These New Conferences Stink. Let's Fix Them
Realignment talk is back! Call the police!
The SEC is poaching Oklahoma and Texas. The Big is replacing them with BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF. The AAC is replacing its losses with Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA. I’m going to cut right to the chase here – this all sucks.
It’s bad. The quartet of G5 teams moving up is a nice story, but the national landscape is only going to pretend that the zombie Big 12 is still a power league until it actually takes the field, at which point the Power Five will shrink to four.
The SEC additions don’t fit culturally or geographically and have no natural ties to the league beyond their connections to Arkansas, Missouri and Texas A&M – all of which also shouldn’t be in the SEC.
Don’t even get me started on the new AAC, which added three moderately valuable programs in good markets with Charlotte, UAB and UTSA, and three absolute wastes of space to replace what they’re losing in FAU, North Texas and Rice. The C-USA, now seemingly set for the scrap pile, will lose its remaining valuable products to either the Sun Belt or the MAC, with the MWC likely losing its chance with the departure of the Texas trio – unless it really wants UTEP.
These new leagues are just… bad. There’s no cohesion, no history and no real intrigue to any of it. We’re losing even more rivalries and local connections, to the point where it seems like college football is finally finishing the job that it started in the first cycle, and fully killing the regionality of the sport – or at least getting a whole lot closer to it, with eyes planted firmly on the decisions down the road of the teams holding the Big Ten and Pac-12 together (you know who they are).
Given that there’s nothing we can actually do about any of this, we might as well have some fun posting on the internet. Let’s fix the conferences.
EAST: Army, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, ECU, Navy, Old Dominion, UTEP
WEST: Kansas, Kansas State, North Texas, Rice, Texas State, Tulsa, UTSA
Pros: A lot of geographical cohesion within the divisions is the primary appeal. We have a de facto coastal division in the East with Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, ECU Navy and Old Dominion, while Army-Navy becomes an in-conference matchup. Coastal Carolina is the easy favorite in the East at the beginning of league play, but Army, Charlotte, ECU and UTEP all seem to be on the rise, and there’s no real stinker here beyond perhaps ODU.
The West is even more geographically aligned. Kansas and Kansas State drop down into the G5 ranks, joining Tulsa outside of Texas and a Texas quartet in UNT, Rice, Texas State and UTSA. Kansas State is an early favorite here, as is UTSA, but like in the East, there’s a ton of space for some stunted programs to grow.
Cons: Alright, I can’t figure out a way to get UTEP and UTSA in the same division. Go ahead, throw tomatoes at me if you must. Plus, the level of competition is pretty low, at least in year one if we’re starting this in 2021. But, a UTSA-Coastal conference title would absolutely kick ass.
NORTH: Boston College, Buffalo, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple
SOUTH: Clemson, Duke, Maryland, N.C. State, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wake Forest
Pros: The regionality is going to be a theme here, and I think this league has it too. We finally have something resembling a Northeastern league for the first time since the Big East in this Northern division. The lack of Penn State and Pitt hurts the conference quality, but we’ll find them elsewhere in a minute. Plus, someone is going to have to come out of this North division, and I’m hoping that at least a few of these teams can sell that to bring in some actual recruiting classes here at some point.
The South pretty much explains itself. I wanted the established Carolina programs all in one spot. Maryland rejoins a league that would actually want it, and South Carolina gets some rivalries that make sense, rather than an annual matchup with Missouri.
Cons: This North division absolutely stinks until someone figures out how to win. I’d guess that Boston College benefits in a huge way here in the short-term, as does Rutgers – potentially leading to growth for both programs down the road. But in 2021, this in maybe the worst division in all of football, and the South winner really isn’t facing a whole lot of resistance.
EAST: App State, Marshall, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia
WEST: Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Ohio, Western Kentucky
Pros: Maybe my favorite league in this entire exercise. So many of these programs have a ton of history together and have been split apart by realignment. App State and Marshall can rekindle their hatred from their FCS days. Penn State and Pitt are reunited against their wills, with the Virginia schools and West Virginia ready to fight in the parking lots against both programs. Kentucky and Lousiville get together, also against their wills, with Wester Kentucky… ready to fight in the parking lot. Even Ohio and Marshall can reignite an underrated old MAC rivalry.
Quite a few more fit naturally in a league like this but never really had the chance to develop those kind of rivalries. Cincinnati-Kentucky/Ohio/Penn State/Pitt, Memphis-Kentucky Trio/Middle Tennessee State, West Virginia-App State/Marshall. All very good, all available now with this new league.
