Saturday, March 28, 2009

Radical Realignment, take III

Rather than getting too depressed about the NCAA tournament (we made the sweet 16, after all, and that’s not so bad), I’m going to post my latest, and most impractical, take on rearranging college football. This one is what I thought of a few weeks ago, prompted by a blog post that hypothesized a 64-team NCAA football tournament. I wondered how to actually do it, and came to the conclusion that you needed to cut the regular season down to ten games (not 12, or especially 12 + a conference championship game) to make room for six rounds of playoffs. With the pretty much standard (except in the Big East and Pac 10) eight conference games, that would only leave two non-conference games, and that’s not enough. And no matter what the Big Ten does, a system that allows ties between teams that have never played is a problem anyway. So I figured let’s create 15 eight-team conferences. Like both of my previous plans, I’m largely keeping the ‘BCS/non-BCS’ split intact here, with 9 conferences made up of teams that are presently in BCS conferences, have played in BCS bowls, or have been in the top 15 recently (plus a pair of stragglers). And this time I’m going to explain a bit more about how I put them together, in the order that I did it.

I did eventually decide a 32-team playoff was more appropriate than a 64-team playoff, but you still need the smaller conferences and shorter schedules for that. 15 conference champions plus 17 at-large makes a nice bracket.

Big East

Boston College,  Connecticut,  Maryland,  Penn State,  Pitt,  Rutgers,  Syracuse,  West Virginia

This is pretty much the ‘Paterno Conference’ that never happened, except that it’s got UConn instead of Temple. Penn State and Maryland join the northeastern Big East schools, and Boston College returns to the Big East. Its recruiting base is Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Penn State is clearly the big dog in this conference, but every team has had ten-win seasons in the last fifteen years (yes, even Syracuse).


Clemson,  Duke,  North Carolina,  North Carolina State,  South Carolina,  Virginia,  Virginia Tech,  Wake Forest

Every team in this league is a current or former ACC member; South Carolina is the only one that’s not a current ACC school, and Virginia Tech the only one that’s not a founding member of the ACC. Putting all the schools in the Carolinas and Virginia together just makes sense. This league’s more than a little top-heavy, though; Virginia Tech probably dominates it.

Big Ten

Cincinnati,  Indiana,  Michigan,  Michigan State,  Notre Dame,  Ohio State,  Purdue,  Wisconsin

Putting the Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan schools together was obvious (even if Cincinnati is a newcomer to big-time football). I chose Wisconsin for the eighth because it was the only state that bordered the increasingly inaccurately named Big Ten where there was only one BCS-conference school, and the Wisconsin-Michigan rivalry is pretty big. Notre Dame also joins the downsized Big Ten, as most of its traditional rivals play here, and my dislike of the Domers isn’t enough to consign them to mid-major land.

Gulf Coast

Alabama,  Auburn,  Florida,  Florida State,  Georgia,  Georgia Tech,  Miami,  South Florida

This is the first ‘killer conference’ I’ve set up, chock full of traditional football powers. The traditional SEC powers and the other Florida schools might object to USF, but the Bulls have been playing better football than Miami and FSU lately, and I really don’t like the idea of down-grading a school to mid-major land. Besides, with four Florida BCS schools, two Georgia BCS schools, and two Alabama BCS schools, this conference comes together quite nicely.


Arkansas,  Kentucky,  Louisville,  LSU,  Mississippi,  Mississippi State, Tennessee,  Vanderbilt

Since this conference has seven SEC schools, I let it keep the SEC name even though most of the traditional SEC powers are in the new ‘Gulf Coast’ conference. Louisville joins in-state rival Kentucky to fill out the league. There are some pretty good programs here, but LSU probably will except to dominate. Actually a better basketball conference than football conference, which you wouldn’t think at first glance.

Big 8

Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri,  Minnesota,  Northwestern

I resurrected an old name to combine most of the Big 12 North with the western remainder of the Big Ten. This is probably the weakest ‘major’ conference I put together, but geography made other alternatives pretty bad. I could have done some shuffling to put Nebraska here, but they haven’t done much lately, so I let this arrangement stand.


Baylor,  Nebraska,  Oklahoma,  Oklahoma State,  Texas,  Texas A&M,  Texas Tech,  TCU

Despite the presence of Baylor and A&M, this is the other ‘killer conference’, I think. The Big 12 South + Nebraska and TCU reprise the SWC name. My sense is that Nebraska’s rivalries were stronger with the Big 12 South schools than with the Big 12 North schools, and moving any of the mid-majors in the area other than TCU up would be kind of pushing things, and I didn’t need to do that here.

