Five Biggest Misses from Pat Forde's Realigned NCAA Experiment
Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde wanted to spice up the summer without sports, so he realigned the NCAA. Yesterday, we at The Grove Report took a look at where he slotted Ole Miss in the new Sun Belt.
The Rebels still get to play most of the SEC West every year and all their rivalry games were left untouched. Forde got that part right at least. For a quick look at the new conferences, see below.
Under this new format, each team would play the 11 other team in their conference each year, plus one matched non-conference opponent that a team would have to play for four consecutive years (Ole Miss' non-conference opponent is Vanderbilt).
Additionally, the alignment would feature a 12-team college football playoff consisting of the ten conference champions plus two at-large teams as selected by the committee.
To me, there's some obvious discrepancies and some obvious misses. Without taking the time to realign the conferences, let's instead look at misses with the formatting.
1. Lack of non-conference games and scheduling
One of the most fun parts of a college football schedule is those first few weeks of the season with random, big-name meetings. This year, we're getting Alabama vs. USC, Texas at LSU, Michigan at Washington, Ole Miss vs. Baylor, Auburn vs. North Carolina and many more. All of that would be out the window under this new format.
Sure, that eliminates fun. But it also has playoff implications. Oregon almost certainly makes the college football playoff in 2019 if they don't fall apart against Auburn late in week one. These games are critical for evaluating the strength of a team outside of its conference and thus the strength of a conference. Selecting the additional two at-large teams for a 12 team playoff would be really difficult without these non-conference games.
2. Strength disparities within conferences
If each conference is getting one team in the playoff, you'd want the conferences to be evenly matched, right? These just aren't. There's no way you can tell me that a conference like the new Sun Belt, which is essentially just the current SEC West, is fairly matched with the Rocky Mountain Conference, who's best team is (I guess) Arizona State? Hell no.
The same can be said for the newly formed Great Midwest Conference. Sure, Minnesota has been good of late and Nebraska has the pedigree, but Wisconsin is going to win that conference 70-percent of the time. Particularly, teams in the new Sun Belt, Deep South, Great Mideast, Southwest and Pac-12 get screwed while traditionally solid teams in the other conferences will have a much easier time making the playoff.
3. Non-football sports got screwed over
In Forde's initial column, he argues this could work beyond football. I simply disagree.
Take Vanderbilt for example. The only major sport the Commodores are any good at is baseball. They're now being placed in the new Mid-American Conference where half the teams don't even play baseball. How's that going to work? It's one example but there's bound to be a plethora more if you dig into this.
4. Some of these non-conference pairings are just strange
This sort of stems off of point number two about strength disparities. Because some of these conferences are much stronger than others, finding good non-conference pairings outside your conference became difficult. Ole Miss got it easy – paired with Vanderbilt, the team from the SEC East they always play anyways. That makes sense.
But Michigan vs. Minnesota? Baylor vs. Louisiana Tech? Texas Tech vs. Louisiana Lafayette? Those aren't exactly fair matchups. Some of them make sense – i.e. keeping the Notre Dame vs. USC rivalry in tact and making the military academies play each other. But the pairings become difficult because of the strength disparities.
5. Why are we getting rid of bowl games?
Maybe this is a controversial opinion, but I like watching football.
The new plan calls for an elimination of a lot of the normal bowl calendar. Maybe some people aren't huge fans of watching Akron play the Air Force Academy in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 17, but you can count me in.
All in all, this is nothing more than a silly, fun experiment. But it's also silly and fun to poke holes in silly, fun experiments. Sorry Pat.