First of all, let me be clear that I am not in favor of college football heading to 16 team mega conferences. However, it seems to me with the SEC rumors and talk from the Pac 10 commish that expansion was not done, it seems we may be headed that direction.
Second of all, I also am not in favor of college football, as a whole, “shrinking” to 60-80 teams – perhaps it’s too many Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday night ESPN games or Saturday games on CBSSN, but I actually enjoy watching MAC teams and CUSA teams battle it out – plus, part of what I love about college sports is the “little guy”, or the “middle guy”, like a South Florida or a Boise State who was a nothing just a few years ago being a big deal now.
With those thoughts in mind – and I admit to being a bit of a geek and often thinking about college sports realignment, because it is such an ongoing topic, what I describe below is a realignment proposal that envisions 128 FBS teams – we’re already slated for 124 (South Alabama, Texas State, UTSA, UMass) – divided into eight 16 team conferences.
Pods Within Conferences
Each 16 team conference would be divided into four pods. Within each conference, a team would play the three teams within its own pod every year (3 games) and the four teams from another pod (4 games), on a rotating basis, for a total of 7 conference games. Teams would then play 5 non-conference games, only one of which could be against an FCS team.
After the regular season, the four pod winners within each conference would be seeded 1-4. In some ways, this would be the first two rounds of a national playoff. In the week that is currently the “Championship Game” week, it would be 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3, played at the higher seed’s campus. In the week after, the winners would meet in the conference championship game.
8 team playoffThe top 4 conferences (more on this below) would get the top 4 spots in an 8 team playoff, with the final four spots being “wild card” positions that would be chosen from the four remaining conference champions, and the four other “runners up”. This way, if a team like Stanford lost to Oregon in its conference championship, it could still get a bid into the 8 team playoff over a team like, say, Miami of Ohio. However, not these rules:
1. One of the four wild-cards would go to highest rated among the other four conference champions.
2. If any of the four non-automatic conference champions were in the Top 16 of the final poll, they would be automatic as well.
The four quarterfinal games would be played on college campuses – determined by the BCS poll -- and played on New Year’s Day. The semifinals and finals would be played in traditional bowl locations.
Bowl Games Remain
All the other teams would be eligible to play in bowl games, as they are now.
New FBS teams in parentheses.
SEC – automatic bid
Pod 1 – Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas
Pod 2 – Texas A&M, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State
Pod 3 – Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida
Pod 4 – Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina
Big 10 – automatic bid
Pod 1 – Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin
Pod 2 – Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Indiana
Pod 3 – Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State
Pod 4 – Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Pittsburgh
Pac 16 – automatic bid
Pod 1 – Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State
Pod 2 – California, Stanford, Southern Cal, UCLA
Pod 3 – Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah
Pod 4 – Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State
ACC – automatic bid
Pod 1 – Miami-FL, Florida State, South Florida, Georgia Tech
Pod 2 – Clemson, Virginia Tech, Virginia, West Virginia
Pod 3 – Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State
Pod 4 – Connecticut, Boston College, Maryland, (Villanova)
Pod 1 – Cincinnati, Louisville, Marshall, Iowa State
Pod 2 – Memphis, Louisiana Tech, Tulsa, Baylor
Pod 3 – TCU, SMU, Houston, Rice
Pod 4 – Southern Miss, UAB, East Carolina, Central Florida
Pod 1 – Hawaii, San Diego State, Fresno State, San Jose State
Pod 2 – BYU, Utah State, UNLV, Nevada
Pod 3 – UTEP, New Mexico, Colorado State, Air Force
Pod 4 – (Montana), Idaho, Boise State, Wyoming
Pod 1 – UMASS, Temple, Army, Navy
Pod 2 – Northern Illinois, Ball State, Kent State, Toledo
Pod 3 – Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan
Pod 4 – Miami-Ohio, Ohio, Bowling Green, Akron
Pod 1 – Florida Atlantic, FIU, South Alabama, Troy
Pod 2 – North Texas, UTSA, Texas State, New Mexico State
Pod 3 – Louisiana Monroe, Louisiana Lafayette, Tulane, (Lamar)
Pod 4 – Middle Tennessee, Arkansas State, Western Kentucky, (Appalachian State)