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Friday, March 30, 2012

College Football's Final Four (a playoff format that might please the masses)




Brett McMurphy of CBS has done a great job in keeping up with the meetings up to this point (being held by BCS officials and all Conference Commissioners + Notre Dame’s AD) regarding the future playoff format of College Football.  He’s wrote a few stories in the past week running down ‘brass tack’ details being argued and the concessions that may have to be made.  Here is the rundown of what we know so far thanks to Mr. McMurphy:

Two types of formats are being discussed the most at this point:  The 4 team seeded playoff, and the plus one model.
·       The four team seeded playoff is said to be the favorite at this point among the committee.  The way it is said to work is that the Top 3 ranked current AQ conference champions (it’s unclear whether that includes the Big East or not) would have automatic bids.  The 4th team would either be the next highest AQ conference champion or it would be an at-large team if that teams is ranked higher than the 4th highest conference champion.  This would cover the Notre Dame base along with situations like this year where Alabama didn’t win it’s conference.  One caveat to this rule though; an at-large team can’t host a playoff game (this means Alabama would have had to travel to Stillwater, OK this past year).  This provides incentive and reward to conference champions.  On-campus sites are favored in this format to alleviate the pressure on fans to travel to multiple neutral site games.  The National Championship game would then either be rotated between the 4 major bowls or be bid out to the highest paying city much like the Super Bowl.

·       The plus-one model would basically be the way things are now (with all the conference bowl tie-ins) only at the end of Bowl Season, the Top 2 teams would play.  For example this year it would have been Oklahoma St vs Alabama.


There are still many details for the committee to discuss which they will do later next month in Ft. Lauderdale and in June in Chicago.  The conference commissioner’s goal is to have a format to propose to University presidents after the meeting in June.  Using the format that McMurphy underlines as most popular at this point; here is what the College Football Playoffs would have looked like during the BCS era.


1998-99 Season

#5 UCLA (Pac 10 Champ) at #1 Tennessee (SEC Champ)

#3 Kansas St (at-large higher than conference champs) at #2 Florida St (ACC Champ)

Left Out:  #9 Wisconsin (Big 10 Champ), #4 Ohio St (at-large), #6 Texas A&M (Big 12 Champ)


1999-2000 Season

#4 Alabama (SEC Champ) at #1 Florida St (ACC Champ)

#3 Nebraska (Big 12 Champ) at #2 Virginia Tech (Big East Champ)

Left Out:  #7 Wisconsin (Big Ten Champ), #22 Stanford (Pac 10 Champ)


2000-2001 Season

#4 Washington (Pac 12 Champ) at #1 Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)

#3 Miami (Big East Champ) at #2 Florida St (ACC Champ)

Left Out:  #7 Florida (SEC Champ), #17 Purdue (Big Ten Champ)


2001-2002 Season

#4 Oregon (Pac 12 Champ) at #1 Miami (Big East Champ)

#2 Nebraska (at-large ranked higher than 4th conference champ) at #3 Colorado (Big 12 Champ)

Left out:  #8 Illinois (Big Ten Champ), #13 LSU (SEC Champ), #5 Florida (at-large), #10 Maryland (ACC Champ)


2002-2003 Season

#4 USC (at-large ranked higher than 4th conference champ) at #1 Miami

#3 Georgia (SEC Champ) at #2 Ohio St (Big Ten Champ)

Left out:  #7 Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ), #6 Washington St (Pac 12 Champ), #5 Iowa (at-large), #14 Florida St (ACC Champ)


2003-2004 Season

#4 Michigan (Big Ten Champ) at #2 LSU (SEC Champ)

#1 Oklahoma (at-large ranked higher than 4th conference champ) at #3 USC (Pac 10 Champ)

Left out:  #9 Miami (Big East Champ), #7 Florida St (ACC Champ), #10 Kansas St (Big 12 Champ), #5 Ohio St (at-large)


2004-2005 Season

#4 Texas (at-large ranked higher than 4th conference champ) at #1 USC (Pac 10 Champ)

