A Look at Realignment: College Football Reborn

By Andrew Sheridan, @SidelinesKState

new conf

Not too long ago, Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde released his version of how he would like to see College Football be realigned. Naturally, as every CFB nerd has done, this inspired me to create an overhaul realignment of College Football. So without further ado, here it is – College Football: Reborn.

Realignment is more relevant than ever right now as schools deal with the issues thrown at them by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Some conferences have cancelled the Fall football season while others have moved to Conference-Only schedules. Of course, this leads to questions such as, “Why can Iowa travel to Rutgers but not play Iowa State?” In reality, that answer has nothing to do with travel and everything to do with conference regulation, but that’s a story for another time. Even though the reason for moving to Conference-Only schedules isn’t 100% about distance traveled, regional conferences would be the perfect fit for College Football right now.

As conferences move to Conference-Only schedules, there will almost certainly not be as many games on the schedule. A very harsh reality is that we will likely see a shortened season this academic year, if at all. To keep things fair and equal, every team should have to play every team. This way, there can’t be one Big 10 team who has to play Ohio State, Penn State, and Minnesota while another gets to play Rutgers, Northwestern, and Purdue. In this instance, 10-team conferences would be ideal, as it would provide at minimum a 9-game schedule while still seeing every conference foe.

So, let’s get into it!

What’s wrong with the system we have right now?

To be blunt, there are several issues with the system in place as of now. Include the long-standing issues with new things such as COVID-19 financial issues, and we have even more problems. Let’s take a look.

The College Football Playoff Selection Committee

Through the past several seasons, everybody has had their gripes with the CFP Committee. Since the CFP started, the Committee has been far too inconsistent with how they base their rankings of teams. Here are some examples:

  • 2014: 1-loss teams Baylor and TCU both missed out on the inaugural playoff due to weak non-conference schedules and not being named an outright Conference Champion.

New Precedent: Conference Champion with better than average Non-Conference Schedule.

  • 2016: Big Ten Champion Penn State (2 losses) would miss out on the Playoff in place of 1-loss Ohio State. In this case, Ohio State was given the argument of a strong non-conference schedule after defeating Oklahoma, who finished #5 in the AP Poll that season.

Precedent Broken: Conference Champions

New Precedent: Have a strong Non-Conference Schedule and 1 loss or less.

  • 2017: The University of Central Florida finished the season with a record of 13-0, AAC Champions, and as Peach Bowl Champions. Despite their unblemished record, UCF still missed out on the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, Alabama would finish (before postseason) with a record of 11-1 and no conference, or even division, championship title. On top of this, Alabama’s non-conference schedule was also very weak. Alabama was selected as the 4th team in that year’s Playoff.

Precedent Broken: Conference Champions; Better than Average Non-Conference Schedule; Undefeated Record

New Precedent: Group of 5 teams stand NO chance at making the CFP.

  • 2018: Once again, UCF would finish the regular season with an undefeated record. Again, they were left out of the Playoff. At least a previously set precedent was finally followed.

Dominant Divisions

Oftentimes, we see individual divisions within a conference that are simply dominant. This can be found when multiple teams from one division would win the other division in the conference. Here are some examples:

  • Big Ten East: Time and time again, the Big Ten East has proved its dominance over the B1G West. There have only been a handful of years when the West was even relatively close to the level of play the Big Ten East played at. Looking back all the way back to 2014 when the CFP was introduced, the East has won the B1G Championship every time.
  • SEC West: Along with the Big Ten East, the SEC West has also been dominant over the SEC East. With the likes of Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and the Mississippi schools (sorry, A&M), this division was always bound to be light years ahead of the SEC East. Since 2014, the SEC East has only won the SEC Championship one time. However, that very same year, the SEC Champion, Georgia, lost in the National Championship to SEC West team Alabama. In fact, the SEC East has only won the SEC Championship ONE time since 2009!
  • ACC Atlantic: While not as commonly thought of, the ACC Atlantic has largely dominated the ACC for the past several years. Largely in part due to Clemson and Florida State, the ACC Atlantic has won every ACC Championship since 2011. Only once out of those 11 games was the ACC Coastal team ranked higher.
  • PAC-12 North: Though you may not think this one too likely given the teams in the South, the PAC-12 North has won eight of the nine PAC-12 Championship games played. The lone loss was when #11 USC bested #14 Stanford in 2017.

