All week long, we've been looking back at how each SEC team looked 10 years ago. But how will things look 10 years from now? Realignment, expansion, it's all on the table. Our reporters gaze into the crystal ball, have some fun and take their best guesses on what the league will look like in 2026.
Edward Aschoff: Cherish these days, SEC fans, because in 10 years you won’t recognize your league.
Another wave of expansion will hit and with the College Football Playoff expanding to at least eight teams within the next decade (sooner rather than later if the NCAA is smart), the SEC will go to nine conference games. The league finally will get rid of divisions (you’re welcome, Auburn and Missouri) and crown its winner by having an outright champion.
What, no SEC title game? Well, once the playoff expands (thank you) and the SEC moves to nine conference games, coaches will let their athletic directors and presidents know that they aren’t going to want to play more than 12 games before the playoff. Makes sense, so you either eliminate a nonconference game or the championship games. Less nonconference games hurts the smaller schools and since championship games affect fewer teams, buh-bye.
Mega-conferences are all the rage, but don’t expect 20-team leagues. Twenty teams makes it nearly impossible for every team to see each other in four years. So get ready for 16-team leagues.
The SEC will go after North Carolina, and it’ll go after Texas. But with those schools tied to others that might not get the SEC approval, the SEC will nab Virginia Tech (an SEC favorite for a while) and Virginia. Between the two, you get academics and quality sports outside of football.
Get ready for change -- major change.
David Ching: There is no telling what the SEC will look like in 2026. Think of how much change we’ve seen in the last decade. Conference realignment. The addition of multiple Power 5 television networks -- and in our case, the SEC Network. A dominant run of eight national titles in 10 years: four by Alabama, two by Florida and one each by Auburn and LSU.
Will superconferences emerge? Maybe.
Will the SEC move to a nine-game annual conference schedule? I hope so, although the league’s coaches seem resistant to that idea.
Will the conference realign along true geographic boundaries? It would make sense, and there seems to be some interest around the league in that notion.
If Auburn shifted into the Eastern Division and Missouri -- one of the league’s westernmost campuses -- jumped to the West, it wouldn’t disturb much. Missouri is too new to have formed heated division rivalries, and as long as the Iron Bowl remains as a permanent cross-divisional game, Auburn’s schedule once again could feature rivalries that years ago highlighted the Tigers’ annual schedule. Auburn-Georgia remains a permanent rivalry to this day, but SEC fans of a certain age surely remember how Auburn-Tennessee and Auburn-Florida were annual matchups they would circle as soon as the schedules were released.
Flip-flopping Auburn and Mizzou would bring more balance to the divisions and reinstate some popular old rivalries. Win-win. Here’s hoping it happens.
Sam Khan Jr.: If the SEC were to expand, about 10 years from now is a fitting time frame. The Big 12's grant of rights expires at the completion of the 2024-25 season, and the ACC's expires at the end of 2026-27. I mention those two conferences because those are where the most likely expansion candidates would come from. The College Football Playoff's initial 12-year contract ends at the completion of the 2025-26 season and that's important because what the makeup of the playoff is (remain at four teams? Expand to eight or perhaps more?) ultimately would impact the conferences and their futures.
All that said, my guess is the SEC won't be too much different in 10 years than it is now. Expansion, while possible -- who wouldn't want to get their hands on the revenue SEC teams are getting? -- seems unlikely to me if for no other reason than there aren't too many teams in those aforementioned conferences that would be seeking a new conference home and would add significant value to the league as a whole. And if it doesn't make dollars, it doesn't make sense.
I think the changes the SEC could undergo would be much smaller in scale. By then, I think the SEC will have finally moved to nine conference games since three other Power 5 conferences are there now (Big 12, Pac-12 play nine, the Big Ten begins playing nine in 2016) and the SEC being at eight could become a difference-maker when comparing potential College Football Playoff contenders' resumes in the coming years (the Big Ten committed to nine conference games