Alas, College Football season is over and it’s the off-season. Which means the time is right to go down the rabbit hole with some of the wild theories that are being floated out for College Football expansion. One of the best theories out there is that College Football will eventually move to four, 20 team super conferences. While there would be a ton to work out logistically, it does seem like there will be additional expansion in the coming years. But before we take a dive down the wonderland rabbit hole, there were a few ground rules set.
Rule 1: Irrational Confidence Podcast Twitter followers vote on which conference to collapse between the ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12. The Twitter Followers have spoken and the Pac 12 was done away with by 43% of the vote. ACC was 2nd with 33% of the vote and the Big 12 was 3rd with 24%.
Rule 2: If a college is already moving to a conference, that is the conference going forward. Perfect examples are Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC and UCLA and USC to the Big 10.
Rule 3: Conferences can only expand by picking colleges not already in the Big 10, SEC, Big 12 or ACC. While schools may be taken in real expansion, that is not the scenario here. Clemson cannot move to the SEC and Texas A&M cannot travel north to the Big 10 (just some examples).
Now that rules are established, let’s look at our irrationally confident results of conference expansion.
Atlantic Coast Conference
Current Members: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina St., North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forrest (14 members)
New Members: Notre Dame, Appalachian State, Eastern Carolina University, Army, Navy, Liberty (6 new members)
Pods (5 teams each):
|Northeast Pod||Carolina Pod||South Pod||Midwest Pod|
|Boston College||UNC||Florida State||Notre Dame|
|Army||North Carolina St.||Georgia Tech||Virginia Tech|
Rationale: The ACC probably had some of the easiest expansion possible. First, they would not take any teams out of the now defunct Pac-12 due to geography and there are a few easy additions for them to pick up. App St. and ECU feel like easy fits into the conference because of how many teams are located in the Carolinas already. Army and Navy make some sense here as well due to the fact that both military academies are on the east coast. Plus, the ACC would pick them up because for one weekend a year, all eyes would be on the ACC. Liberty was the hardest add to the ACC, but almost became a necessity pick because it just seemed like the best fit, plus they could have a rivalry with the Virginia Schools and Louisville. In the end, the big winner for the ACC is getting a national program like Notre Dame. Notre Dame is already in the ACC for most other sports. And while people will push for Notre Dame to join the Big 10, joining the ACC makes more sense. Upon joining, Notre Dame would be one of the top two or three teams in the conference and give the ACC the national views that they lack due to their geography.
Big 12 Conference
Current Members: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech, West Virginia, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, University of Central Florida (12 members)
New Members: Washington, Washington State, Fresno State, Boise State, San Diego State, Ohio, Memphis, Marshall. (8 new members)
Pods (5 teams each):
|Ohio Valley Pod||Cowboy Pod||Tornado Alley Pod||Mountain Pod|
|West Virginia||Houston||Kansas||Boise State|
|Ohio||Baylor||Oklahoma State||Washington State|
|Marshall||Texas Tech||BYU||San Diego State|
|Memphis||UCF||Iowa State||Fresno State|
Rationale: The Big 12 had the most required growth out of all the conferences as they started with just 12 members. The loss of Texas and Oklahoma will really hurt the Big 12 in the national perspective, but their geographical reach expands in this scenario. The Big 12 has already started to move out west with the addition of BYU next year. Adding in Washington and Washington State makes sense taking away from the Pac 12. The Big 12 then would bring in some of the best Non-Power 5 teams in the country. Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State at times have competed with the major power players in College Football. Joining the Big 12 gets them even more exposure so that more fans can see the great football that is being played out west. West Virginia always seems like the outlier within the conference. The addition of Cincinnati will help next year, but picking up Ohio University in Athens makes the most geographical sense with adding in Marshall and Memphis. Overall, it definitely looks like the Big 12 would be the worst out of the four new super conferences, but it would mean a great deal of parity within the league year in and year out. Parity in football always makes for great television and a true wildcard in the college football landscape.
Big 10 Conference
Current Members: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin, USC, UCLA (16 members)
New Members: California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford (4 new members)
Pods (5 teams each):
|Eddie George Pod||Charles Woodson Pod||Ron Dayne Pod||Matt Leinart Pod|
Rationale: The Big 10 turned out to be the most straightforward expansion once Notre Dame went to the ACC, although the AAU accreditation that the Big 10 likes was not taken into account. The Big 10 would gain the most out of the collapse of the Pac 12. Only needing to pick up four new teams to meet the 20 mark, California makes logical sense due to UCLA’s ties to the school. In the real world, it’s not a given that both Oregon and Oregon State would join the Big 10, but that would be the only option available to them. Stanford has the academics and history that the Big 10 craves. Plus when Stanford played Northwestern it would be the smartest collection of football players in what could easily be labeled the Brain Bowl. The key with Big 10 expansion comes down to media markets. The Big 10 truly wants coast to coast exposure and with this new conference, a Saturday could easily hold over 15 hours’ worth of Big 10 football.
Current Members: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Texas, Oklahoma (16 members)
New Members: Colorado, Arizona, Arizona St, Utah (4 new members)
Pods (5 teams each):
|Bear Bryant Pod||Steve Spurrier Pod||Frank Broyles Pod||Barry Switzer Pod|
|Ole Miss||South Carolina||Missouri||Arizona|
|Mississippi State||Kentucky||Arkansas||Arizona State|
Rationale: The SEC’s expansion feels almost like they are expanding because everyone else is already doing it, so they have to get to 20 teams as well. The SEC, like the Big 10, sits at 16 teams to start. The two programs of note that would provide some intrigue would be Colorado and Utah. The SEC already has huge list of great coaches and it gets even more interesting with the addition of Coach Prime and Kyle Whittingham. Both of these programs could provide some must watch matchups and be a huge benefit in recruiting. Arizona and Arizona State are benefiting from the music stopping and the only two seats remaining were in the SEC. At least Vanderbilt would have someone they could beat up on year in and year out.
Do we really need four 20 team conferences?
Expanding the conferences sounds very easy in theory, but turned out to be a bigger challenge than expected. While there are easily enough teams to fill the 80 slots in these conferences, do those programs actually deserve to be part of those conferences as well as have the ability to compete within them? Most likely the answer is no. The realistic answer would be moving to four 18 team conferences. While this is only a loss of 8 total teams, it takes out a lot of the questions within the conferences.
Obviously, the SEC and the Big 10 would be the two best conferences in this scenario and would dominate the College Football Playoff System. But this level of expansion could allow for mini-playoffs to decide conference champions. And regular season scheduling could be fun. Obviously a school would play the four other teams in their pod and five teams from another pod. Then they would have to play one non-conference game from each of the other three conferences to get them to 12 games total. Who knows what the future brings? But as for now, four 20 team conferences will stay in Wonderland.