#3 Auburn (SEC Champ) at #2 Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)

Left out:  #13 Michigan (Big Ten Champ), #21 Pittsburgh (Big East Champ), #8 Virginia Tech (ACC Champ), #6 Utah (at-large)


2005-2006 Season

#4 Ohio St (at-large ranked higher than 4th conference champ) at #1 USC (Pac 10 Champ)

#3 Penn St (Big Ten Champ) at #2 Texas (Big 12 Champ)

Left out:  #6 Notre Dame (at-large), #7 Georgia (SEC Champ), #22 Florida St (ACC Champ), #11 West Virginia (Big East Champ)


2006-2007 Season

#5 USC (Pac 10 Champ) at #1 Ohio St (Big Ten Champ)

#3 Michigan (at-large ranked higher than 4th conference champ) at #2 Florida (SEC Champ)

Left out:  #4 LSU (at-large), #6 Louisville (Big East Champ), #14 Wake Forest (ACC Champ), #10 Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ), #8 Boise St (at-large)


2007-2008 Season

#4 Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ) at #1 Ohio St (Big Ten Champ)

#3 Virginia Tech (ACC Champ) at #2 LSU (SEC Champ)

Left out:  #7 USC (Pac 10 Champ), #9 West Virginia (Big East Champ), #5 Georgia (at-large)


2008-2009 Season

#5 USC (Pac 10 Champ) at #1 Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)

#3 Texas (at-large ranked higher than 4th conference champ) at #2 Florida (SEC Champ)

Left out:  #4 Alabama (at-large), #6 Utah (at-large), #8 Penn St (Big Ten Champ), #19 Virginia Tech (ACC Champ), #12 Cincinnati (Big East Champ)


2009-2010 Season

#4 TCU (at-large ranked higher than 4th conference champ) at #1 Alabama (SEC Champ)

#3 Cincinnati (Big East Champ) at #2 Texas (Big 12 Champ)

Left out:  #6 Boise St (at-large), #5 Florida (at-large), #9 Georgia Tech (ACC Champ), #8 Ohio St (Big Ten Champ), #7 Oregon (Pac 10 Champ)


2010-2011 Season

#5 Wisconsin (Big Ten Champ) at #1 Auburn (SEC Champ)

#3 TCU (at-large ranked higher than 4th conference champion) at #2 Oregon (Pac 10 Champ)

Left out:  #4 Stanford (at-large), #6 Ohio St (at-large), #13 Virginia Tech (ACC Champ), #7 Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ), NR Connecticut (Big East Champ)


2011-2012 Season

#5 Oregon (Pac 12 Champ) at #1 LSU (SEC Champ)

#2 Alabama (at-large ranked higher than 4th conference champion) at #3 Oklahoma St (Big 12 Champ)

Left out:  #4 Stanford (at-large), #10 Wisconsin (Big Ten Champ), #23 West Virginia (Big East Champ), #15 Clemson (ACC Champ), #7 Boise St (at-large), #6 Arkansas (at-large)



There aren’t too many arguments on my part with this format.  Stanford probably has the biggest gripe the past 2 years along with Alabama in 2008 and maybe LSU in 2006.  The lowest ranked team to participate in the playoffs would be #5 (not anything to quip at); and for the most part all the conferences are well represented.  Hard to argue with this at this point, but we’ll see what shakes out in Ft. Lauderdale and Chicago in the coming months.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Let the Arguements Begin (What to do with MWC, CUSA and a Playoff Format by summer?)





