Realignment Roundtable: Breaking Down SI's Reimagining Of College Sports

John Bohnenkamp

Sports Illustrated published Pat Forde’s “America, Realigned,” on Monday, a project where the veteran college sports writer tried to recreate the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) landscape.

Forde's plan had Iowa in the Great Midwest Conference (GMC) alongside fellow Big Ten West division rivals Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota, Iowa State, two other Big 12 schools, three MAC schools each, a SEC program and FCS program North Dakota State.

Under Forde's plan, teams would play 11 conference games plus one nonconference game yearly — for Iowa, that would be Purdue.

A look at the Great Midwest Conference, with the nonconference partner in parentheses:

Wisconsin (Michigan State)
Minnesota (Michigan)
Iowa (Purdue)
Iowa State (Oklahoma State)
Nebraska (Oklahoma)
Missouri (Illinois)
Kansas State (TCU)
North Dakota State (Colorado State)
Kansas (Colorado)
Western Michigan (Toledo)
Central Michigan (N. Illinois)
Eastern Michigan (Ball State)

AllBadgers publisher Jake Kocorowski and I did a roundtable discussion for some quick thoughts on a few topics pertaining to this new group of schools.

Annual favorites

John: I think it would be three Big Ten schools — Iowa and Wisconsin for sure, and I think Nebraska could be in that mix if Scott Frost can get things going there. I’ve always liked what Matt Campbell is doing at Iowa State, and that Iowa-Iowa State rivalry would get some added spice.

Jake: I think right now, and not just because we cover the programs and are most familiar with them, but Wisconsin and Iowa would among the top schools in what I will abbreviate as the GMwC. Fleck is doing some things with Minnesota, especially with recruiting, and you mentioned how Nebraska could elevate itself up there if it gets its act together.

There are some promising schools that I feel could make a splash as well in due time with Kansas State, Missouri and I would say even North Dakota State depending upon how they’d make the jump to FBS play.

Anyone from the Big Ten Schools That You Feel Should Be In a Conference with Iowa or Wisconsin?

John: I thought Illinois and Northwestern, and maybe even Indiana and/or Purdue, should have been in the mix over the directional Michigan schools. The Illini and Wildcats are a nice fit with the Badgers and the Hawkeyes, and I would rather have them in the conference.

Jake: I agree about the Fighting Illini and Wildcats, and it is weird thinking about them being in an out-of-conference situation (even though this is purely a hypothetical, fiction situation created by Pat). I would have enjoyed a Michigan State or Michigan potentially in the conference, though I cannot argue against putting them in the Great Mideast (it is absolutely logical based on geography).

Which Programs are Underrated in the GMC and Would Give the Favorites Fits?

John: I love North Dakota State. The Fargodome is one of the best atmospheres that a lot of people haven’t experienced. And the Bison have a lot of talent — Iowa found that out a few seasons ago. Kansas State is only going to get better under Chris Klieman.

Jake: The Bison all the way here, and the Wildcats can only get better with the former NDSU coach guiding the Big 12 program. Is it weird to think Missouri could emerge down the road here? With a new head coach in Eliah Drinkwitz, maybe they build up a contender in due time as well.

Out of the 10 Conferences, Which One or Two are the Strongest on Paper, In Your Opinion?

John: I think Pat did a great job of balancing out the leagues, and looking at all of them, it’s kind of hard to pick one. I’ll go with the Sun Belt one that has LSU, Auburn and Alabama. It seems a little top-heavy, but there’s a good middle group there that could cause problems.

Jake: I concur that Pat did phenomenal work here, as I feel there are several that could be considered the strongest. Sun Belt was one of them for me, but I also like the intriguing depth of the Mid-Atlantic Conference with eight really solid Power 5 programs in my opinion (Clemson, South Carolina, North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest -- heck, throw in Appalachian State here).

Also, the Southwest Conference would be fun with Texas and Texas A&M back playing each other and a group that includes 2019 Big 12 championship game participants Oklahoma and Baylor.