Mountain West

Arizona,  Arizona State,  Boise State,  BYU,  Colorado,  Nevada,  UNLV,  Utah

Although I borrowed the name from the Mountain West, this conference is really 3 MWC schools, 2 WAC schools, 2 Pac 10 schools, and 1 Big 12 school. Kind of a hodgepodge, but it gets BYU, Utah, and Boise into a major conference. I needed two more western schools to fill out the league, and chose the Nevada schools mostly on potential.

Pac 8

Cal,  Oregon,  Oregon State,  Stanford,  UCLA,  USC,  Washington,  Washington State

This league is just the old Pac 8, the Pac 10 without the Arizona schools. No fussing around here. They’re the only west-cost BCS conference schools.

With the mid-majors, I wasn’t as consistent about respecting state lines; trying to keep all the schools in a state together tended to result in sprawling conferences in places other than the west (where that’s unavoidable).


Akron, Army, Buffalo, Kent State, Marshall, Navy, Ohio, Temple

The eastern MAC schools, plus Marshall, Temple, and the eastern service academies.

Sun Belt

East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee State, Troy, UAB, UCF, Western Kentucky

The southeastern mid-majors, for the most part.


Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Memphis, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane

Mostly Louisiana schools, plus a few from surrounding states. I ended up grabbing one Texas school to round things out.


Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Miami (OH), Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan

The rest of the MAC schools.


Houston, New Mexico, New Mexico State, North Texas, Southern Methodist, Tulsa, UTEP, Wyoming

The rest of the southwestern mid-majors, plus Wyoming.


Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Idaho, San Diego State, San Jose State, Utah State

The rest of the western mid-majors.

And with a little bit of projection as to how the champs fall out and how the committee would do seeding, here’s our field of 32 from the 2008 seeding (basically I used the BCS rankings for seeding and determining the 17 at-large teams, but USC got bumped from 5 to 4 because they were a more logical #1 in the west, and I figured Ohio State as Big Ten champ was more likely to get a #2 than the third-ranking SWC team in Texas Tech)…

East (Indianapolis) West (San Diego)
1. Texas (SWC/at-large) 1. USC (Pac 8/champ)
2. Penn State (Big East/champ) 2. Utah (MWC/champ)
3. Cincinnati (Big Ten/at-large) 3. Boise State (MWC/at-large)
4. Georgia Tech (Gulf Coast/at-large) 4. BYU (MWC/at-large)
5. Pitt (Big East/at-large) 5. Oregon (Pac 8/at-large)
6. BC (Big East/at-large) 6. Northwestern (Big 8/at-large)
7. East Carolina (Sun Belt/champ) 7. Oregon State (Pac 8/at-large)
8. Buffalo (Eastern/champ) 8. Air Force (WAC/champ)
South (Atlanta) Midwest (St. Louis)
1. Florida (Gulf Coast/champ) 1. Oklahoma (SWC/champ)
2. Alabama (Gulf Coast/at-large) 2. Ohio State (Big Ten/champ)
3. TCU (SWC/at-large) 3. Texas Tech (SWC/at-large)
4. Georgia (Gulf Coast/at-large) 4. Oklahoma State (SWC/at-large)
5. Virginia Tech (ACC/champ) 5. Michigan State (Big Ten/at-large)
6. Ball State (MAC/champ) 6. Missouri (Big 8/champ)
7. Florida State (Gulf Coast/at-large) 7. Mississippi (SEC/champ)
8. Rice (CUSA/champ) 8. Tulsa (Central/champ)

For the curious, that breaks downs as…

One-bid leagues: ACC, Central, CUSA, Eastern, MAC, SEC, Sun Belt, WAC
Gulf Coast: 5 bids (Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State)
SWC: 5 bids (Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma State)
Big East: 3 bids (Penn State, Pitt, BC)
Big Ten: 3 bids (Ohio State, Cincinnati, Michigan State)
MWC: 3 bids (Utah, Boise State, BYU)
Pac 8: 3 bids (USC, Oregon, Oregon State)
Big 8: 2 bids (Missouri, Northwestern)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Radical realignment, take II

I mentioned in my previous post that I dislike moneygrab conference championship games. So my more radical plan (and the previous one was pretty radical) knocks everyone in I-A/FBS into convenient ten-team conferences, where they can all play Pac-10 style 9-game round-robin schedules. This one's more radical because while the previous proposal rarely moved more than two or three teams from the existing major conferences (except for breaking the Big 12 in two), this one blows up almost everyone except the Big Ten and Pac 10.