Brett McMurphy of CBS Sports wrote reported Monday that CUSA and MWC will not dissolve and merge (http://blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports/2012/03/26/fbs-realignment-m-day-becomes-a-day-for-the-mwc-c-usa-and-what-that-would-mean-for-the-wac-and-sun-belt/), so why not and what does this possibly mean going forward?  The reason is basically money.  Neither conference wanted to dissolve because that would mean forfeiting possible member exit fees and money earned by institutions would in turn go to those institutions instead of the conferences as a whole.  So the money Memphis and Southern Miss earned by getting to the NCAA tourney would no longer go to CUSA and the same could be said for Colorado St, New Mexico, UNLV, and San Diego St and the MWC.  So what does this mean going forward?  This is a death sentence for the WAC.  The MWC will want to expand back to at least 10 teams (remember Boise St, San Diego St are both leaving for the Big East in 2013).  A couple candidates that McMurphy mentions in the article are Utah St and San Jose St, those are both feasible options.  Utah St was actually already offered membership by the MWC before, but turned it down staying loyal to Karl Benson (WAC commissioner at the time), so they are most likely a shoe in as team number 9.  San Jose St is a weak candidate, but really because of what is left they may be the only option remaining to get to 10 teams.  One other team that hasn’t been mentioned as a candidate that might be interested in being team #10 for the MWC is UTEP.  UTEP has rivalries with current MWC member New Mexico and has a history of playing current MWC teams UNLV, Air Force, Wyoming, and Colorado St going back to their days in the WAC.  They are more of a geographic fit in the MWC and wouldn’t be spanning as many time zones as the current CUSA does which spans from El Paso to Greensville, NC.  An article last month from the El Paso Times highlights the desire for the Miners to move west (http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_19955630?source=pkg) and shows the interest could be there.  No matter what happens here between the two leagues; one thing is for certain.  Confusion.  Even as I type this Brett McMurphy is reporting that now 16 members from CUSA and the MWC are cooperating to possibly form a new ‘association’ (http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/story/18061858/merging-or-sharing-either-way-cusa-and-mwc-working-together) whatever that means.  The teams in talks are East Carolina, Marshall, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UTEP all from CUSA and the remaining MWC teams which are Air Force, Colorado St, New Mexico, UNLV, Nevada, Hawaii, Fresno St, and Wyoming.  Who knows what will happen here; apparently not even MWC and CUSA officials know for sure.

One other article came out yesterday from Sports Illustrated about the continued talks of a new playoff format (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/football/ncaa/03/26/bcs.meetings.ap/index.html?sct=hp_t2_a7&eref=sihp).  It sounds like talk is getting more serious specifically about a 4 team playoff.  The major questions now that are being debated is when such a playoff would take place (preferably closer to New Year’s Day according to Presidents and Commissioners) and where would the games take place (a neutral site hampering traveling fans or at campus sites giving a competitive advantage)?  I hope they go with the later and allow campus site games; the atmosphere would be unbelievable.  Hopefully the details don’t choke this process before it gets off the ground…..the conference commissioners are still shooting for deciding on a format to present the university presidents by summer.  We’ll see.      

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Future of College Football (Conference Re-alignment, FBS Division split, Playoffs, the whole shabang)




The game of College Football has been one of change the last 2 years.  Conference realignment aided by previously unheard of TV contracts has rearranged the way we look at conferences (and the way we value teams within a conference).  Talk of a long fan anticipated playoff seems like it has traction with the people that matter.  How much more change can we expect?  I wouldn’t anticipate any more change beyond a playoff until at least 2016 (or maybe longer if the Big 12 can come to an agreement to extend their grant of media rights to 2025 thus binding the conference until then, http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Special-Content/News/2012/Big-12-ESPN.aspx)  But what if the 2016 date holds firm?  What changes can we expect?  If the 2016 date holds for the Big 12 media rights, then I think we can expect more major conference realignment, and possibly a complete NCAA Division 1 split.  Before we get to the split, who goes where in the new realignment and why? 

