Two things I love are college football and geography, and the former played a huge role in my knowledge of the latter.  Given the recent realignment chaos in college football’s highest level of competition, I shudder to think that today’s young football fans will take terms like “southeastern”, “pacific”, “sun belt”, or even one as simple and vague as “east” at face value.

That being said, I offer my dream scenario of realignment that is not only bound by geography, but also traditional rivalries and parity.  You’ll see some no-brainers as well as at least one thing that you might think of as a hair-brainer.  I don’t include any of the shifts that have been announced since the beginning of this season.  I include some schools that are moving toward the FBS, but not there yet.  Along with this scenario comes a revised bowl playoff system that maintains all of the bowls and allows every team to control its own destiny in pursuit of the national championship.  There are two tiers of conferences with the champions of the first tier securing an automatic berth in the second round of the bowl playoffs where they await winners from the first round.  The second-tier conference champions get an automatic berth in the first round of the bowl playoffs where they are matched up with the eight wildcard teams that join them by virtue of their national ranking.  I”ll lay out the rest of this postseason plan in my next post.

First Tier Conferences

I”ll start with the best:  the Southeastern Conference.  The drastic thing that I do here is boot three schools (Arkansas, South Carolina and Vanderbilt) that are, in the case of the first two, worthy competitively and in all three cases geographically fitting to remain in the conference.  However, I moved Arkansas in hopes they could renew some tradition by rejoining their old Southwest Conference opponents, but it didn’t work out that way; South Carolina is a better fit with the ACC and Vanderbilt is part of my hair-brained new creation that you’ll read about later.  My new SEC consists of:

  • Alabama
  • Auburn
  • Mississippi
  • Mississippi State
  • Louisiana State
  • Southern Mississippi (great fit geographically and competitively.  Plus, they play SEC teams often already)
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • Georgia Tech (makes sense to have them in conference with Georgia)
  • Florida State (they join Florida.  Tallahassee and Gainesville are the only real southern cities in the state of Florida, so they belong here.)

Moving to the conference formerly known Big TenIn my system, the Big 12 goes away, so we could just assume that name, but that would be even more confusing than the Big East having a Western Division.  Had to do a lot of shuffling in this part of the country and at times, I had Nebraska and Colorado in here, but that’s not how it settled.  As much since as it makes to do so, I didn’t put Notre Dame here, because they just like to be a pain in the ass.  However, I did put them in another conference that you’ll see later.  Northwestern is gone since they can rarely compete and Penn State moves elsewhere.  Here’s how my reconstituted Big Ten shapes up:

  • Michigan
  • Michigan State
  • Ohio State
  • Wisconsin
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Purdue
  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Iowa State
  • Kansas
  • Kansas State

The Pac-12 was the easiest to handle and the only teams that leave are the two that just joined (Colorado and Utah) and don’t belong geographically.  Here it is:

  • Arizona
  • Arizona State
  • USC
  • UCLA
  • Washington
  • Washington State
  • Oregon
  • Oregon State
  • California
  • Stanford
  • Hawaii  (They’ll struggle, but this is where they fit best geographically and the schools here can afford the travel.  They were borderline second-tier, but attendance helps them)
  • Boise State (I know, they aren’t “pacific”, but someone has to go here and this makes more sense geographically than Utah and Colorado.  Idaho isn’t that far from Washington and Oregon)

Now for a return to tradition with the reconstitution of the Southwest ConferenceThe Big 12 caused a lot of this mess, so I put a bullet in it.  I did a lot of shuffling with this one.  At one time I had Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State here, but they all wind up elsewhere.

