College football conference realignment and expansion is all the rage. It's the Hansel from Zoolander of sports. The Big 12 is currently driving the conversation, but truth be told, any article or conversation about expanding or realigning pretty much any conference goes viral. Why?
Because we can't get enough of it.
We, the modern college football fan, were raised on a college football video game that had a realignment feature that — quite frankly — I loved. I don't know about you, but ever since I was a kid, I would sketch up realignments in every major team sport in the country. I'd based it off anything from geography to recent success, to include a European soccer-like relegation system. I'd do this in private, keeping my nerdiness close to the chest out of fear of being outed as a huge sports geek.
Apparently my fears were unfounded and I was not alone.
We love realignment, because deep down, we all love change, especially when we think that change can improve something.
There is nothing original about me tossing out my ideas for college football realignment, but perhaps you can take a look and see something you haven't seen before. And maybe, just maybe, I can keep you entertained for two minutes while you read my ideas.
Outrageous Ideas for College Football Conference Realignment
All Power Five conferences should be made up of 16 teams
It's time for uniformity. Give us five conferences with 16 teams. Each conference will have two, eight-team divisions. Divide them however you please — East, West, North, South, Legends, Leaders, Dark Helmets, Light Helmets — I don't really care, as long as it's clean.
Stop ruling out schools based on academics
This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I've heard people say things like "That school is not good enough academically to join Conference X." Are you kidding me? If Boise State can stomp out half of the schools in the Pac-12 annually, and the Department of Education has signed off on Boise State as an accredited institution of higher learning, what are we talking about here? We're not talking about the Ivy League (but stick around, because I will be later).
No more independent teams or athletic departments
Those days are over. It was one thing when we decided titles based solely on the votes of people who had absolutely nothing to do with what went down on the field. Now, in a world where Condoleeza Rice and a bunch of old guys who have nothing to do with what happens on the field vote on the four teams that get to play for a national title, being independent creates a competitive advantage.
Take Notre Dame and Iowa in 2015 for example.
Iowa was a decent team last year. Sure, the Hawkeyes got rolled in the Rose Bowl, but they were within a forearm of winning the championship of the conference that produced the previous season's national champion. Despite that, all we heard all season was "they don't play anybody." You rarely heard anyone say that about Notre Dame — a team that was very much in the Playoff discussion until the end of the season. The reason you didn't hear anyone say that about Notre Dame is because, as an independent, you are free to schedule games with anyone willing to play you. Annual high-profile matchups with USC, Stanford and, back in the day, Michigan, are must-see TV.
Everyone wants to play Notre Dame because of the event that Notre Dame games are. Nobody wants to play Iowa. It's not sexy, and you could catch a beatdown — especially when you come to Iowa City. Same for most schools in the Big Ten West. Getting LSU to come to Wisconsin was like pulling teeth, and it took playing the game at Lambeau to seal the deal.
When you are tied to a conference, there is only so much you can do to improve your strength of schedule if you play in what is perceived to be a weak conference. Take a look at BYU's 2016 slate. The Cougars play six games against teams from four different Power Five conferences and a seventh against Boise State. The 2016 Iowa Hawkeyes would be favored against every opponent on BYU's schedule. Be that as it may, if BYU runs the table, you won't hear a soul talking about how the Cougars didn't play anyone, because those are all sexy matchups. Iowa, in the meantime, is stuck in the very unsexy Big Ten West.
OK, now let's stop using "sexy" and "BYU" together. There are people who may be uncomfortable with that.
Now that I've ranted off the rails, let's get to the meat of what we're talking about: Which teams should go where?
Just take Boise State already. The Broncos have a recruiting footprint all over your region anyway. Then add San Diego State, Nevada and Fresno State. That gives the Pac-12 16 teams.
West Virginia needs to move out of the Big 12 and into the ACC. It makes sense geographically and it reignites rivalries with Pitt, Syracuse and Virginia Tech. After that, Notre Dame needs to enter the conference as a full-time football member. The Fighting Irish can play the seven other teams in their designated division in the ACC, two divisional crossover games and keep annual rivalries with USC, Stanford and Navy alive.
I feel like the Big Ten gets too picky sometimes. You're going to be forced to 16 teams eventually. Grab Cincinnati and either UConn or Buffalo. Pulling in Buffalo would be such a Big Ten thing to do. It's all about TV eyes, and Buffalo is the second-largest metro in the Empire State.
The SEC likes eyeballs as well. Florida may not like it, but the conference should just grab South Florida and Central Florida, making Tampa and Orlando SEC towns.
And now we get to the attention hog that is the Big 12 as of late. By letting West Virginia go to the ACC, the Big 12 now sits at nine teams. That means adding BYU, Houston, Colorado State, New Mexico, Wyoming, UNLV and Memphis. How can you not be OK with any of those choices for expansion? The metros (outside of Wyoming) are all sizeable and each school is a decent fit in its own way.
Bonus: Ivy League
There isn't much you can do with Air Force due to geography, but for Army and Navy, I constantly try to figure out what it is they are trying to accomplish athletically. I know I said I don't like to make athletic decisions based on academics, but West Point and Annapolis are homes to two of the most elite academic institutions in our country. They are also both stone's throws from several Ivy League campuses. I propose that Army and Navy drop to the FCS level in football and merge with the Ivy League. This would create a 10-team conference of schools with similar academic standards, all known for churning out our nation's political and business leaders. You could call it the Ivy-Academy Conference, or "IAC" for short.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.