Sports Illustrated's 'America, Realigned': Where Does Wisconsin Fall?
What if there was a huge conference shakeup, not just in the Big Ten, but for the entire FBS model?
On Monday, Sports Illustrated released a Pat Forde project where the veteran college football scribe reshaped the FBS landscape into a hypothetical realignment of ten conferences and 12 teams. For fun, they called it the "Forde Bowl Subdivision."
Will this actually happen? C'mon now. But it is intriguing to mix things up, and this was a lot of fun to dig into.
So where does Forde exactly place Wisconsin for a reimagined college football world? One where the program would be with some familiar faces from the Big Ten West, along with eight other schools, in the Great Midwest Conference (AllBadgers.com will abbreviate this to GMwC).
Let's dive in and have some fun. Read more on Forde's plan for an expanded College Football Playoff, bowl games, and even how this works for other sports besides football.
Who's in the GMwC?
That would be Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Nebraska, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and FCS powerhouse and defending national champion North Dakota State.
Which current rivals would Wisconsin hypothetically continue to play?
All the trophy games are kept in tact with the Gophers, Hawkeyes and Huskers within the conference.
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 Wisconsin that would be against Michigan State, and according to Forde, this non-conference opponent would be set for at least four seasons before the potential for an "opt-out."
Since returning to Madison to lead the football program, Paul Chryst is 2-0 against the Spartans.
Where are the other Big Ten West programs in this "radical realignment?"
Illinois and Northwestern tango with Notre Dame, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisville and others in the Mid-American Conference.
Purdue was grouped into a tough Great Mideast Conference that features Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. Forde also brought together Indiana, Cincinnati and Kent State, among others, in this particular batch of schools.
What about the other Big Ten East schools?
We already mentioned the Hoosiers, Wolverines, Buckeyes and Spartans slotted into the Great Mideast Conference (GMeC? Whatever, it works for me).
Forde placed Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers in the Yankee Conference, where it would regularly compete against Boston College, Pitt, Syracuse and Navy.
New potential rivals within the GMwC?
See, it is hard to say "rivals" because Wisconsin already has "three" from the Big Ten programs (though is Nebraska truly a rival? That is for debate among the Wisconsin faithful). I could see the following being fun matchups, however.
- North Dakota State: Bison. Badgers. Battlestar Galactica. Book it. Also NDSU's 2020 online roster boasts 13 players from the state of Wisconsin play for the program. It would be a nice homecoming for some of them to say the least.
- Iowa State: A Big 12 program led by Matt Campbell, we have seen the teams compete for recruits recently (four-star outside linebacker T.J. Bollers committing to Wisconsin, wide receiver Jaylin Noel and safety Beau Freyler announcing their decisions to play for ISU). I could see it happening to an extent, especially with six Badger State natives on the 2020 roster.
- Kansas State: A promising program on the rise under former NDSU head coach Chris Klieman.
Where would expectations be for Wisconsin in this conference?
Hawkeye Maven publisher John Bohnenkamp and I will dissect more in a roundtable-like discussion later on Monday about this hypothetical setup, but quite frankly, I believe Wisconsin would easily be one of the favorites every year.
UW would not have to potentially face Ohio State and Michigan in cross-divisional matchups, and the program under Chryst has only lost to Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska a combined two times in five seasons (13-2).
There are intriguing contests potentially against NDSU, Kansas State and Missouri, all who I feel in some fashion could be programs that cause some waves in this alignment. Plus there's always national champion Les Miles working to rebuild the Kansas program. However, the Badgers would be legit contenders every season.
If one would look at 2020 specifically, I believe that Wisconsin would be the likely favorite with the other Big Ten programs also working their way into the mix. AllBadgers.com has stated previously who UW needs to replace in the backfield, at wide receiver, on the offensive line and at both inside and outside linebacker positions from a Rose Bowl-bound 2019 squad.
However, Iowa and Minnesota both need to replace key student-athletes at particular positions (Nate Stanley and A.J. Epenesa for the Hawkeyes, Tyler Johnson and Antoine Winfield, Jr. for the Gophers). Though I was sold on Nebraska's turnaround for last season, I was proven wrong. Head coach Scott Frost will also have to replace J.D. Spielman at wide receiver while continuing to progress his alma mater.
The Bison, Wildcats and Tigers (oh my!) could pose trouble as well, but I think the "former" Big Ten programs would fight for the top spot in this reconfigured conference.
Dare I say to end this hypothetical discussion, I feel Wisconsin could run the table and go undefeated if this would be the 2020 season.