Recruiting

Due to the difference in prestige between the Power 5 and Group of 5, recruiting faces major discrepancies. The majority of the time, P5 schools bring in the better recruits for a number of reasons:

  • Better Coaches
  • Chance for National Championship
  • Better Chance at NFL
  • Better Facilities
  • Get Paid More (yes, it happens; don’t deny it)

Realignment would not immediately solve all of these problems, but it would help to begin progress toward solving these issues in the long-run.

Travel Costs

Travel can be very costly to athletic departments, conferences, and the NCAA as a whole. Conferences aligned geographically would help to cut thousands of dollars spent on travel every season.

So, What is the Proposal?

This version of realignment organizes schools based on their geographic regions while still attempting to maintain Primary Rivalries.

The Layout

Instead of the 10 conferences made up of various numbers of teams that we see today, College Football would be made up of 12 different conferences made up of 10 teams each. This would help to balance out the conferences across the board. The FBS currently consists of 130 different schools across the country. The new layout would only see 120 teams in the FBS. This new alignment would see 13 teams relegated to the FCS while 3 teams will be promoted to the FBS.

So, to summarize:

  • 120 Total Teams
  • 12 Conferences
  • 10 Teams per Conference
  • 13 Teams Relegated to FCS
  • 3 Teams Promoted to FBS

Every team would play a Round-Robin style set of conference games resulting in 9 conference games. Each team would then play 3 non-conference games with the option to play 1 FCS team available (I know this is not liked, but the payouts for the FCS schools are needed to help keep their athletic departments alive).

The Top 2 finishers in each conference would advance to the First Round of the College Football Playoff where the winner would advance to the Round of 12. Yes, that’s right; the Playoff will be expanded to a 24-team Playoff.

All other teams with at least 6 wins would play in normal bowl games, as is done currently.

Here is how the new College Football Playoff will look:

  • 24 Teams
    • All Auto-Bids
  • Top 2 per Conference Advance
  • Round 1 (Round of 24):
    • “Conference Championships”
    • Neutral Site or Higher Seed is Host; Dependent on Conference
  • Round 2 (Top 12):
    • 4 Highest Remaining Seeds on BYE
    • Seeds 5-12 in Traditional 8-Team Format Tournament
    • Higher Seed is Host
  • Round 3 (National Quarterfinals):
    • Seeds 1-8 in Traditional 8-Team Format Tournament
    • Neutral Site
  • Round 4 (National Semifinals):
    • 4 Remaining Teams in Traditional 4-Team Tournament Format
    • Neutral Site
  • Round 5 (National Championship):
    • 2 Remaining Teams in Traditional 2-Team Tournament Format
    • Neutral Site

CFP

The Rankings

The current system in place to determine how a team is ranked in College Football is via the College Football Playoff Committee, a group of 13 people. While the idea of having humans selecting the rankings may seem appealing at first, the appeal quickly dies away. Of course, this is simply because we as humans have opinions, and that’s okay, but opinions shouldn’t be choosing how the teams are ranked, or at least choosing alone. The new ranking system will be made up of 7 different ranking systems averaged together. We bring old and new together as we have 4 computer rankings and 3 human rankings combine. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • 7 Polls Averaged
  • 4 Computer Polls
    • MaxDiff
    • BCS
    • ESPN FPI
    • Heck-Miles
  • 3 Human Polls
    • CFP Committee
    • AP
    • Coaches

