Last week, I looked at some suggested opponents for the schools in the SEC West. With the end of SEC Media Days, let's take a look at some possibilities for opponents for the teams in the East. While in the SEC West I looked for match-ups that had not been played often or during the regular season, many of my suggestions for the East are resuming series that have lapsed. With Florida, Georgia and South Carolina playing annual ACC rivalry games, and Kentucky adding a permanent ACC opponent in 2014, over half the teams in the East have much less wiggle room for out-of-conference scheduling than their Western brethren. Nonetheless, this is a hypothetical discussion, so let's have some fun.
With Florida's reputation for not leaving the state of Florida for non-conference games, it is not surprising that they have not had many non-bowl match-ups against the blue bloods of college football, including Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Oklahoma. Surprisingly, the Gators have, in fact, gone to the West Coast to play at both UCLA and Southern California, but the last of those away games was in 1983. The ideal "Power 5" for Florida would be Washington. The Huskies would offer the longest road trip the Gators could play against a "Power 5" opponent and both teams generally offer above-average football teams, setting up a decent game on the field.
While most young coaches coming through the coaching ranks would be happy to only coach at three different schools in 10 years, Mark Richt's coaching tenure of 30 years has remarkably only taken him to three destinations. With the exception of a one-year stint at East Carolina, all of Richt's remaining seasons have been spent in either Tallahassee or Athens. Richt was once considered a virtual coach in waiting for the Seminoles, but with both programs relatively stable (at worst), Richt would likely be welcomed back to Tallahassee with a similar vigor to that of an alumnus. With the geographic proximity of the two schools, Florida State-Georgia offers an attractive match-up that has not been played in the modern era of Florida State football. The two schools have met nine times (in regular-season games), but not since 1965.
Over the last 20 years, the addition of Louisville as a permanent opponent for Kentucky has given them a non-conference rival. The Cardinals' move to the ACC will offer a fourth ACC opponent scheduled on a permanent basis for SEC East teams and has been moved to the last week of the regular season for the foreseeable future. One casualty of the Kentucky-Louisville series was the long-standing series Kentucky played against Indiana (formerly the Bourbon Barrel until that moniker was retired in 1999 after the alcohol related death of a Kentucky player). While some rivalry games nationally have ended as a result of realignment (Texas-Texas A&M, Missouri-Kansas, Nebraska-Oklahoma), recently Kentucky and Indiana have not been scheduling basketball games because they can not agree on venues. It's time for the two schools, which are only separated by 180 miles, to come up with a contract to resume their series both on the hard court and football field.
Missouri and Kansas' history goes much deeper than simply as sports rivals. However, the loss of rivalries like this are one of the worst aspects of conference realignment. Hopefully, after the dust of realignment settles, Missouri and Kansas can come to an agreement to continue the second most played series in college football.
With the Gamecocks' tenure as a member of the ACC and independent, South Carolina has a long history with many of the schools in the ACC territory. With their long history with North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest and other ACC schools, it's difficult to narrow down a single opponent for South Carolina to resume a series against. Conversely, South Carolina has never played Michigan State, including bowl games. Both teams have been in the ascension over the past few seasons and would offer an intriguing inter-regional match-up.
Tennessee's non-conference scheduling has been unique for SEC schools in that the Volunteers have been extremely willing to schedule Pac-12 (or 10) schools. Tennessee's 36 games against Pac-12 teams is more than the Vols have played against Big Ten and Big 12 teams combined (17 and 15, respectively). One Pac-12 team that Tennessee played at a neutral site is Colorado. The Buffalos and Volunteers met in the 1990 Kickoff Classic in Anaheim, Calif., ending in a tie. As awful as ties were in college football, traveling cross country for a neutral site, season-opening tie seems like an injustice that needs to be corrected.
Over the last decade, Vanderbilt has been the fourth SEC team to play a long-term series with an ACC team by playing Wake Forest as their season-ending game in six of the last seven seasons. While not a long-time rivalry, the Wake Forest match-up offered both schools a game they felt they could win every year against another power conference school, while pairing schools with similar academic profiles and color schemes. With the end of that series, perhaps it's time for Vanderbilt to start a series with Stanford. Over the last decade, Stanford's program has been transformed from a middling Pac-12 program to a national power. As Vanderbilt strives to the same improvement, an annual benchmark against Stanford might be a solid way to forge a cross country rivalry.