Boston College, Connecticut, Maryland, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia
2008 Champion: Penn State

Clemson, Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest
2008 Champion: North Carolina

Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami (FL), Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Florida
2008 Champion: Florida

Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
2008 Champion: Ohio State

Great Plains
Boise State, Brigham Young, Colorado, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Missouri, Utah
2008 Champion: Utah

Arkansas, Baylor, LSU, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
2008 champion: Oklahoma

Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Washington, Washington State
2008 champion: USC

Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Idaho, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State, Wyoming
2008 champion: Air Force

Atlantic Coast
Army, Buffalo, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Marshall, Navy, Temple, UCF, Western Kentucky
2008 champion: East Carolina

Gulf Coast
Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Northern Illinois, Southern Miss, Troy, Tulane, UAB
2008 champion: Southern Miss

Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (OH), Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan
2008 champion: Ball State

Arkansas State, Houston, New Mexico, New Mexico State, North Texas, Rice, Southern Methodist, TCU, Tulsa, UTEP
2008 champion: Tulsa

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Radical realignment, take I

Did I mention that I have some crazy ideas about what should happen with college football. One of them -- even crazier than trying to get playoffs -- is to try and get conferences realligned so they're all the same size (with 120 FBS teams after Western Kentucky is finished moving up, both twelve ten-team leagues and ten twelve-team leagues work). The plan below -- for bundling everyone in to twelve-team conferences -- is actually the less radical one; the only major conference that's sliced and diced is the Big 12, and the changes harken back to the old SWC and Big 8. But it does turn some storied confrence rivalries into non-conference games (and other storied non-conference rivalries into conference games).

New England Division - Boston College, Connecticut, Syracuse, Maryland, Penn State, Rutgers
Ohio Valley Division - Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Ohio State, West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisville
2008 Northeast Conference Championship: Ohio State vs. Penn State at NYC
East Division - Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Purdue, Wisconsin
West Division - Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Iowa State
2008 Midwest Conference Championship: Michigan State vs. Missouri at Indianapolis
Atlantic Coast
North Division - Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
South Division - Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
2008 ACC Championship: Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech at Charlotte, NC
East Division - Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Miami (FL), South Florida, UCF
West Division - Alabama, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Arkansas, LSU, Southern Miss
2008 SEC Championship: Alabama vs. Florida at Tampa, FL
West Division - Nebraska, Kansas, Kansas State, Brigham Young, Colorado, Utah
South Division - Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
2008 SWC Championship: Utah vs. Oklahoma at Kansas City
North Division - California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington, Washington State
South Division - Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Nevada, UNLV
2008 Pac 10 Championship - USC vs. Oregon at San Diego, CA
North Division - Army, Buffalo, Temple, East Carolina, Marshall, Navy
South Division - Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Troy, UAB, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State
2008 Eastern Conference Championship - East Carolina at Troy (played at home of team with best record)
East Division - Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State, Miami (OH), Ohio, Toledo, Western Kentucky
West Division - Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois
2008 MAC Championship - Bowling Green at Ball State
Gulf Coast
East Division - Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Tulane West Division - Houston, North Texas, Rice, Southern Methodist, TCU, Tulsa, UTEP
2008 Gulf Coast Championship - Louisiana-Lafayette at Tulsa
East Division - New Mexico, New Mexico State, Air Force, Colorado State, Utah State, Wyoming
West Division - Fresno State, Hawaii, San Diego State, San Jose State, Idaho, Boise State
2008 WAC Championship - Air Force at Boise State

Monday, December 8, 2008

About those playoffs

If you thought I'd go on a pro-playoff rant without an actual plan for playoffs that makes sense, well, you were wrong. Disclaimer: I don't care about the bowls at all; my proposal completely ignores them, and hopes they go away or become the football equivalent of the NIT.

So, here's Dave's Plan for a 16-team Division I-A/FBS Playoff

1. All eleven conference champions get a bid. This is important. No one really knows which conferences are good and which aren't; there aren't enough interconference games played to tell. And guaranteeing a spot for all conference champions gives every team a way to make the playoffs no matter what pollsters or computer rankings or the selection committee thinks. Sixteen teams gets a tournament without byes, and five at-large bids ought to be enough to include all legit title contenders.

