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Sport News – America, Realigned: A Radical Reimagining of the NCAA Landscape

Sport News – America, Realigned: A Radical Reimagining of the NCAA Landscape

Sport News –

Ten years ago this month, the last great spasm of realignment began shaking the college sports world. When it finally subsided in 2014, the landscape had changed dramatically. For the richer, but not necessarily for the better.

The Big Ten wound up with 14 teams, stretching from Nebraska to New Jersey. The Southeastern Conference expanded into Texas and Missouri. The Atlantic Coast Conference wandered nearly 1,000 miles inland. The Pac-12 annexed the Rocky Mountains. The Big 12, pushed to the brink of collapse, steadied itself by adding a school 1,200 miles to the northeast of the league office. Lesser conferences followed suit, scrambling for financial viability.

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If only this could be pitched to centralized leadership of college football that was interested in the good of the entire enterprise. But that doesn’t exist, and that’s another column for another day.

What college football would gain from this realignment: uniformity; conference championships that truly matter; increased access to a more lucrative playoff; a more level playing field for the little guys; renewed regional identity; cherished rivalries preserved, restored—and, in some cases, forced into permanent existence. The advantages are abundant.

The complaints about conference schedules would disappear. Everyone would play 11 league games, taking on every opponent within the conference every season. There would be no unbalanced scheduling, beyond six home games vs. five, and that would be flipped every season. Without divisions, there is no luck of the draw in cross-divisional opponents. And the endless carping from conferences that play more league games than others would be silenced.

Having automatic playoff bids tied to conference championships—and having enough room in the playoff for every conference champion—would remove another chronic complaint. Win your league, get a shot at the national title. It’s just that simple. It works for the NCAA basketball tournament, and it would work for the new FBS.

And there would be triple the access to the playoff, from four to 12 teams. Instead of having to fight its way through eternal Big Ten roadblock Ohio State for a playoff bid, Penn State has a clearer path. Same with Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and others. Schools out west would no longer have to worry whether their league was strong enough to compete for a playoff spot. Spreading around the heavyweight teams to more conferences increases playoff access, which should help with recruiting.

The alignment also would theoretically provide the have-nots of college football with a chance to stand toe-to-toe with the haves. League membership for the likes of Ohio alongside Ohio State, Georgia Southern alongside Georgia and Louisiana Tech alongside LSU is a step toward competitive equality. It might also include a lot of beatdowns—but at least they’d get to play the in-state powers that often refuse to schedule them, and every other year they’d get them at home. Those games would be huge for the host underdogs, from a monetary and prestige standpoint and for the chance at a memorable upset.

(If you’re concerned about a proliferation of mismatches in this conference alignment, you haven’t been paying attention. There already are plenty of blowouts on a weekly basis. Some 2019 numbers: 37 games involving SEC teams decided by 30 points or more; 36 involving ACC teams; 35 involving the Big Ten; 19 involving the Big 12; and 16 involving the Pac-12. Removing FCS opponents from the schedule will reduce the number of hide-your-eyes massacres.)

As for regional identity: This isn’t solely about making travel easier and safer for athletes and more affordable for athletic directors, although both factors are more significant now than at any time this century. It’s also an opportunity to rebuild a neighborhood with sensible boundaries that create common ground among people who already live and work together. There is not a lot of office or barber shop banter in, say, Orlando between Florida and Missouri fans when the Gators and Tigers play; there sure would be when the Gators play Central Florida. And the fans can pretty easily drive to many of these games.

Along those lines, think of the instant rivalries that would materialize: UCF and South Florida would get their shots at Florida, Florida State and Miami. Marshall would finally get West Virginia on an annual basis, and Cincinnati would get Ohio State. Fresno State, which has never played USC, UCLA or California at home and rarely played them anywhere, would meet them on a regular basis.

Then there are the rivalries torn asunder by realignment but put back together here: Texas–Texas A&M, Missouri-Kansas, Utah–Utah State. And how about these regular nonconference meetings: Oklahoma-Nebraska, Texas-Arkansas and Pittsburgh–West Virginia. Rivalries preserved by nonconference games: Alabama-Tennessee, USC–Notre Dame, Georgia-Auburn, Clemson–Florida State, Penn State–Ohio State, Nevada-UNLV. Dormant, across-the-river rivalries renewed via nonconference matchups: Louisville-Cincinnati, Kentucky-Indiana, Missouri-Illinois.