The first move would be Larry Scott making a second attempt for Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma St.  Scott said last September regarding further expansion, “Simply put, our presidents and our athletic directors are absolutely thrilled with where we are in a world of 12-team conferences. We're at the top of the heap and we love our position. If the world changes -- and it's not a world of 12-team conferences anymore -- then we might re-evaluate.” (http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2011/09/12/Colleges/Pac-12.aspx)  Scott makes it clear in this article that he believes super-conferences will happen and that he’s determined to keep the Pac 12 ahead of the game.  The ACC and SEC have gone to 14 teams, the landscape is no longer one of 12 team conferences.  This is why Scott makes the first move.  Much like the first run at the 4 Big 12 schools, Texas drags its feet due to the LHN and the problems it creates within the Pac 12 media structure (the LHN’s contract with ESPN doesn’t expire for 20 years barring Texas from joining the Pac 12).  This time Scott is able to get the votes to add the Oklahoma schools by themselves.  The Pac 12 is now at 14 with Oklahoma and Oklahoma St.  The major hang-up that everyone will talk about is that Oklahoma and Texas will not want to be in separate conferences; but this isn’t true.  We saw last year that it came only a few Pac 12 votes away from becoming reality.  The new Pac 14 is formed.

The next move is from Jim Delany and the Big Ten.  The Big Ten won’t be the first to move, but if the Pac 12 makes the move to 14; the Big Ten will follow suit.  The Big Ten and Pac 12 are the closest to sibling conferences that exist within major college athletics.  I don’t think it was merely coincidence that the first two conferences to expand were the Pac 12 with Colorado, followed only by a few days with the Big Ten and Nebraska.  The two have even made a scheduling pact spanning multiple sports that will take effect in 2017.  After 2017, every Pac 12 football school will play a Big Ten football school as part of their non-conference schedule. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/29/sports/ncaafootball/pac-12-and-big-ten-announce-scheduling-partnership.html).  This is another reason the Big Ten will be in lock-step with the Pac 12 in any expansion scenario.  The first team the Big Ten will target is Maryland.  Although Maryland is a founding member of the ACC, the door may not but shut on the idea of the east coast school leaving their long time conference home; the reason being purely financial.  The Maryland athletic department has undergone major budget cuts and even so has been hemorrhaging money in the last decade.  Just this November, Maryland was force to cut 8 varsity sports from its athletic department (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/terrapins-insider/post/maryland-president-wallace-loh-agrees-to-cut-eight-teams-to-alleve-budget-woes/2011/11/21/gIQAt1SuhN_blog.html)  This financial burden paired with the per team payout the Big Ten can offer (which is the top of all college football conferences) is what will push Maryland to consider and eventually apply for Big Ten membership.  The second team Delany will target is of course, Notre Dame.  This time Notre Dame will listen, and listen hard.  In August, NBC announced plans to move a few Notre Dame home games a year starting in 2012 to its cable network, Versus (now NBC Sports Network). (http://www.onefootdown.com/2011/8/12/2355720/a-couple-irish-home-games-on-versus-how-does-this-change-notre-dame)  Mark Lazarus, NBC Sports chairman, is now in charge (taking over for known Notre Dame enthusiast Dick Ebersol) and may not be as pro-Notre Dame as his predecessor.  Lazarus, however, desires to build the NBC Sports Network into an entity that rivals sports giant ESPN, and he is using Notre Dame as the center piece.  NBC has fallen behind recently losing money in large amounts compared to the other major networks.  Notre Dame’s TV contract with NBC expires in 2015, by that time I believe Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame AD) will see that the NBC Sports Network can’t compete with ESPN.  This is due to the fact that NBC Sports Network has very little exposure compared to ESPN in the realm of the NFL, NBA, MLB, and College Football; Swarbrick will recognize that the ship is sinking and will recommend not renewing Notre Dame’s contract with NBC.  This isn’t the only factor in Notre Dame joining the Big Ten.  The scheduling pact the Big Ten has made with the Pac 12 would be very attractive in the sense that it nationalizes the exposure of the conference from new east coast member (Maryland) to longtime rival on the west coast USC.  Notre Dame prides itself in being national.  This arrangement would allow it to continue being so, even from within a conference.  The Big Ten would probably move Wisconsin to the Legends division adding Notre Dame and Maryland both to the more eastern based Leaders division.

