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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)