College Football Playoff Part One: (not so)Radical Realignment

It is of the opinion of many that college football needs to establish some sort of playoff system, and I happen to hold that opinion myself. However while many think that a playoff system is necessary, very few have any actual idea of how it should work. This is where I become different than most other people, because I have an idea that has been in my head for a couple of years that I think will work very well. The only catch is that it is fairly complex, and the first part of a five part series is inside.

As you can guess from the title, the first part of the Clearinghouse Chaos College Football Playoff Plan (CCCFPP) deals with some realignment of the conferences. One of the biggest flaws of the current BCS is that there are some conferences who play a conference championship game in the last week of November and some conferences do not. This has allowed Ohio State to back into the BCS Championship the past two years since they did not play – and conversely lose – in the season’s last two weeks. Conference championship games, for those conferences that do have them, have cost teams countless chances to play for all of the marbles. So the first point of the CCCFPP is to establish it so that every major conference either plays a conference championship game, or doesn’t. I happen to like conference championship games because they add another great matchup and allow 12 team conferences the chance to settle things on the field, so I propose that every BCS conference expands to include 12 teams in the form of two 6-team divisions.

SEC

The SEC already has 12 teams divided out nicely and has been operating on this model for years. One of the true powerhouses of college football, I see no reason to mess with the SEC – leave it as is.

Big 12

The Big 12, as per its namesake, already has 12 teams in it as well and has been operating as such for more than 10 years. Both of these first two conferences have been doing things right for all of these years and there’s no reason to mess with anything that they have fought to establish – leave it as is.

ACC

In the wake of the ACC poaching off Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College from the Big East a few years ago, we have the third of the six major conferences that already operates with 12 teams and has a conference championship game. So far, so good – leave it as it is.

Pac 10

The Pac 10 is one of the culprits of the no championship game mantra, but at least they settle a true conference champion by playing 9 conference games. I can respect that, and never discount the Pac 10 champion for it, but for the sake of parity in the CCCFPP every conference has to have 12 teams and a championship game. Being two teams short the Pac 10 would only have to look to the cluster of powerhouse little guy teams out west and add Utah and Boise State. Throw Boise and Utah in the “North” with Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State. Have Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, California, and Stanford make up the “South” and you have a nice little conference that still preserves current rivalries.

Big East

At the Big East is where things start to get complicated. This conference would have to add a whopping four teams to make up 12 and there’s also the Notre Dame Component where the Irish basketball team plays in the Big East while the football team is an Independent – but everybody knows Notre Dame is a perfect fit for the Big 10. The Domers won’t like it, but part of the CCCFPP says that Notre Dame has to suck it up and join the Big 10….for everything. It finishes off the conference to 12 and just leaves this Big East mess to deal with. So where does the four teams come from to complete the Big East? I would propose that Army, Navy, Miami of Ohio, and Ohio University join the conference to round out the twelve here. Army and Navy joining the Big East combined with Notre Dame joining the Big 10 will just leave Western Kentucky as the only remaining Independent and they should probably go ahead and find a conference themselves. This leaves Big East division #1 with Cincinnati, Louisville, Miami(OH), Ohio, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers and division #2 with Army, UConn, Navy, South Florida, Syracuse, and West Virgina.

Big 10

The Big 10 is the biggest culprit of absurdity in college football today. While the Pac 10 and Big East don’t have conference championship games, at least everybody in those conferences plays everybody else. The Big 10 can’t even crown a true conference champion because they have 11 teams and can’t have everybody play everybody else. This leads to ugly ties and a conference champ that can be a result of schedule more than skill. It also leads to the eventual conference champ having a high probability of backing into the championship game because their season ends before the rivalry games and championship games in other legitimate conferences. However for the purposes of the CCCFPP legitimizing the Big 10 is an easy process as all you do is add Notre Dame to the conference. The tricky part comes when you try to separate the twelve into divisions. I feel that one of the biggest priorities of this restructuring is to maintain current rivalries by keeping those rivals in the same division to preserve annual clashes. The biggest rivalry in the Big 10 is Michigan-Ohio State, and any attempts to go from there to divide the conference can only lead to an East-West split. Add to Michigan-OSU Penn State, Michigan State, Indiana, and Purdue and you have a great geographical split. However, keeping Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State in one division will surely lead to a severe imbalance in power between the two divisions. No offense to Wisconsin, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa but it is hard to see that set of teams really rivaling what PSU, OSU, and UM put out on a consistent basis. However here I will simply put some faith into the cyclical nature of sports and hope that these schools over time would rise up and challenge the East and leave things as it is.

Little Guys

I would be remised if I didn’t address the little guys as well. After all, cheering for the underdog is what collegiate sports is all about. With the 72 teams mentioned above making up the BCS conferences, 48 little guy schools are left to divide up. Having 48 teams could be split up nicely into six 8-team conferences or four 12-teamers. It is not as necessary for the little guy conferences to be equal so a combination of two 12s and three 8s would do as well. One of the twelves would be the remaining Conference USA, which lost no teams to promotion and will remain in its current state. The MAC, despite losing two teams to the Big East, has 11 teams left due to their unique 7 team East division. Western Kentucky, the lone Independent after the new Big East and Big 10 are created, would fill in very nicely to finish out the MAC with 12 teams themselves. That just leaves the trio of 8 team conferences all of which need no realigning. After losing one team each the Mountain West and WAC are left with 8 teams each and the Sun Belt already has 8 teams in it. Voila, two 12 team conferences and three 8 team conferences – and all it took was adding one Independent team and no shifting of any teams.

I think this is the easiest way to stabilize college football divisions all across the country. It puts all six BCS conferences on the same playing field as far as championship games and schedules are concerned. It only moves four teams (Boise, Utah, Ohio, and Miami of Ohio) out of their current conferences while filling the rest with currently Independent teams. All it takes is moving eight teams from their current affiliation and all of college football can be put on the same playing field for the first time ever. It seems like such a little price to pay to me.

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