College Football Wrap-Up #2: My Realignment Scenario

What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago we were talking about the expansion of the ACC and the imminent death of the Big 12 and Big East. Today, the Pac-12 reportedly has no interest in expanding, according to head honcho “Larry Scott”: The Big 12 saw commissioner “Dan Beebe”: step down and named “Chuck Neinas”: interim commissioner, and rumors are swirling about a potential marriage between the Big 12 and Big East that would form a bastardized combination of teams from Texas, Iowa, New York and Florida.

After leaders from Texas and Oklahoma met separately and decided to actively consider changing conference affiliation, the Pac-12 announced it would not be expanding at the time. That move was shocking for a few reasons.

First, why would a conference that already boasts programs like USC, Oregon and Stanford not want to add powerful teams like Texas and Oklahoma? Secondly, the Pac-12 aggressively courted Texas last summer, only to have Texas back out at the last second. And third, the Pac-12 is refusing to make a move that would make it the big winner of the inevitable superconference realignment.

What I mean is this: The Pac-12, SEC, ACC and Big Ten have all been rumored to pursue adding Texas. Once the metaphorical Texas domino falls, Oklahoma and Notre Dame become the only remaining huge dominos, while Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Boise State and TCU become something of a second tier of teams waiting to be added.

The ensuing arms race would be an embarrassing, jealousy-filled popularity contest. If your conference adds one or two huge dominoes and a few second tier teams, you’re suddenly looking at conference with a ton of firepower. The SEC has recently been regarded as the most talented football conference, top to bottom, but the Pac-12 could have changed that by adding Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. A conference with those teams, plus USC, Oregon and Stanford, could go round for round with an SEC fueled by Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU and South Carolina. By choosing not to add the previously mentioned teams, the Pac-12 is the leaving the door open for other conferences to add Texas and Oklahoma and run away with much of the available elite talent.

So why not add the Big 12 teams, Larry Scott? Do you not want to be known as the big, bad commissioner that killed the Big 12? Do you want to let the ACC, Big East and SEC battle it out for East Coast teams before making a move? Do you like the number 12 more than the number 16? Well guess what, Larry? I’m sick of you and your fellow commissioners being so cautious and patient. I’m going to take matters into my own hands and realign the college football landscape myself. Without further ado, this is the way things are going to be, effective for the beginning of the 2012 college football season.

*The New Division I-A*

When I sat down and decided I had the authority to realign conference affiliation for any number of schools, I started to think that college basketball had it right with a field of 64 teams. In this case, they are divided into four 16-team superconferences instead of a tournament field, and they are the only teams in Division I-A. The remaining 56 teams from the former FBS break off and form the new Division I-AA. Unfortunately, South Florida, Baylor, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Louisville, BYU, Army and Navy all miss out on their spot in D-IA. They find homes in newly aligned Mountain West, Western Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-America and Sun Belt conferences. Each of the new four 14-team conferences in D-IAA are also composed of two divisions, each with seven teams. The former FCS (Division I-AA) simply changes its name to Division I-AAA.

The four new 16-team superconferences are composed of the Big Ten, Pac 12, ACC and SEC, with additions to each from the Big East, Big 12 and other conferences. Each conference has two eight-team divisions, with the divisional opponents playing each other once, as well as two teams from the other division each year. Each team then plays a total of three nonconference games, with one opponent from each of the other superconferences. The leaders of each division meet in the conference championship game. More on the championship format later.

The Pac-16 (formerly the Pac-12) will be the big winner of my superconference realignment. Texas and Oklahoma join an already star-studded cast, and Boise State and TCU make the jump as well. The Broncos and Horned Frogs will compete in the North Division, while the Longhorns and Sooners will butt heads in the South. This scenario allows for annual matchups like “Boise-Oregon”: and “Texas-USC”: Who wouldn’t like to see a Pac-16 Championship between Stanford and Oklahoma?

The Big 16 (formerly the Big Ten, with some Big 12 scraps) will be a talented collection of teams from the Midwest. Beyond the current 12-team format, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Notre Dame will be added, the former two to the Legends Division, and the latter two to the Leaders Division. The marquee annual matchup is a battle between Notre Dame and Ohio State, while old rivalries of Illinois-Missouri and Oklahoma State-Nebraska are renewed. “Michigan-Notre Dame”: games are exciting even when both teams are unranked, but the possibility of watching them compete with a conference championship on the line is a whole new level of exhilarating.

