Here are 8 schools SEC should consider if it desires more expansion

Blake Toppmeyer John Adams
USA TODAY NETWORK

The Big Ten landed a haymaker in the conference realignment sweepstakes by adding Southern Cal and UCLA. Since then, speculation has been rampant about further moves, but no dominos have fallen.

The SEC may be content with 16 teams, after its additions Oklahoma and Texas join the conference in 2025. For now, anyway.

But history tells us to always be on the lookout for further expansion and realignment. 

On this edition of "SEC Football Unfiltered," a podcast from the USA TODAY Network, hosts Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams each identify four schools that the SEC should pursue if it seeks further expansion.

They offer a few parameters for their selections. No. 1, Big Ten teams were ineligible for selection. The Big Ten, like the SEC, is sitting pretty with its media rights money. It's not in danger of losing schools. If anything, it will grow more. Also, Notre Dame was not eligible for selection, because Toppmeyer and Adams believe the Irish will either remain independent or join the Big Ten.

Also, they made their selections in snake-draft style, meaning that each school could only be selected by one host.

[ WANT MORE OPINIONS FROM BLAKE TOPPMEYER AND JOHN ADAMS?: Subscribe to the SEC Unfiltered newsletter for exclusive columns each week ]

Here are the picks.

Clemson

(Toppmeyer's first pick)

Clemson is an SEC school residing in the ACC. Simple as that. The Tigers would be a natural fit given their location, culture and football pedigree. Other than Notre Dame, Clemson is the top football brand that's not a current or future member of the Big Ten and SEC. The Tigers would be good for business and for the conference's strength.

Florida State

(Adams' first pick)

Like Clemson, the Seminoles have an SEC-like fan base. And they also national championship potential when the right coach is on the job. Bobby Bowden won two national championships there and Jimbo Fisher won one.

Oklahoma State

(Adams' second pick)

So what if it plays in Oklahoma’s shadow? So does everybody else in the Big 12. The Cowboys haven’t had a losing season since 2005 and have averaged 9.4 victories per season for the past 14 seasons. And since much of the SEC’s popularity is based on rivalries, the Oklahoma State-Oklahoma “Bedlam” would fit right in.

North Carolina

(Toppmeyer's second pick)

Consider this: The SEC Network is headquartered in Charlotte, but the conference includes no teams from North Carolina. Time to change that. North Carolina is a growing state, and the Tar Heels are a bigtime brand. Better known for basketball, yes, but capable of solid seasons in football.

Virginia Tech

(Toppmeyer's third pick)

Like North Carolina, adding Virginia Tech would expand the SEC's footprint into a neighboring state while not betraying the conference's well-manicured identity. Watch the Hokies enter Lane Stadium while Metallica's "Enter Sandman" plays and the crowd goes bananas and tell me this school doesn't belong in the SEC.

Baylor

(Adams' third pick)

The Bears have won 10 or more games six times in the past 11 years, won a national championship in men’s basketball in 2020-21 and maintained a women’s basketball dynasty under former coach Kim Mulkey.

Miami

(Adams' fourth pick)

The Hurricanes can compete for a national title if they can consistently recruit the best players in South Florida. Like Florida State, they just need the right coach. Maybe, Mario Cristobal could be that coach.  

UCF

(Toppmeyer's fourth pick) 

UCF didn't become an FBS program until 1996, so adding the Knights would be a stretch for a conference built on tradition. But this is a forward-thinking selection. UCF's enrollment tops 70,000, and its fan base will grow. The Knights (bound for the Big 12 in 2023) have flourished as a Group of Five program in recent seasons. In time, they might not look out of place in the SEC.

Final tally

Toppmeyer: Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, UCF

Adams: Florida State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Miami

Also considered: West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina State, Louisville

Later in the episode

  • Toppmeyer and Adams critique the USA TODAY Network's top-10 ranking of SEC quarterbacks. Those rankings have Bryce Young, Hendon Hooker, Will Levis, Stetson Bennett IV and KJ Jefferson in the top five. Spencer Rattler (ranked No. 6) and Will Rogers (ranked No. 7) were underrated by voters, the hosts say.
    Toppmeyer's top five SEC QBs: Young, Jefferson, Hooker, Rattler and Rogers
    Adams' top five: Young, Hooker, Rattler, Rogers and Jefferson

Where to listen to SEC Football Unfiltered

Apple

Spotify

iHeart

Google

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is a senior columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. You can subscribe to their podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered.