So our first two scenarios have gone from relatively extreme to somewhat less extreme. Still, both scenarios would show some pretty extraordinary change not really seen since the demise of the Southwest Conference back in the mid-90s.
This next scenario is the one that I believe is most likely to happen. It takes the least amount of changes overall to the FBS landscape. This may be borne out of what the Big XII has just decided at least for the next season. And that decision was not to expand, at least for 2017. They did add a conference championship game with divisions but kept their 9-game round robin schedule. So for someone who hopes for the worst in certain situations, I kind of hope that, for example, a 7-5 Kansas State team ruins 12-0 TCU’s chances for the College Football Playoff by beating them soundly in the Big XII Championship Game sponsored by Golden Corral. I’m such an asshole.
Anyway, back to Scenario #3. The Big XII will probably expand at some point. Looks like they will hold off at least until 2018 and maybe not until 2019. It will be the catalyst for a few moves which, I believe, will make the conferences look like so:
|SEC||Big Ten||Pac-12||ACC||Big XII|
|Alabama||Ohio State||USC||Florida State||Oklahoma|
|Auburn||Penn State||Utah||Notre Dame||Boise State|
|Tennessee||Michigan State||Oregon State||Georgia Tech||West Virginia|
|Arkansas||Iowa||Arizona State||Louisville||Oklahoma State|
|Texas A&M||Maryland||Washington||Boston College||Texas Tech|
|Ole Miss||Northwestern||Colorado||North Carolina||Iowa State|
|Mississippi State||Illinois||Washington State||Virginia||Baylor|
|American||Mountain West||Conference USA||MAC||Sun Belt|
|East Carolina||Air Force||Southern Miss||Toledo||Georgia Southern|
|Houston||Fresno State||Rice||Northern Illinois||Appalachian State|
|USF||North Dakota State||UAB||Bowling Green||Troy|
|Navy||San Diego State||Middle Tennessee||Western Michigan||Arkansas State|
|Memphis||Montana||North Texas||Central Michigan||ULM|
|Temple||Wyoming||UTSA||Ball State||Texas State|
|SMU||New Mexico||Florida Atlantic||Army||Georgia State|
|Tulane||Utah State||Old Dominion||Akron||James Madison|
|Marshall||San Jose State||FIU||Kent State|
The Big XII will be the catalyst for sure as I can’t see any conference making a move before they do. I think they go to 14 since BYU, Boise State, and Cincinnati are the top three non-Power Five teams that are ready to move to a Power Five conference. There are quite a few candidates for number four but I think Colorado State has the best shot. A new stadium plus a lot more investment in football in general means this program should be on the up-and-up. To be honest, many teams could fit here but it kind of has to fit inside some semblance of the geographic footprint despite the fact the Big XII shot that to hell with their addition of West Virginia in the first place.
I think Notre Dame will be almost forced (for lack of a better term) to get into a conference. Not because of money. Not because of prestige. But because they will have a very difficult time making it into the CFP without having a chance to win a conference championship (which will account for most of the teams in the 4-team playoff era). Notre Dame is basically forced to join the ACC. The ACC then decides to add UConn much to the chagrin of Boston College.
Those are the only P5 additions/changes. Most of the rest is in the Group of Five level. The American backfills after losing Cincy and UConn with Marshall and Louisiana Tech. Conference USA decides not to raid the Sun Belt like they normally do and they stick with 12 teams. The Mountain West adds FCS powers North Dakota State and Montana to replace Boise State and Colorado State. Again, that would be two smart additions by the MWC. Army is added to the MAC which might force the conference to add a 14th team. I select Youngstown State here although it could be any program in that general MAC area. The Sun Belt picks up James Madison to get to ten teams. New Mexico State and UMass head to FCS where they probably belong (although NMSU’s basketball team is really good).
I have a feeling conferences may now be cautious for a while. Especially since we do not know what television coverage of college football will be like ten years from now. The advent of streaming online will only increase the chances that many games end up going to platforms like ESPN3. As for us Canadians, not much will change with this. Whoever is broadcasting whichever conference right now (or at least starting next season with FOX and the Big Ten) should stay relatively similar unless the idea of watching games on cable starts to fizzle out. Then we might see a wholesale change. Until then it more than likely will be much ado about nothing…at least until we move to an eight team playoff.
One more scenario to go through and then it’s time to figure out the most important games of the year. Finally I am getting back into putting up posts on the blog rather than doing five different mocks for the same draft. College football offseason just gets to me sometimes. Oh well, you never know what you had until it’s gone (or something like that).