Sports Illustrated's 'America, Realigned': Where Does Michigan Fall?
Since conference realignment seems imminent, what if it were all done geographically? What would that look like?
Earlier today, Sports Illustrated released a Pat Forde project where the veteran college football scribe reshaped a hypothetical realignment of teams within the FBS landscape that features ten conferences and 12 teams. For fun, they called it the "Forde Bowl Subdivision."
Something like this likely won't happen but it's still a lot of fun to look at and would be very interesting to follow. Let's take a look at how Michigan would fit in and answer some questions about the new, bigger and better conferences.
Who's in the Great Mideast Conference?
That conference would consist of Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Toledo, Akron, Kent State and Ball State.
Which current rivals would Michigan hypothetically continue to play?
Obviously Michigan would continue to play Michigan State and Ohio State each year as conference foes, but Minnesota would no longer be a part of U-M's conference slate.
Who is the 12th game against?
There are 11 other conference foes, so there needs to be one more regular season game to fill out the schedule. For Michigan, that's where the rivalry for The Little Brown Jug returns. According to Forde and his new layout, this non-conference opponent would be set for at least four seasons before the potential for an "opt-out." Michigan vs. Minnesota is the first and oldest trophy game in college football history, so preserving it is important, even though U-M is up 75-25-3 in the series.
Where are the other Big Ten East programs in this "radical realignment?"
Forde placed Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers in the Yankee Conference, where it would regularly compete against Boston College, Pitt, Syracuse and Navy.
What about the Big Ten West schools?
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa all got put into the Great Midwest Conference to battle Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas State, North Dakota State, Kansas, Western, Eastern and Central Michigan.
Illinois and Northwestern got tossed in with Notre Dame, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisville and others in the Mid-American Conference.
New potential rivals within the GMeC?
Michigan already has two very strong conference rivals within Forde's new layout in Michigan State and Ohio State and obviously Minnesota was worked in as well. Throw in the chance to play Notre Dame every four years and U-M is fully stocked with rivals. However, given Jim Harbaugh's little riff with Luke Fickell, a natural new rivalry with Cincinnati sounds plausible in this new conference.
Where would expectations be for Michigan in this conference?
In my opinion, the conference is actually quite weak. None of the former MAC schools are going to challenge Michigan and Indiana and Purdue never really have. Cincinnati is certainly trending up under Fickell, but I can't honestly envision a world where they routinely test Michigan. As Michigan State starts to rebuild, they're going to struggle. That leaves Michigan and Ohio State and, well......
Breaking it down like that, only Michigan and Ohio State are considered top-tier programs with the Buckeyes being in a league of their own. Ohio State has beaten Michigan 15 out of the last 16 times, which likely wouldn't change in this alignment.
If Michigan played the other 11 teams, and Minnesota, there's probably only one loss on the schedule. The Gophers would pose a threat, but within the conference, it's only OSU.
What do you think of Forde's alignment? How would you like Michigan in this conference and do you think it would change how the program is viewed?