Texas has been ripe for the picking.
The college football world was set ablaze earlier this week when it was revealed that both Oklahoma and Texas are looking to make the move to the SEC. Conference realignment has been an ongoing discussion over the years, but the Big 12's two premier programs joining the Southeastern Conference? That is a very big deal.
The move would be immense in terms of money and the College Football Playoff; even with an expanded format in the works. For Ryan Day and the Buckeyes, winning the Big Ten on an annual basis will continue to put Ohio State in the playoff. And the expansion should allow for that to take place even with a mark in the loss column.
From a recruiting perspective, things could get a bit interesting. The Buckeyes have landed an absurd amount of talent from the Lone Star State with players like J.K. Dobbins, Baron Browning, Jeff Okudah, and the five-star wide receiver duo of Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. It certainly hasn't slowed down for the 2022 class with the nation's top prospect and two other Texans already in the commitment column.
Charlie Strong and Tom Herman did the rest of the country a favor. Programs like Alabama, LSU, and Ohio State made their second homes in one of America's most talent-rich states. Steve Sarkisian is looking to change that in a big way, but right now zero of the state's top-15 prospects are committed to Texas. We're still five months from the early signing period, but that's a serious problem for the Longhorns.
Ohio State has shown time after time that it's more than capable of winning recruiting battles against the SEC power programs. Those battles have been won from coast to coast and even in the heart of SEC country at times.
But would the potential additions of Texas and Oklahoma shake things up a bit for prospects in the Lone Star State? I think there are a few key points to remember with this:
- The SEC is still rightfully viewed as the nation's top football conference.
- The whole "it just means more" mantra is a very real thing for some high school prospects playing in the SEC and Big 12 footprints.
J.K. Dobbins, Jeff Okudah, and Garrett Wilson had the opportunity to play for any program in America. They all made the decision to travel 1,200+ miles to Columbus instead of siding with the in-state Longhorns or any of the SEC powers. Would the University of Texas adding a little SEC logo have made any difference whatsoever? Absolutely not.
But there are bound to be some players in the state who view the SEC differently, and perhaps Texas' inclusion in the conference could ultimately factor into their decisions. In the 2021 recruiting class, a pair of Longhorn legacies from Fort Worth signed with Alabama. Would the Horns have landed five-star tackle Tommy Brockermeyer and his four-star brother James had they not been in the lowly Big 12? Or was that simply Nick Saban doing Nick Saban things?
Texas A&M joined the SEC back in 2012. Since that time, the Aggies have a higher win percentage (68%) than the Horns (58%) all the while playing in a far superior league. The changing of conferences has also provided TAMU with a big boost on the recruiting trail.
Still, the University of Texas is the state's flagship institution, and the overall tradition and prestige in Austin are superior to what's in College Station. Texas's recruiting ceiling absolutely should be higher than that of the Aggies. The Longhorns leaving a relatively weak conference to join forces with the country's best could potentially give Steve Sarkisian a bit of a boost.
However, there are some key counterpoints that go along with this:
- Texas is about an 8-4 team in the Big 12. Does anyone think that's going to improve in the SEC? Are the state's top prospects really going to flock to a Longhorn program that may very well be struggling to win more than six games?
- Ohio State will continue to run the Big Ten and will be one of the favorites to make the playoff each and every year. Winning is good for recruiting. Playoff appearances are even better.
We'll see how the Sarkisian experiment goes down in Austin. Perhaps we're underestimating him a bit, but there's no reason to think Texas is anywhere close to getting on Oklahoma's level in the Big 12. As for the SEC? Right now the Longhorns are probably closer to Tennessee than they are to Alabama or Georgia.
So, would a Texas move to the SEC shake things up a bit on the trail? Absolutely. But Ryan Day will continue to heavily recruit the Lone Star State and all of the other talent-rich regions. It may take a bit more work and resources moving forward, but the latest realignment news is hardly a death blow to Ohio State's recruiting efforts in the state of Texas.
Or maybe the Aggies get their way and this all ends up being a moot point.