draft picks since 2000, four (LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Florida) reside in the SEC. Eight programs in the conference have seen at least 10 first round draft picks over the last 20 years.
But what if the conferences were to be completely realigned? What could or should that even look like?
On Monday, Sports Illustrated national writer Pat Forde released his “America, Realigned” piece, outlining a different look to the college football conferences. In this completely hypothetical exercise, Forde formed 10 conferences consisting of 12 teams each.
The goal, making each conference as equal as possible while also keeping the conferences close in geographical distance.
Here is the conference Forde came up with for LSU, including some regular SEC foes as well as some interesting in-state options.
SUN BELT CONFERENCE
Mississippi State (Texas A&M)
Arkansas State (Tulsa)
Louisiana Tech (Baylor)
Southern Miss (North Texas)
Louisiana-Lafayette (Texas Tech)
The three blue bloods in this hypothetical conference would continue to be LSU, Alabama and Auburn. All three have stood atop the SEC West for the past four years and that trend will continue, though Mike Leach's addition to Mississippi State and Lane Kiffin's addition to Ole Miss could throw an entertaining wrinkle into the conference.
Every LSU fan already knows the yearly SEC opponents the Tigers take on in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss and Texas A&M. In this hypothetical conference reorganization, Forde keeps LSU’s rivalry with Florida as the pinnacle "non-conference" matchup each year between the two programs.
Some matchups would likely stay the same for the Tigers in the realignment conference. Alabama, Mississippi State and Auburn would all remain yearly matchups but some interesting rivalries could be developed and revived.
Tulane and Memphis are two that would, at the very least, make for some entertaining outings. Memphis is coming off of arguably its best season in program history, going 12-1 in the regular season before losing to Penn State in the Cotton Bowl 53-39. Coach Mike Norvell took the Florida State head coaching vacancy before the bowl game so the program will be adjusting to new coach Ryan Silverfield.
The Green Wave would be a fun, in-state battle for LSU in this hypothetical conference, especially with Willie Fritz at the helm. Fritz has led Tulane to back-to-back winning seasons and even had the Green Wave on the cusp of a top-25 ranking early in 2019 after a 5-1 start.
But, as would be the case with any realignment, there would be a few teams that are regular opponents that wouldn't be on the schedule. The first one that comes to mind is Texas A&M.
LSU has had its way with the Aggies since their insertion to the SEC in 2012. The two have faced each other every season since 2011, claiming eight of the nine meetings, most recently a 50-7 spanking to close the 2019 regular season in spectacular fashion.
If LSU were to play this schedule in 2020, facing all 11 conference opponents plus the matchup with Florida, a similar outcome to its season would be in store. The only major non-conference opponent the Tigers wouldn't have to face would be Texas.
A 10-2 or 9-3 record would likely be the most likely outcome with the Crimson Tide, Gators and Auburn Tigers providing the most difficult matchups.
Again, this is an exercise that would never happen and though it wouldn't change much about LSU's current slate of tough SEC opponents, the addition of some local schools would make for a fun twist to the schedule.