College Football

Where we are headed in college football: Part 1

First of all, this is about the college football landscape five to ten years from now.  It’s a series since there is way too much to put in one post that even I would have trouble reading it all and I am writing the damn post.

Before I begin, I will talk a tiny bit about the Baylor situation.  This is about the best way to show the environment that college football lives in.  The fact that this type of thing happens at all in 2016 shows that many programs have become too strong for their own good.  Like a strong union that will back workers who are complete pieces of shit because hey, we’re a union and we protect everyone.  College football is kind of like that.  They try to circle the wagons a lot.  We need to have some powerful figures inside college football that have actual dignity to call out others on their bullshit.  Not easy to do since it seems like half the head coaches cover up something or other on a regular basis.  Most of it is minor.  This certainly was not.

My opinion is that not only should Art Briles have been fired, but most of the other coaches as well.  There is no way a few other coaches didn’t know what was going on.  Phil Bennett is going to be the interim?  Why?  He probably is almost as guilty as Art is.  (Update: They hired Jim Grobe instead to be the interim head coach.  Very good choice.)  They have this excuse that firing multiple coaches this close to the season would be detrimental to the team.  Well, this cover up is hurting college football in general.  I will get to this in later posts but this will all but guarantee that Baylor will not be invited to sit with the big boys when big changes come to the structure of college football.  Not that they were rock solid before but this is the proverbial nail in the coffin.  Anyway…

On to the work at hand.  College realignment.  We know something big will happen in the next decade.  It’s just a matter of when.  My guess is the dominoes will start to fall sometime between 2021 and 2026.  I know this is a big range but a lot has to do with Grants of Rights and TV contracts.  Some conferences don’t have much in terms of future GOR or TV contracts past 2020 whereas the ACC seems to have “locked down” everyone through the 2026-2027 academic year.  What this means is that whatever happens will be pretty much complete by 2026.

There are various ways this has been looked at.  I will look at four relatively different scenarios and the implications of all of them.

For scenario number one, I will begin with a model brought forth by Stewart Mandel of FOX Sports.  What he did was winnow the current Power 5 conference teams down to 24.  The best of the best.  This way, as he mentioned, almost every game would matter.  It would also mean that these 24 teams (and ONLY these 24 teams) would have an opportunity to play for the national championship.  The idea is intriguing and it would return college football to what it was like in the 60s through the 90s basically when only about that many teams had any legitimate shot at the championship (BYU in 1984 would be the odd team out when it comes to that).

I will take this and take it a bit further.  I think 24 teams would be too elitist.  I believe 32 teams would work in this scenario.  Using Sagarin ratings from 1998 until now (so about 20 years’ worth of data), I would start with the top 24 Power 5 teams overall:

Oklahoma Ohio State Florida State Alabama
USC Florida LSU Oregon
Texas Georgia Virginia Tech Miami
Wisconsin Nebraska Auburn Michigan
Tennessee Clemson Kansas State TCU
Notre Dame Arkansas Penn State Texas A&M


So these 24 teams would be automatically in.  The other 8 added in wouldn’t be solely based on Sagarin ratings but also fan base, market, and what they have brought historically to college football.  All these are subjective but I have a feeling it would be difficult to argue that one of the teams not in would be a shoo-in over one of the teams I have in here.  Those eight would be: Michigan State, Stanford, Georgia Tech, UCLA, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Arizona State, and Iowa.  Sorry Boise State, Utah, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, South Carolina, Missouri and a few others.  We have to stop at some point.

So now we put these teams into four quadrants or divisions or conferences or whatever you want to call them:

West Midwest Atlantic Southeast
USC Oklahoma Virginia Tech Florida State
Oregon Wisconsin Tennessee Alabama
Stanford Nebraska Clemson Florida
UCLA Kansas State Penn State LSU
Arizona State Notre Dame West Virginia Georgia
Texas Arkansas Michigan Miami
TCU Oklahoma State Michigan State Auburn
Texas A&M Iowa Ohio State Georgia Tech


There really isn’t a conference there that is weak at all.  Every program’s schedule would look like this:

  • Each team plays the seven other teams in their conference
  • They play a game against one team in each of the three other conferences
  • Two non-top division games against the next tier down (i.e. the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State)

Basically almost every game would be very important.  The winner of each conference automatically goes to the playoffs.  Since we are heading for an 8-team playoff (don’t deny it, we know it is bound to happen), the next four teams would be the highest ranked four remaining teams.  This way we won’t get a 7-5 team in a conference getting in as an 8-seed.  Certain bowls would have to be kept for some of the other good teams that didn’t make the playoffs as showcase games (kind of like what they do now).  So this is what we would have seen using last year’s results:

Orange Bowl: #1 Clemson vs. #8 Notre Dame

Sugar Bowl: #2 Alabama vs. #7 Ohio State

Rose Bowl: #3 Michigan State vs. #6 Stanford

Cotton Bowl: #4 Oklahoma vs. #5 Iowa

As for who broadcasts what, here is what I envision:

  • CBS would get the top game from the Southeast conference. My guess is they would add another game of the week, also involving a Southeast team.
  • ABC would get the best game available not involving a Southeast team for their 8:00 broadcast. The Noon and 3:30 games would still exist but would be picked from the remaining games available.
  • FOX would get the top game involving a West or Midwest team for their primetime game. They would also receive another game for a late afternoon broadcast.
  • ESPN would get the top game from the Atlantic for their 3:30 broadcast. They would also get the best pick of the remaining games for the Noon and 7:00 broadcasts.  They would also get the best game involving a West team after FOX makes their selections for their late night game.
  • ESPN2, ESPNU and FOX Sports One would each get up to three games a week.

That would satisfy all the major broadcasters.  Unless NBC does something crazy, I think they may lose the Notre Dame broadcast.  Either that or they keep it and add something else (Atlantic teams perhaps).

For us here in Canada, no real change although getting FOX Sports One might become more of an issue.  Saying that, we would all get most of the games since BTN and the SEC Network would not exist in their current form and wouldn’t be needed nearly as much as they are now.

All this means that football would have to be treated differently than basketball and other sports when it came to conferences.  The reason for this is that the teams that did not “make it” into the top 32 would be relegated (for lack of a better word) to the lower division.  The structure could look something like this:

SEC Big Ten Pac-12 ACC Big XII
Missouri Minnesota Utah Louisville Texas Tech
South Carolina Purdue Oregon State Boston College Iowa State
Ole Miss Northwestern Washington NC State Baylor
Mississippi State Illinois California Virginia Kansas
Kentucky Rutgers Arizona North Carolina Houston
Vanderbilt Indiana Colorado Pittsburgh North Dakota State
Marshall Navy Washington State Maryland BYU
Southern Miss Toledo Boise State Syracuse Louisiana Tech
USF Northern Illinois San Diego State Wake Forest Tulsa
UCF Bowling Green Air Force Duke
Fresno State Cincinnati
Colorado State East Carolina
Mountain West American MAC Conference USA
Nevada Connecticut Northern Iowa Troy
Hawaii Georgia Southern Western Michigan UAB
Montana Appalachian State Miami-Ohio Western Kentucky
Wyoming Memphis Ohio Arkansas State
New Mexico Rice Central Michigan UL-Lafayette
Utah State Temple Ball State North Texas
San Jose State Villanova Akron South Alabama
South Dakota State SMU Kent State ULM
UNLV Tulane Buffalo Florida Atlantic
UTEP Massachusetts Eastern Michigan Old Dominion
New Mexico State Army FIU
UTSA Middle Tennessee Texas State
Georgia State

As you can see, a few FCS teams will have moved up that belong there like North Dakota State.  Most of the rest have been kept in their current conferences and filled up with from teams with lower conferences, pretty much how realignment has worked.  And also, no more Sun Belt (sorry guys).

I truly believe that we will see this group of teams have a playoff for some sort of championship.  Call if FBS, new FCS, whatever.  It will truly be a consolation prize now since none of these programs will have a hope of moving up into the top tier if it is this exclusive.  I say that now and watch ten years later that exact thing happens and 40 years from now we are back where we started.  The top five conferences would get automatic berths into the new 16-team playoff and the other 11 teams would be selected at-large.

Alright, so that’s that.  Three more scenarios to go all probably as realistic as the others.  College football is “only” 87 days away…well it is for Americans who get FOX Sports One.  For people here who get the specialty pack it’s 88 days since you will get the FCS Opening Day game.  For the rest of you, it’s 93 days until opening Thursday.


10 thoughts on “Where we are headed in college football: Part 1

  1. I like most of your choices for the 32 teams and four conferences. These would be my modifications to what you have:

    Texas would be in the Midwest so that they can maintain their annual rivalry with Oklahoma. Notre Dame would be in the Atlantic. It would be interesting to see if they can survive against Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State & Penn State every single year. West Virginia either remains in the Big 12 or moves into the Atlantic Coast Conference or American Athletic Conference should they change conferences. Boise State is the team that I would place in the West. IMO, they are very deserving to have the opportunity with their success over the past 15+ years to be in one of the big conferences should a scenario like this happen in the future. BYU could take Boise State’s place in the Pacific 12 and Brigham Young would be guaranteed to have an annual rivalry with Utah.

    1. Yes you could definitely move teams in and out of conferences where it makes the most sense. I think the rivalry part of what college football was about in the 80s and 90s could be reinvigorated with this move. Notre Dame is a tough one since they have so many rivalry games, being an independent. At least one would have to probably cease to exist.
      Boise State is an interesting example. I have them as a top 25 team from the past 20 years. Problem is, do they move the needle enough in a 32-team setup to be included? I don’t think they do unfortunately. That has nothing to do with deserving it but more to do with their historical value to college football if that makes any sense.

  2. Another thing I wanted to add about Texas being slotted in the Midwest: The rivalries that they had in the past with Nebraska & Arkansas would be restored and I am sure lots of college football fans would be excited to see those games. As a Cornhuskers fan, I would love to see them go up against the Longhorns every year.

  3. I am going way off topic from this thread but still related to college football:

    Did you hear that it will be Verne Lundquist’s final year calling the SEC on CBS? Brad Nessler will be calling two games for CBS this year when they have their SEC doubleheaders before taking over full play by play duties in 2017. Verne will still call NCAA Basketball, the NCAA Tournament & golf.

  4. Yes I did hear about that. Bringing in Nessler is a coup for CBS. He is one of the top five play-by-play men for football, period. It’s a blow to ESPN. Him leaving coupled with Sean McDonough moving to Monday Night Football means ESPN loses two of their better college football play-by-play men.
    Also, I would be a bit pissed if I was Carter Blackburn since him moving to CBS a few years ago was done partially in part because Uncle Verne was nearing the end calling SEC Football. I bet he wishes he was back at ESPN since he would have a fairly major role on Saturdays. That’s gone now and so are his chances of moving into the catbird seat for the SEC on CBS.

  5. I’m guessing that Blackburn is probably relegated to college football games airing on the CBS Sports Network and the occasional NFL game? Unless he is able to get out of his contract?

    Also, I have noticed when trying to post this morning that I have to copy & paste my comments then resubmit my post because Firefox is giving me this “secure connection failed” stuff. I didn’t have this issue when posting last night.

  6. Yes Blackburn gets the top game on CBS Sports Network. He won’t do NFL games until the last few weeks of the season if there are more than the usual amount on CBS.

    That’s interesting because I was having some troubles with my computer in general and Firefox in particular for an hour or so this morning. Wonder if it’s an issue with Firefox today. Who knows.