The Conferences

  • AAC – American Athletic Conference
      • Headquarters in Louisville, KY or Indianapolis, IN or Richmond, VA
      • Possible Conference Championship Location:
        • Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis, IN
        • M&T Bank Stadium; Baltimore, MD
        • FedEx Field; Washington D.C.
  • ACC – Atlantic Coastal Conference
      • Headquarters in Charlotte, NC or Columbia, SC
      • Possible Conference Championship Location:
        • Bank of America Stadium; Charlotte, NC
        • Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, PA
  • B1G – Big Ten Conference
      • Headquarters in Columbus, OH or Detroit, MI or Indianapolis, IN
      • Possible Conference Championship Location:
        • Ford Field; Detroit, MI
        • Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis, IN
        • Paul Brown Stadium; Cincinnati, OH
  • CPC – Central Plains Conference
      • Headquarters in Minneapolis, MN or Chicago, IL
      • Possible Conference Championship Location:
        • Soldier Field; Chicago, IL
        • U.S. Bank Stadium; Minneapolis, MN
  • GCC – Gulf Coast Conference
      • Headquarters in Houston, TX or New Orleans, LA
      • Possible Conference Championship Location:
        • Mercedes-Benz Superdome; New Orleans, LA
        • NRG Stadium; Houston, TX
  • GPC – Great Plains Conference
      • Headquarters in Kansas City, KS/MO or Denver, CO
      • Possible Conference Championship Location:
        • Arrowhead Stadium; Kansas City, MO
        • Empower Field at Mile High; Denver, CO
  • MWC – Mountain West Conference
      • Headquarters in Seattle, WA or Salt Lake City, UT
      • Possible Conference Championship Location:
        • Century-Link Field; Seattle, WA
        • Allegiant Field; Las Vegas, NV
  • NEC – Northeastern Conference
      • Headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA or New York City, NY or Trenton, NJ
      • Possible Conference Championship Location:
        • Metlife Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ
        • Heinz Field; Pittsburg, PA
        • Gillette Stadium; Foxborough, MA
  • PAC – Pacific Athletic Conference
      • Headquarters in Los Angeles, CA or San Francisco, CA
      • Possible Conference Championship Location:
        • Levi’s Stadium; Santa Clara, CA
        • SoFi Stadium; Inglewood, CA
        • State Farm Stadium; Phoenix, AZ
  • SAC – Southern America Conference
      • Headquarters in Dallas, TX or Oklahoma City, OK
      • Possible Conference Championship Location:
        • AT&T Stadium; Arlington, TX
        • Alamodome; San Antonio, TX
  • SBC – Sun Belt Conference
      • Headquarters in Memphis, TN or Nashville, TN or Mobile, AL
        • Nissan Stadium; Nashville, TN
        • Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium; Memphis, TN
  • SEC – Southeastern Conference
    • Headquarters in Atlanta, GA or Orlando, FL or Tampa, FL
    • Possible Conference Championship Location:
      • Mercedes-Benz Stadium; Atlanta, GA
      • Camping World Stadium; Orlando, FL
      • Hard Rock Stadium; Miami, FL
      • Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, FL
      • TIAA Bank Field; Jacksonville, FL

Realignment

Finally, the moment you all clicked this article for! Where does your team end up?

The following 13 teams said goodbye to the FBS:

  • Akron
  • Bowling Green State
  • Central Michigan
  • East Carolina
  • Kent State
  • Liberty
  • Middle Tennessee State
  • New Mexico State
  • Rice
  • Texas State
  • UConn
  • UMass
  • UTEP

Meanwhile, we had 3 teams say hello to the FBS:

  • James Madison
  • North Dakota State
  • Northern Iowa

And alas, here they are: the Realignment!

  • AAC – American Athletic Conference

AAC

  • ACC – Atlantic Coastal Conference

ACC

  • B1G – Big Ten Conference

big

  • CPC – Central Plains Conference

cpc

  • GCC – Gulf Coast Conference

gcc

  • GPC – Great Plains Conference

gpc

  • MWC – Mountain West Conference

mwc

  • NEC – Northeastern Conference

nec

  • PAC – Pacific Athletic Conference

pac

  • SAC – Southern America Conference

sac

  • SBC – Sun Belt Conference

sbc

  • SEC – Southeastern Conference

sec

new conf

Do you like where your team landed at? Could you see the FBS moving to a model similar to this in the future or do you think conferences will grow into Super Conferences in the future?

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Author: Sidelines_SN

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One thought on “A Look at Realignment: College Football Reborn”

  1. So we are concerned about travel cost but pushing for adding 5 additional games for the top 2 teams? It is interesting how a few conferences got to keep existing conference names, but some were forced to take new ones. All conferences should take new names just to be fair. Eliminating 13 teams from the FBS? As a K State fan, this one is horrible. We were at one point the worst team in college football and would have been one of the schools removed if this alignment had taken place before Bill Snyder came to town. I’m not in favor of relegating a current FBS institution to a lesser league. These are just a few of my gripes. There are many more. Suffice it to say I don’t think this system would work

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