  • Texas
  • Texas A&M (they have no business in the SEC!)
  • Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma State
  • Texas Tech
  • T.C.U.
  • Houston (they win out over some other candidates due to success on the field and attendance)
  • Baylor
  • B.Y.U. (package deal with Utah and no room for them in the PAC12)
  • Utah (no business in the PAC12 anyway)
  • Nebraska (could have fit in the conference formerly known as the Big Ten, but that didn’t work so they’re back with their old rivals)
  • Colorado (see Utah)

This next one is a combination of some Big East, some ACC and a dash of Conference USA.  I call it the Big Atlantic

  • North Carolina
  • NOrth Carolina State
  • Clemson
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • South Carolina (moved from the SEC to strengthen this conference)
  • Miami
  • South Florida (they fit here better geographically better than the Big East)
  • Central Florida (perfect rival for South Florida)
  • Boston College
  • Connecticut
  • Rutgers

The remaining First-Tier Conference steals the name of Conference USA, but has very little to do with it.  The geographic footprint overlaps the Big Ten a little, with a little shift to the east.  A lot of the old Big East winds up here along with some other Appalachian schools and some other schools that didn’t fit with th SEC, Big Ten or Southwest Conference.

  • Penn State
  • Notre Dame (Since they won’t join the Big Ten)
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia Tech
  • Pittsburgh
  • Syracuse
  • Marshall
  • East Carolina (thanks to E.C.’s attendance they get a spot in the first tier)
  • Louisville
  • Cincinnati
  • Missouri (shuffled them between a couple of other conferences, but along with Arkansas it makes since)
  • Arkansas (having Missouri here, makes this a little more sensible)

Second Tier

I’ll start with my most radical move:  the creation of a southern Ivy League that I call the kudzu Conference.  Some of these schools have long traditions in powerhouse conferences, but due to academic rigours, they rarely competed at that level.  Now they are joined by the service academies in a conference where they can all be competitive and still have an opportunity to play for a national championship.

  • Vanderbilt
  • Rice
  • Tulane
  • Duke
  • Wake Forest
  • SMU
  • Northwestern (a bit of a geographic stretch, but they have a lot in common with the rest of these schools)
  • Temple (see NOrthwestern)
  • UMASS (they are moving up in division and not worthy of first tier.  It stretches the geographic footprint, but with Temple and Army they have  neighbors)
  • Army (the service academies fit in the second tier and they should be together)
  • Navy
  • Air Force (they would be first tier if not for the other service academies going here.  Closest conference rival is SMU, but I didn’t want to separate the academies)

Next is my version of the Western Athletic ConferenceFresno State and Wyoming were borderline First Tier teams, but lack of success and/or low attendance land them here

  • Fresno State
  • San Diego State
  • San Jose State
  • UNLV
  • Wyoming
  • Texas – El Paso
  • Idaho
  • Utah State
  • Colorado State (not competitive enough to stay in the First Teir)
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New Mexico State

This next one is a combination of some Sun Belt schools, some Mid American Conference Schools and some schools that have yet to play a down at the FBS level, but are on their way.  For lack of a better name for this think, I’ll call it Sun Belt, but it needs a new name to reflect the northern schools.  There are more teams here than in the previously mentioned conferences, but that is a reflection of the level of competition.  Since these schools are a little less succesful, and in some cases brand new, more of them have to compete for that automatic bowl birth.

  • Ball State (the MAC teams are split and since so many are in Ohio, the other ones go here)
  • Central Michigan
  • Eastern Michigan
  • Western Michigan
  • Northern  Illinois
  • Buffalo
  • Texas – San Marcos (moving up to FBS soon)
  • Texas – San Antonio (moving up to FBS)
  • North Texas
  • Tulsa
  • Arkansas State
  • Louisiana Tech
  • Louisiana – Monroe
  • Louisiana – Lafayette

I’ll call this one the Mid American Conference, but it has a lot of Sun Belt teams as well.  I kept all of the MAC teams from Ohio together.

  • Akron
  • Bowling Green
  • Kent State
  • Miami-Ohio
  • Ohio
  • Toledo
  • Western Kentucky
  • Middle Tennessee State
  • Memphis
  • Alabama – Birmingham
  • Troy
  • South Alabama (moving to FBS soon)
  • Florida Atlantic
  • Florida International

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