  7. I think the one question right now is the MVFC schools, especially the MVC football members after Wichita State leaving. I think Missouri State could be in talks with either C-USA or Sun Belt to join. Here is my thoughts that you have missing pieces.

    Liberty got a waiver to join FBS as an independent. This could be a flood gate for others including D2 to try to get into FBS.

    Lets break this down by states.
    North Alabama (was in talks with the Sun Belt to join a few years ago. They are moving up to join A-Sun/Big South (football).
    Alabama State does have an FBS size stadium that do get more than 20,000 for home games.
    Jacksonville State wants into FBS badly, but are being blocked by Troy and South Alabama.
    None. Only one school did had football, but it was dropped.
    Northern Arizona could be a MWC candidate. They were a former conference mates with Texas Tech, UTEP, Arizona, Arizona State, New Mexico and New Mexico State.
    Arizona Western in Yuma could be a bridge into California between Phoenix and L.A.
    Little Rock is doing a feasibility study in adding football. They will play in the War Memorial Stadium and already in an FBS conference.
    Central Arkansas
    Arkansas Tech a long shot.
    Several Big West Schools are getting a lot of requests to add or restart a football program. Long Beach State seems interested in the MWC.
    Azusa Pacific is a program on the rise.
    The Big Sky California schools are the ones that people look at as expansion candidates for FBS. Cal.-Davis, Cal. Poly and Sacramento State.
    Cal.-San Diego wants to join D1, and also studied to restart a football program.
    Colorado Mesa
    Colorado State-Pueblo
    Both schools are not in the Denver market.
    None unless Central Conn. State wants to move up.
    Delaware will join when James Madison goes.
    North Florida could add football and could play in the pro football stadium.
    West Florida is a school on the rise in D2.
    Kennesaw State
    Valdosta State
    Hawaii-West Oahu is adding sports, and wants to join D2 and add football. They could be a travel partner for Hawaii in the future.
    Illinois State
    Southern Illinois
    Indiana State
    Northern Iowa
    Wichita State looked into adding football. Since they are moving into AAC? They could build the football program up until they join the AAC for football.
    Eastern Kentucky
    Bellarmine (spending money on sports with upgrades like mad. They also are looking into adding football. Located in Louisville may help them out.)
    McNeese State
    Mankato State
    Saint Cloud State
    Minnesota State-Mankato could be the second school in Minnesota.
    Jackson State does have an FBS size stadium.
    Missouri State
    Lindenwood (could play in the former Rams’ stadium)
    Montana State
    Omaha could be changed to Nebraska State.
    New Hampshire:
    New Hampshire
    New Mexico:
    Eastern New Mexico
    New Jersey:
    New York:
    Stony Brook
    North Carolina:
    Western Carolina
    North Dakota:
    North Dakota
    North Dakota State
    Youngstown State
    Central Oklahoma
    Portland State
    West Chester
    Rhode Island:
    South Carolina:
    The Citadel
    South Dakota:
    South Dakota
    South Dakota State
    Sioux Falls
    Black Hills State
    East Tennessee State
    Tennessee State
    West Texas A&M
    Midwestern State
    Sam Houston State
    Angelo State
    Weber State
    James Madison
    Eastern Washington
    Western Washington
    West Virginia:
    La Crosse

    This could bring Canadian schools to D1. Simon Fraser, British Columbia and some other. British Columbia is like a PAC 12 school with the research at their level.

    1. Wow this is impressive. I can’t see too many teams from this list going to FBS unless FBS became a lower division as to what I stated in this post. I do agree that some Canadian schools almost should enter the NCAA. CIS (or USports or whatever it’s called now) feels like it’s on it’s last legs, especially when it comes to football. No TV contract, many schools have very few fans at games. It certainly isn’t like what it was a decade ago. I think many of the schools could easily move to D-2 and not be that far behind (once they all learn the college football rules and the differences between them and Canadian university football rules).

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