2. A selection committee similar to the one used for the NCAA basketball tournament selections five at-large teams and seeds the sixteen teams into an East and West bracket. I'd rather have this done by people than by computers and pollsters.

3. Playoffs begin the week after the conference championships.

4. The first two rounds are played at the home stadiums of the lower seeds (or possibly nearby NFL stadiums in some cases)

5. Regional finals are played at regional neutral sites.

6. Championship game is played at a rotating site.

So, how would this work this year (I'll use the BCS rankings instead of a selection committee) ...

Games played on Saturday, Dec 13, 2009...


8. Buffalo (MAC) at
1. Florida (SEC)

5. Cincinnati (Big East) at
4. Ohio State (at-large 4)

7. East Carolina (CUSA) at
2. Alabama (at-large 2)

6. Virginia Tech (ACC) at
3. Penn State (B10)


8. Troy (Sun Belt) at
1. Oklahoma (B12)

5. Texas Tech (at-large 3) at
4. Utah (MWC)

7. TCU (at-large 5) at
2. Texas (at-large 1)

6. Boise State (WAC) at
3. USC (P10)

Now, it's true that some of these games, especially the 1/8games, have the potential to be real stinkers. But the 4/5 games look great and the 6/3 games pretty good. If the seeds hold, though, here's the second week...

Games played on Saturday, Dec 20, 2009...


4. Ohio State (at-large 4) at
1. Florida (SEC)

3. Penn State (B10) at
2. Alabama (at-large 2)


4. Utah (MWC) at
1. Oklahoma (B12)

3. USC (P10) at
2. Texas (at-large 1)

Demolishing anti-playoff arguments

If you've read anything by me in other college sports forums -- and if you haven't, how you found my blog is something of a mystery -- you know I'm an unabashed playoff advocate, and favor a sixteen team playoff. However, there are still professional college football comentators, and even fan blogs, that dislike the idea of playoffs. I'm going to attempt to show that they're wrong.

1. Playoffs (especially with sixteen or more teams) would result in college students playing too many games.

In theory, a college team could play as many as eighteen games if a sixteen-team tournament replaced the regular season and the regular season was unchanged -- twelve regular season games, a game at Hawaii, a conference championship game, and four playoff games. That's not very likely, if only because no one in a conference that plays a championship game is going to schedule a game at Hawaii. But even if it happened...

High school teams play sixteen games in many states if they reach the state finals.
I-AA/FCS teams play sixteen games if the reach the NCAA Championship, as do some lower-division teams.
NFL teams can play up to 25 games (up to 5 preseason games, 16 regular season games, and up to 4 playoff games).

So players younger than I-A/FBS players can handle sixteen games, players older than I-A FBS players can handle at least twenty games, and players the same age but less skilled can handle sixteen games. So I think I-A/FBS players can manage sixteen or seventeen games (or even eighteen, in the unlikely scenario outlined above).

2. Playoffs would make football a two-semester sport.

Not unless you tried to placate the bowls by starting the playoffs after the bowl games. If you started the playoffs a week or two after the conference championship games and played every week, they'd be done by the second weekend in January, before almost all colleges start their spring semester or winter trimester.

3. Playoffs would destroy the history and tradition of the bowls.

That ship has sailed. The Big Ten champion has played the Pac 10 champion in the Rose Bowl once in the BCS era (the upcoming Penn State/USC game will make it twice). The Cotton Bowl has become a decidedly second-tier game. Many bowls have dropped their traditional name and strictly go by the name of their sponsor. There's no history or tradition left with the bowls; it's long gone already.

4. Playoffs would just replace arguments over who's #2 with arguments over who's number 4/8/16...

In a world where there's often no meaningful difference among the top 3-8 teams, we call that progress. The last team out of the NCAA basketball tournament -- which has been my Orange in recent years -- isn't the #65 team; they're usually a lot better than many of the low-major champions. But they're usually not a serious threat to win the title, either. Granted, a four team playoff or an eight team playoff with autobids for the BCS 6 champs would sometimes leave out serious threats to win the title, but it would leave out fewer serious contenders than the current system.

5. Playoffs (with eight or more teams) would make it possible for an undeserving team to make a run at the title, like the 2007 New York Giants.

That's not a bug, that's a feature. Upsets and unlikely runs are fun to watch. And considering the gauntlet a lower-seeded team would have to survive in order to win the title, I don't think you could consider anyone who won an eight or sixteen team football tournament undeserving. Besides, this is college football, not pro football or baseball; there are large talent differences between teams, and home field advantage (which will certainly exist in an 8+ team playoff, at least for the first round) is huge.