Washington

12

Utah

Cal

14

BYU

UCLA

T-15

Arizona

Oregon

26

Boise State

Washington State

65

Wyoming

San Diego State

72

New Mexico

Oregon State

77

Arizona State

Hawaii

84

Army

Fresno State

87

Utah State

Nevada

T-103

UNLV

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Arizona State

37

Oregon State

BYU

T-42

California

Utah

T-44

Washington

Air Force

T-49

Navy

Colorado

T-58

Kansas

Arizona

T-60

UCLA

Boise State

70

Oregon

Colorado State

85

North Dakota State

New Mexico

91

San Diego State

Utah State

92

Fresno State

Wyoming

95

Washington State

UNLV

107

Nevada

Sport News – THE GREAT MIDWEST CONFERENCE

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Wisconsin

7

Michigan State

Minnesota

21

Michigan

Iowa

T-22

Purdue

Iowa State

T-49

Oklahoma State

Nebraska

56

Oklahoma

Missouri

T-58

Illinois

Kansas State

66

TCU

North Dakota State

68

Colorado State

Kansas

82

Colorado

Western Michigan

93

Toledo

Central Michigan

98

Northern Illinois

Eastern Michigan

112

Ball State

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Michigan

1

Minnesota

Ohio State

5

Penn State

Michigan State

36

Wisconsin

Indiana

T-42

Kentucky

Purdue

52

Iowa

Cincinnati

75

Louisville

Miami (Ohio)

89

Western Kentucky

Ohio

94

Marshall

Toledo

T-103

Western Michigan

Akron

108

Middle Tennessee

Kent State

110

Buffalo

Ball State

118

Eastern Michigan

Sport News – THE MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE

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Notre Dame

4

USC

Northwestern

18

Stanford

Tennessee

33

Alabama

Kentucky

39

Indiana

Vanderbilt

40

Mississippi

Louisville

53

Cincinnati

Illinois

55

Missouri

West Virginia

63

Pittsburgh

Western Kentucky

88

Miami (Ohio)

Middle Tennessee

T-103

Akron

Marshall

115

Ohio

Northern Illinois

117

Central Michigan

Sport News – THE SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE

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Texas

8

Arkansas

Texas A&M

13

Mississippi State

Oklahoma

24

Nebraska

TCU

30

Kansas State

Oklahoma State

T-31

Iowa State

Baylor

34

Louisiana Tech

Texas Tech

T-60

Louisiana-Lafayette

Houston

69

East Carolina

SMU

78

Temple

Rice

79

Tulane

Tulsa

86

Arkansas State

North Texas

119

Southern Miss

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North Carolina

T-15

Georgia Tech

Duke

17

Rutgers

Virginia

20

Maryland

Wake Forest

27

Boston College

Clemson

28

Florida State

NC State

T-31

Syracuse

Virginia Tech

35

Miami

South Carolina

38

South Florida

Appalachian State

97

Georgia Southern

East Carolina

T-101

Houston

Old Dominion

111

FIU

Charlotte

120

UAB

Sport News – THE DEEP SOUTH CONFERENCE

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Florida

6

LSU

Georgia

10

Auburn

Florida State

11

Clemson

Miami

29

Virginia Tech

Georgia Tech

41

North Carolina

UCF

67

Memphis

South Florida

71

South Carolina

Georgia Southern

T-101

Appalachian State

UAB

106

Charlotte

Florida International

109

Old Dominion

Georgia State

114

UConn

Florida Atlantic

116

UMass

Sport News – THE SUN BELT CONFERENCE

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LSU

19

Florida

Auburn

T-22

Georgia

Alabama

25

Tennessee

Mississippi State

47

Texas A&M

Arkansas

57

Texas

Mississippi

62

Vanderbilt

Tulane

80

Rice

Memphis

83

UCF

Arkansas State

96

Tulsa

Louisiana Tech

T-99

Baylor

Southern Miss

T-99

North Texas

Louisiana-Lafayette

113

Texas Tech

Sport News – THE YANKEE CONFERENCE

SCHOOL FBS PROFILE RANK NON-CON OPPONENT

Penn State

9

Ohio State

Navy

T-44

Air Force

Syracuse

46

NC State

Boston College

48

Wake Forest

Maryland

51

Virginia

Pittsburgh

54

West Virginia

Army

64

Hawaii

Temple

73

SMU

Rutgers

74

Duke

Buffalo

76

Kent State

Connecticut

81

Georgia State

Massachusetts

90

FAU

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New Mexico State
UTEP
UTSA
Texas State
Louisiana-Monroe
Troy
Bowling Green
Coastal Carolina
South Alabama
Liberty

PROMOTED

North Dakota State

More Coverage From SI.com Team Sites:

Hypothetical Conference Realignment Finds Maryland in Familiar Territory
A Look at Duke’s New Home in Pat Forde’s Realignment

Read More

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