Bigger isn’t always better, and new isn’t always preferred over tradition or history. It would be wise to remember that when thinking about the future of college football. Whether its athletic directors and presidents obsessed over immediate cash while ignoring long term sustainability, or media folks obsessed with erasing what made the game so great in the first place.
Sports Illustrated writer Pat Forde recently came up with a proposal to completely remake college sports. I don’t intend to write a rebuttal to Forde, but rather to take his lead and willingness to think about making major changes to the current alignment and put my own spin on it.
His remaking of college football was meant to “spread the wealth,” but my objective is too primarily make the game better and more exciting, while also attempting to make it more geographically sound.
My objective is to give a “promotion” to some of the Group of Six teams that are ready for it, but not at the expense of creating watered down leagues.
My objective is to restore some of the tradition of the game, which means bringing back a couple of conferences and moving teams back to where they belong while also moving around enough teams into new leagues to make things interesting and create new rivalries.
A few overall notes before we begin:
*** I am against Notre Dame joining a league, but for the interest of discussion and debate, I am putting the Fighting Irish in a conference.
*** Every major conference will play nine league games. Each team will play the five schools in its division plus four crossover games. Ideally, one crossover rivalry will be established with each team, and that game will be played every season as part of the league slate, like we see with Alabama and Tennessee.
*** It’s impossible to divvy up teams in a balanced manner based on where programs are today. One of the objectives was to move some traditional powers around in a way that will give them an opportunity for a “rebirth,” which in turn would hopefully create a deeper game and go away from the last decade of CFB being dominated by a smaller number of schools.
*** Teams can only play one game against a FCS opponent every three years. Any FCS games played outside of that framework will not be counted towards their win-loss record when looking at their postseason resume.
*** I realize having leagues with numbers that don’t match the number of teams might be annoying, but that’s a tradition I am not willing to give up.
Here is how I would remake college football:
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
North Carolina Tar Heels
Duke Blue Devils
Appalachian State Mountaineers
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Florida State Seminoles
NC State Wolfpack
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Analysis: If Notre Dame is going to join a conference it will be the ACC, so that’s where they will be placed. Adding Notre Dame gives the conference a major shot in the arm. The ACC will go back to its original form plus Florida State, which means returning Maryland to the conference. Notre Dame, Navy and Appalachian State would all be added. By putting the Midshipmen in the league it means one of Notre Dame’s rivals will now be in the same division and on the schedule every year, which gives the Irish one more non-conference slot to work with.
From a Notre Dame perspective, it will retain its rivalries against USC (non-conference) and Navy (conference), but it adds a new annual rivalry game with Florida State, which could be epic.
BIG TEN CONFERENCE
Ohio State Buckeyes
Michigan State Spartans
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Illinois Fighting Illini
Analysis: I added a couple of quality MAC teams to the conference, and both are in the East, which is much stronger than the West. The West isn’t as good at the top, but without the former MAC teams it’s also deeper. A key here was getting rid of programs like Maryland and Rutgers, who had no business coming to the Big Ten, and putting Nebraska back where they belong (see below). I contemplated leaving the Big Ten at ten teams (crazy thought, right?), but if we are going to keep the power conferences uniform and also respect better geographical considerations this makes a lot of sense.
South Carolina Gamecocks
South Florida Bulls
Alabama Crimson Tide
Mississippi State Rebels
Analysis: I did quite a bit of shaking up of the SEC. The East is relatively intact, but I moved Vanderbilt to the West because it makes more sense geographically, especially with South Florida being added to the East. I’m interested to see how the Bulls can recruit with the SEC behind them. In the West, adding a program like UAB made sense to me geographically. There’s a pretty big-time program missing from the West, but I’ll get to that later.
Texas A&M Aggies
North Texas Mean Green
TCU Horned Frogs
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Analysis: Simply restoring the SWC to its former self was good, but not good enough, and that’s why I added LSU. It’s the old SWC with some major oomph. It makes sense geographically, it takes away a great program from the loaded SEC and adds another power program to the SWC, which needed it. LSU has beaten Texas A&M eight out of nine games when the two were in the SEC, but there were some epic games, and the rivalry would be enhanced in the SWC. After watching Texas and LSU play last year I said to myself, “I want more of that!”
BIG 12 CONFERENCE
Kansas State Wildcats
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Iowa State Cyclones
Air Force Falcons
Colorado State Rams
Analysis: Getting the Big 12 back to 12 teams while also rebuilding the SWC was a challenge, but I like how this shapes up, at least in time. This is one alignment that is accepting that one division (North) won’t be strong right now, but returning Nebraska and Colorado is geared towards helping them rebuild and get back to being power programs. Adding the Utah/BYU combination should be good for both programs, and adds a quality rivalry to go with OU/OSU and Nebraska/Colorado.
Bringing back the SWC and restoring the Big 12 is also designed to create more competition for the SEC.
PAC 12 CONFERENCE
Washington State Cougars
California Golden Bears
Boise State Broncos
Oregon State Beavers
Arizona State Sun Devils
San Diego State Aztecs
Analysis: There were simply too many teams up north to keep this purely geographical, so I put Stanford in the South because I like their rivalry with USC. The Cardinal can still have their annual game against California, but it will now be a crossover game in the league. Adding Boise State and San Diego State while removing Utah and Colorado doesn’t weaken the league at all, and it makes a lot more sense geographically.
BIG EAST CONFERENCE
Penn State Nittany Lions
Boston College Eagles
Virginia Tech Hokies
West Virginia Mountaineers
UCF Golden Knights
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Analysis: The Big East needs to come back for football and for basketball, but going back to the old Big East doesn’t work for football. Penn State is needed in the Big East to give it some power potential, and that’s also why UCF was added. This is another grouping where the hope is that getting Miami, Louisville and Virginia Tech back to the Big East helps them get back to form, especially Miami and Virginia Tech. This league will need some time to grow, but there’s potential for it become quite strong and challenge the Big Ten.
In part two of this breakdown I will use the new leagues to create a better postseason that involves a restoration of the bowl system with a playoff.
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!