I live in Alabama and I so often hear Alabama and even some Auburn fans bitch and moan that Mississippi State doesn't belong in their Conference. Well I, a Mississippi State Alum conceed. Here's my plan. Bare with me as I set it up.
If the SEC wants to dream about something. Lets dream about expanding our scope and looking at quality schools who we (The SEC) might could entice. Texas, Oklahoma, Miami, Duke. I mention Duke not because I think they will come (we are dreaming, remember), but because they are the North Carolina team least inhibited by NC State/ACC politics, since they are private, but if they won't come try Wake Forrest where the same stuff applies. Also I would gladly take Virginia Tech over Miami to get Virginia in the fold if they would come. Those are my first thoughts on a balanced fit that would most enhance the SEC. Of course if we have to take A&M and OK State to get Texas and Oklahoma then so be it and forget the rest.
But then, where does that leave my Mississippi State Bulldogs and my not so favorite Rebels? We (State) would do better to try to align elsewhere. In my opinion, this would be an opportune time to leave as it is hard enough on us now, but what a great fit the Big XII would be. If we stay as currently constituted, this is what we (or Ole Miss) might get: A ten game SEC shedule that includes games against Alabama (likely Permanent oponent from New East div.), LSU, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ok State, Texas A&M, OleMiss and two rotating East Division schools would make it very difficult to pull out of the cellar, ever!
Id rather be in the new Big XII where we would be very competitive. I give my vote for winning over the Benjamins - $$$ any day and I hope State would too. After all, look at Southern Miss. They have thrived in Conference USA because they win, not because they get some big conference check. I know they would give their left nut to be in the SEC, but I'm just saying be careful what you wish for. You might just get to be Mississippi State. A proud institution, but athletically (well in football at least - the one that seems to matter) a proud looser.
On the other hand, some Ole Miss people propose a merger, that most would prefer to be a simple absorbtion of us by them (of couse, I would like it the other way around, so what?). I don't advocate that since the State of Mississippi would loose what is a much different and from my perspective, better institutional philosophy. Remember that 140 years or so ago the Grangers (Farmers Organization) lobbied congress to create state because they felt Ole Miss wasn't serving the whole State with the land grant they had already been given. Never mind all that Ante-bellum heritage and classism or other fanciful and counterproductive, notions that some Ole Miss supporters and detractors cling to. These things hurt Ole Miss, help State and Southern and would also be detrimental to a merger if the oportunity were not seized to foster a sea change in loyalties. I think loyalty to your institution need not look like loyalty to a failed past.
However, if real change was acceptable to The University of Mississippi, including some minor Name change like State University of Mississippi or the like, then I can see Mississippi having the most dominant of SEC programs (even more so if Southern would get on board), both academic and athletic. Unfortunately I see that as unlikely, so I am looking at it both way's to solve State's dilema and how the SEC would look like without State or with a merged State and Ole Miss. Ole Miss should get a little incentive when they realise that they will fare even worse in the conference without us assuming we are at least as successful as Southern has been in Conference USA.
State's exit from the SEC or a merger would leave a spot for West Virginia or any of the Universities already mentioned as well as others. This would expand the geography (and help make Kentucky fit, as does Virginia and North Carolina) even further. Many, many options to replace State or Ole Miss with though, including Florida State. I just don't think the SEC needs Florida State. New States would be more desirable for expansion.
Just my random thoughts. If I get some feedback I will work harder at making sense / complete and coherent thoughts. I really wrote this for State fans to comment on and later decided to get Ole Miss input. Please don't take offense, I mean no disrespect, only trying to get at the core issues and start some reasonable dialog. Hopefully i was not to hamfisted/lazy to do that here.