The ACC-16 (formerly the ACC, with some Big East scraps) is the easiest realignment scenario to figure out. While keeping current ACC divisions in tact, UConn and Rutgers can be added to the Atlantic, while Syracuse and Pitt can be added to the Coastal. New matchups include Miami-Pitt, Rutgers-Clemson and UConn-Florida State. A Miami-Florida State contest for all the ACC-16 marbles would send the Sunshine State into pure insanity.

The SEC-16 (formerly the SEC, with some Big 12 scraps) doesn’t bring in Texas in my version of realignment, but the addition of West Virginia is a nice complement to the poaching of Texas A&M that was officially announced this week. The Big 12 finalizes its collapse as Kansas and Kansas State join the conference as well. I’d like to see West Virginia play South Carolina every year, as well as an annual matchup between Texas A&M and LSU. The transition to the already-powerful SEC will not be easy for the new guys, and I see a Florida-LSU matchup happening on a somewhat regular basis.

Now we are left with eight teams contending for conference championships in D-IA. The best part of this new alignment is my championship bracket. The new tournament-style championship begins during conference championship week. The winners of each conference then advance and face each other in two semi-final matchups, with the winners of the semi’s competing in a national championship game.

In a utopian world, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Florida State and LSU take their respective conference titles. Notre Dame falls to Oklahoma, and LSU takes down Florida State. In the first true national title game, LSU defeats Oklahoma in a thriller. If the idea of watching three weeks of some of the most competitive college football you’ve ever seen all leading up to a national championship game of epic proportions doesn’t get you excited, I’m not sure if anything ever will.

*Panic Meter*

Notre Dame — A convincing 31-13 win over Michigan State in Week Three boosted the confidence of the Irish, but scraping out a 15-12 win over Pitt this week probably brought more relief than momentum. Tommy Rees and the ND offense committed another two turnovers and, even with 398 yards of total offense, still needed a heroic effort by Rees and tight end Tyler Eifert to go up 15-12 late in the fourth quarter. I had them at a 7.5 on the panic meter last week, and this effort did little to make me believe in them. I’m raising them up to an 8, and I need to see more out of them before this number starts to go down.

Florida State — A heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma compounded with a defeat at Clemson has the Seminoles wondering where it all went wrong. Nearly all of the preseason momentum FSU had is gone, but a favorable schedule from here on sets it up for a nice run. I’ll put the panic meter at a 9 for now, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see eight straight victories to close out the year. Eight straight wins is what it might take at this point for the Seminoles to consider their season a success.

Oklahoma — The Sooners looked great in a 23-13 win over FSU two weeks ago, but a less-than-convincing 38-28 home win over Missouri has some people sweating. Under normal circumstances I’d put Oklahoma’s panic meter at a 4 or 5, but OU still faces challenging road tests at Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State. All three will be clawing for an upset. I have the Sooner’s panic meter at a 7.

*Games to watch next weekend*

No. 3 Alabama at No. 12 Florida — Alabama has looked very impressive in all of its victories thus far, including a 38-14 romp over No. 14 Arkansas last week. Florida has also looked impressive, putting plenty of points up on the scoreboard. ‘Bama will come in to this game prepared, and will overmatch Florida on both sides of the ball. The Crimson Tide pulls this one out on the road, 24-17.

Nevada at No. 4 Boise State — You think the Broncos remember last year’s “overtime loss”: that dashed their BCS hopes? I bet they do. Expect Kellen Moore and the Boise offense to exorcise its demons in the form of multiple touchdowns. Nevada is no match for this year’s revitalized Broncos team, and I see a final score of 56-14 in favor of Boise State.

No. 13 Clemson at No. 11 Virginia Tech — After knocking off Auburn and Florida State in back to back weeks, Clemson tries to take down Virginia Tech on the road. The Hokies have looked good but not great, and face their first real test of the season. Momentum is big in college football, and Clemson appears to have all the confidence it needs to continue rolling. Tigers win 31-24.

No. 8 Nebraska at No. 7 Wisconsin — While neither team has faced a difficult opponent to this point, both have come away with convincing wins in their first four games. The difference here is that the Cornhuskers have been unable to stop the ball on defense, and the Badgers have put up huge points. The trend will continue and the Wisconsin faithful will be happy to witness a 42-28 victory Saturday night.

_Ed Edens is a senior in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @cubsfan2310._