Plus, in terms of sheer competence, this is a full-on good conference. Short of Virginia Tech, Louisville, Middle Tennessee State and Ohio, just about every team in here is competent, with potential title contenders in Penn State and Cincinnati. Plus, with extra money, App State is a top 10 program within a decade.
Cons: Just about every team in here absolutely hates this, but that sounds a lot like a YP, not an MP. Your problem. My only real complaint is that I just couldn’t find a way to get Tennessee and Vanderbilt in here.
EAST: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue
WEST: Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin
Pros: I mean, it’s the Big Ten. That’s the sell. It’s the Big Ten with greater regional connections and no Maryland/Nebraska/Rutgers. The loss of Penn State hurts the quality, but Notre Dame joins, so it’s really not a huge deal. It’s the Big Ten.
Cons: It’s the Big Ten.
Also, I don’t want the Iowa schools in here but they don’t fit anywhere else.
NORTH: Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, SMU, TCU
SOUTH: Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
Pros: Like with the Big Ten, we’re pretty much just correcting the sins of realignment here. The power Texas schools are all reunited, as are Arkansas, Missouri and Nebraska with the Oklahoma schools.
Cons: I would have liked to add Colorado, but I couldn’t find a place for it that didn’t destroy another league in the process. Like in the AAC, splitting the Texas teams bothers me, but we have seven Texas teams in a 12-team league. Arkansas in the South maintains just about every rivalry I want, and SMU and TCU can maintain their Dallas ties in the North.
MIDDLE: Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Toledo
AMERICAN: Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan
Pros: It’s pretty much just the MAC, sans Buffalo and Ohio.
Cons: It’s pretty much just the MAC, sans Buffalo and Ohio.
EAST: Air Force, Colorado, Colorado State, Nevada, UNLV, Wyoming
WEST: Fresno State, Hawaii, New Mexico, New Mexico State, San Diego State, San Jose State
Pros: Colorado and Colorado State are reunited, as are New Mexico and New Mexico State.
Cons: I’ll be honest, I can’t really sell this one. Colorado doesn’t invest enough in football for me to put it in a bigger league, but that means that Boise State is jumping up to take its spot, leaving us with essentially a depleated MWC. They can’t all be winners.
NORTH: Boise State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington, Washington State
SOUTH: Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, UCLA, USC, Utah, Utah State
Pros: Boise State and BYU finally get a much-deserved promotion to the big time, while Utah State gets to tag along as a pairing with Utah. The rest of the league is relatively unchanged – I’m getting rid of bum ass Colorado and adding a trio to jump the conference up to 14 teams. My hope here is two-fold. Firstly, the North needs a second power, and I think Boise State with greater resources can be that quickly. The rivalry potential with Oregon is really, really strong too.
Secondly, the South just needs anything at all, and my hope is that BYU is hungry enough to fill the void – or to kick some of these other schools into gear.
Cons: The quality here is still relatively low, at least relative to some of the other powers. Plus, we’re approaching bloated territory, but a lot of the worst teams in the conference have rivalry ties that we can’t sever.
NORTH: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
SOUTH: Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami (Fla.), South Florida, UCF
Pros: I’ve consolidated the Florida schools, working Florida, Florida State, Miami, UCF and USF into the same league in hopes that one of them will emerge as “good” in the best conference in football.
I’ve done the same with Georgia and Georgia Tech, too.
The North is still overpowered here, in the same vein as the current West, but I’m hoping that with at least one of the Florida programs emerging as a power, we could have a true big four here with two in each division: Alabama and LSU, [Insert Florida school of your choosing] and Georgia.
Cons: The problems here are the same as with the current SEC. The top of the league is too good and will limit the bottom of it. I fear that Georgia Tech, the Mississippi schools, the Tennessee schools and two or three of the Florida schools are just completely fucked here. There’s not a whole lot to be done for it.
Plus, I can’t imagine that Florida is happy about any of this, but again, that’s a YP.
EAST: Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, South Alabama, Troy, UAB
WEST: Arkansas State, Liberty, Louisiana, ULM, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Tulane
Pros: It’s a more-true-to-its-name Sun Belt, essentially. I’ve gathered up a good portion of the Deep South programs that are a step below the SEC, and placed them into one league. FAU and FIU are both here, as are both Georgia schools and an Alabama trio. We have a quartet of Louisiana schools in the West, too, which I like a lot (even if they don’t like it at all).
Cons: There really aren’t a ton here. I hate splitting Georgia Southern and App State but other than that I really like this league. It feels like an upgraded Sun Belt to me, and one with a greater commitment to its footprint than even the current rendition.