Teams changing leagues seems to be all bad, but it has created some great new rivalries.
Realignment has developed a negative connotation recently. The dollar amounts associated with college football have increased dramatically over the last two decades and that has sped up the realignment process to unprecedented rates. But realignment has, and always will, be a massive part of college football.
I just want to know why everyone thinks this is such a bad thing?
This season, the Houston Astros moved from the National League to the American League — and they don't even play the same sport — NASCAR has a "post-season" playoff now and the NFL continues to morph all the time. Every major American sport has gone through structural changes over time. These changes come in all different shapes and sizes and have been taking place for over a century. Have we all forgotten when Nebraska, Oklahoma and Grinnell College played conference games in the Big 8? Or when University of Chicago battled Michigan and Wisconsin in the Big Ten?
College football's recent game of dominoes was certainly something that got accelerated due to a heightened sense of profit, but that doesn't have to be a considered a step backwards for the fans.
The winner of the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game had won the Coastal Division championship every year of the modern ACC until last year (even though the Yellow Jackets still actually played in the ACC title game). Those two became divisional rivals in 2004 when the Hokies arrived from the Big East after having met one time in history (1990) before coming to the ACC. The bout has continuously pitted football's version of perfection, the triple option, with the most tenured defensive coaching staff in the nation. It's one of the more anticipated ACC games each season and the 2013 version could very easily decide one half of the conference title game once again.
And to stick up for Georgia Tech, how many SEC teams have a national championship and five SEC titles like the Ramblin' Wreck? Here's a hint: Seven. The ACC got a number of new rivalries in the big wave of early 2000s realignment when powerhouses like Miami and Virginia Tech joined. And the one that matters the most — Miami and Florida State — might finally be rounding into form and should be intensified by adding conference implications.
Nebraska and Penn State have played a total of 15 times in their championship-rich histories. But these two have played just four times since 1983, including the last two seasons as Big Ten conference foes. The Huskers are third all-time with 821 wins in 114 seasons of play. Penn State is fifth all-time with 813 wins in 120 years. Even the perfect red, white and blue color contrast jumps off the field when they meet in two of the most storied venues in college football.
How is this not a blessing of realignment?
While we are talking about the corn-fed Big Red, why not mentioned the dairy-fed Big Red, the Hawkeyes, Golden Gophers and winged helmets of Michigan. Penn State might be the best new rivalry with the Huskers, but Minnesota and Nebraska go back nearly 100 years and both Iowa and Wisconsin provide excellent regional rivalries as well. And the Michigan-Nebraska game will likely decide the Legends Division championship this fall and could be a future Big Ten championship game matchup. Sign me up.
TCU has a long-standing feud with now-fellow Big 12 underling Baylor and it has only been strengthened behind two emerging coaching heavyweights. Additionally, the Horned Frogs are beginning to build up some animosity with conference foes by playing a physical brand of football (it's called defense). Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia could learn a thing or two about getting stops from Gary Patterson's bunch. And despite it resulting in more purple than should ever be on one field, TCU-Kansas State should be a great game as long as Bill Snyder is on the Wildcats' sideline. Speaking of Morgantown, West Virginia'a addition might feel a bit odd from a geographic standpoint, but the team's track record of offensive prowess fits in perfectly with the Big 12. Over time, fans on both sides will be looking forward to bouts against NCAA blue bloods Oklahoma and Texas.
Out west, Colorado will, at some point, become relevant again after proving it can win at a championship level in the '90s. But the more interesting rivalry developing out west is the entire BYU schedule. The recent move to independence drew some criticism as experts questioned whether or not the Cougars would be able to build a strong enough schedule to break into the national title picture. As it turns out, BYU will play a November non-conference game at Wisconsin this year — something that hasn't happened since 2009 in Madison. It also is hosting Texas, Georgia Tech, Utah and Boise State while visiting Notre Dame and Virginia in addition to the Badgers. The Cougars have won a lot of games under Bronco Mendenhall and are always playing high-profile matchups. And just watch, as Boise State, Fresno State and Utah continue to elevate their status in the college football hierarchy, their rivalries will continue to grow in intensity.
Lastly, there is the SEC West, that division responsible for the last four BCS national champions. The idea of Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M beating the absolute snot out of each other for the next three decades should make even the most stoic fans giddy with joy. One could argue that three of those teams combine for three of the top four games in the SEC this fall. In fact, the most anticipated Game of the Century of the Year wouldn't take place this year if the Aggies hadn't left the Big 12. These are the most talent-rich, well-coached and physical battles in the nation each season and adding Texas A&M has actually improved on a product that was already sitting atop the throne of college football. Even the rise of former expansion team South Carolina — even if it was 20 years later — has made the future of the SEC East that much stronger as well.
Still to come in the very near future are intriguing new ACC rivalries with growing power Louisville and pseudo-member Notre Dame. Love them or hate them, playing Notre Dame is good for business and good for your strength of schedule. The Irish simply move the needle and that is great news for many, if not every, ACC program. Louisville, particularly in basketball, will provide some seriously historic coaching bouts over the next few seasons. There is little doubt that with great leaders in the right places, the ACC is finally beginning to close the gap with the rest of college football's big boys. And one of the most important reasons has been realignment.
To top it all off, the old rivalries that seem to be dying at the hands of evil realignment — Kansas-Missouri, Texas-Texas A&M, Pitt-West Virginia, BYU-Utah — could all be played if pride and money don't come in the way. Not only would those type of games sell tickets and attract viewers, they would help those teams build a more attractive strength of schedule when it comes to the new College Football Playoff. Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds could put the Lone Star State Rivalry back together again if he really wanted to.
And who doesn't want to see Snookie in a yearly recruiting war with McNulty and Stringer Bell when Rutgers and Maryland land in the same division in the newly aligned Big Ten next year?