Where Would Ole Miss Land in a Theoretically Realigned NCAA?
Blow it all up.
It's been ten years since the last, major set of realignment began to reshape the NCAA conferences into the way we see them today.
Money drove realignment, geography got thrown out the window and historical rivalries (think Texas vs. Texas A&M) were shattered.
But what if we realigned again, completely geographically?
It's an entirely theoretical exercise that Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde has been tackling over the past few weeks, released earlier this morning. It won't happen – the financial implications won't let it be so. But it's fun to pontificate.
The new system consists of 120 FBS schools fitting into ten conferences. A 12-team college football playoff would consist of the ten conference champions plus two at-large teams as selected by the committee. North Dakota State gets promoted from the FCS to FBS level and 11 current FBS members are delegated to get down to 120 schools.
So where does Ole Miss fit in? Meet the new Sun Belt:
- Alabama (Tennessee)
- Arkansas (Texas)
- Arkansas State (Tulsa)
- Auburn (Georgia)
- Louisiana-Lafayette (Texas Tech)
- Louisiana Tech (Baylor)
- LSU (Florida)
- Memphis (UCF)
- Ole Miss (Vanderbilt)
- Mississippi State (Texas A&M)
- Southern Miss (North Texas)
- Tulane (Rice)
The schools in parentheses above will be each team's deemed non-conference rivalry. The theoretical schedule would consist of Ole Miss playing the other 11 teams in the new Sun Belt, plus a yearly tilt with Vanderbilt, a holdover from the Rebels' yearly game against their SEC East 'rival.'
Of course, engrained rivalry games, such as the Egg Bowl and Iron Bowl, carry over. For the most part, the current SEC West all fits into the new Sun Belt (adios to Texas A&M).
Ole Miss is now forced to play yearly games with both Memphis (sorry guys, I know ya'll hate that) and Southern Miss (something ya'll have all been clamoring for).
The biggest win here is geography and rivalries. The furthest Ole Miss would ever travel to play a game is the 5 and 1/2 hours or so to Fayetteville, Ark. No more trips to College Station, Tex. or Gainesville, Fla. or non-conference games in Southern California.
Over the next few days, we'll look at how these changes would effect a current 2020 schedule would look like under these circumstances, some misses from the realignment and how hard this would make it for Ole Miss to make the playoff (hint: much, much harder than previously). But for now, just let this weird, totally fake, totally theoretical shift that will never happen sink in.