6. Playoffs are impossible to implement in the real world.

That's not an argument against playoffs, that's an implementation detail.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

12/7/2008 BCS Bowl Projections

Well, these are a lot less like projections than nearly-set-in-stone at this point. No games left, and while I think logic would dictate different matchups, we pretty much know what we're getting at this point.

BCS Title: Oklahoma vs. Florida

Oklahoma destroyed Missouri, and Florida beat Alabama convincingly, though in less of a blowout than I expected (though that was mitigated by some injuries). There's a remote chance that we get an Oklahoma-Texas rematch instead (if Florida is #2 in the polls, and Texas is a close #3, then computer rankings would move Texas ahead of Florida).

Rose Bowl: USC vs. Penn State

Penn State has won a share of the Big Ten title and the Big Ten's automatic BCS bid by beating Michigan State to finish 11-1. USC has won the Pac 10 title outright by beating UCLA to finish 11-1. If the national perceptions of conference strength were different, this could be for all the marbles instead of a secondary bowl; I'm pretty convinced this game actually features better teams than the BCS title game.

Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. Ohio State

Technically it's possible that Texas will not get an automatic BCS bid as BCS #3 or BCS #4 (possibly as a side effect of pollsters moving teams ahead of Texas to ensure a Florida-Oklahoma game), but it seems a pretty safe bet they'd end up here even if they didn't. It seems like the Fiesta is taking the Buckeyes instead of Utah, which again proves the BCS bowls don't care much about the other bowls. Utah wouldn't be as good for the Fiesta as Ohio State, but Utah would bring fans in droves to the Fiesta (which is in neighboring Arizona), and may not to the Sugar.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Utah

This will be the first appearance of an SEC title game loser in a BCS bowl, at least in a while. But the SEC teams after 'Bama and Florida just aren't actually BCS eligible (barring major gains by Georgia or Mississippi this week despite not playing). And with the choices of Utah or Cinci for the other spot, it seems likely the Sugar will go with the Utes, who locked up an autobid as the top-ranked non-BCS conference champ.

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati

Cinci won the Big East title outright, and improved to 11-2 with a win at Hawaii. Virginia Tech defeated BC in an empty stadium in Tampa to claim the ACC title to secure an Orange Bowl bid. The Bearcats go here because they have to go somewhere, and this is the only spot left.

Just for fun, here's my guess at the crazy drama that happens if Texas and Florida are too close in the polls...

BCS Title: Oklahoma vs. Texas

Haven't we seen this before?

Rose: no change

Fiesta: Alabama vs. Ohio State

The Fiesta can't take a Big 12 team because there are none available, and has clearly decided they don't want Utah for some reason, so they set up a game the SEC fans think will be one-sided. So do I, but not the way they do...

Sugar: Florida vs. Utah

The winner of this game probably goes home AP champions, as Urban Meyer's old team plays his new team.

Orange: no change

Sunday, November 30, 2008

11/30/08 If the season ended today...

Okay, this is the real 'if the season ended today' snapshot post.

Since this week's games produced a bunch of shakeups in the standings, here's how they look now...

BCS Title: #1 Alabama vs. #2 Oklahoma

No analysis needed here; that's just who #1 and #2 are in the current polls.

Rose Bowl: #5 USC vs. #8 Penn State

Penn State locked up their Rose Bowl spot two weeks ago. Although Oregon State still owns the tiebreaker over USC if they lose to UCLA, that seems... unlikely at best. It's almost purely conference reputation that makes this game the Rose Bowl instead of the BCS title game.

Fiesta Bowl: #3 Texas vs. #6 Utah

Texas is almost a given here as they secure a BCS autobid at #3 in the BCS rankings. Ohio State (or a number of other teams) could face them instead (and the Fiesta could even pass on Texas), but this seems by far the most likely scenario. The Fiesta might pass on Oklahoma (having had them a few years in a row), but not Texas.

Sugar Bowl: #4 Florida vs. #10 Ohio State

BCS rules give the Sugar dibs on Florida, and they select Ohio State to play them due to their fans, and because they're actually better than the other options (Boise, TCU, Ball State, or Big East champ Cinci).

Orange Bowl: #17 Boston College vs. #14 Cincinnati

Cinci has won the Big East. Georgia Tech is the top-ranked ACC team, but BC plays #25 Virginia Tech for the ACC title. No other options here; this is what's left.