            The next move would come swiftly from the ACC.  Although Texas couldn’t make the LHN work within the Pac 12 structure, the ACC seemed more accommodating.  Deloss Dodds even made the statement that if Texas switched conferences, they would in fact look east.  (http://lufkindailynews.com/news/local/lufkindailynews.com/news/local/article_c7f11fa0-4eeb-11e1-9dcf-0019bb2963f4.html)  ACC commissioner John Swofford would waste no time in getting back to 14 teams; and Texas would be anxious to find a more prestigious home after Oklahoma and Oklahoma St were accepted into the Pac 12.  Texas would replace Maryland and get the ACC back to 14 teams. 

This would leave the old Big 12 with the following teams:  Kansas, Kansas St, Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia, TCU, and Iowa St.  The last move in this round of conference realignment would be a tug ’o war between the Big 12 and the Big East.  At this point what happens could be anyone’s guess, but since this is my guess; here it goes.  My bet is that the Big 12 with its better football branding would win that contest and the Big 12 would add the following schools from the Big East:  Houston, SMU, Boise St, Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Central Florida, UConn, and San Diego St.  At this point, BYU would also be willing to look at joining a conference due to scheduling issues they would encounter as being an independent in this landscape as well as their TV deal being dwarfed by those of the major conferences.  This makes 18 teams, but I believe the conference would push for 20 teams not out of convenience, but out of necessity.  Compared to the larger brands in the other major conferences, the Big 12 would have to maximize its inventory to compete.  The final 2 teams rounding out this 20 team conference would be Fresno St and Hawaii.  The format for this conference would have to use 4 pods consisting of 5 teams per pod.  The pods would rotate scheduling each other so that every team would play all the other teams in its own pod (4 games) plus all the teams from the pod they are partnered with for that year (5 games).  This would result in every team playing 9 conference games and seeing every other team in the conference home and home in only six years.  Using these teams, the pods would have to look something like this:

West
Hawaii
San Diego St
Fresno St
BYU
Boise St

Midwest
Kansas
Kansas St
Iowa St
Louisville
Cincinnati

South
Texas Tech
Baylor
SMU
Houston
TCU

East
South Florida
Central Florida
Rutgers
West Virginia
UConn

This would be one massive undertaking for a conference to expand from Hawaii to South Florida, but in this case desperate times would call for desperate measures. 

            The next major change in College Football would be a split of NCAA’s FBS Division.  The gap between the haves and have not’s is no longer just a gap, it’s a canyon.  This schism between the large athletic department budgets and those with smaller ones has been exasperated by the TV contracts given to FBS conferences of late.  There has already been discussion that the top football division needs to be re-configured.  In January, Mark Emmert (NCAA President) said that a working group has been created to examine this issue (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/story/2012-01-29/ncaa-division-I-structure-football/52875162/1).  If the preceding realignment scenarios happen, this would only further push the need to split the FBS Division into two.  This division split would consist of the 14 team SEC, Big Ten, Pac 14 and ACC I have illustrated above along with the 20 team Big 12.  Air Force, Army, and Navy would all be included as independents.  This would make a top FBS Division of 79 teams.  The remaining 35 teams would be combined with the top FCS teams to create a new division in which they would compete for a separate national title.  I imagine scheduling in this new environment would be competitive, with every conference having at least 14 teams, every team in the Upper FBS Division would be playing 9 conference games.  The Pac 14/Big Ten scheduling pact would become a desired model due to the sharing of media rights and the new exposure this sharing brings to each conference in terms of marketing and TV sets tuned into each Conference Network.  With Texas joining the ACC, it wouldn’t be hard to see the SEC and ACC coming to a similar scheduling pact as the Pac 14/Big Ten have agreed upon.  These two conferences already share multiple, yearly, cross-conference rivalries including: Florida St/Florida, Clemson/South Carolina, Georgia/Georgia Tech, a budding rivalry between Vanderbilt/Wake Forest, and a possible option with Texas/Texas A&M.  The specifics of a relationship of that magnitude are hard to see given the differing way those conferences handle media rights; but on the surface a relationship of that fashion would seem beneficial. 

The final change is the type of playoff format these changes would be conducive to.  The Pac 12 presidents agreed in principle earlier this month to do away with the BCS system and move toward a playoff where conference champions are only allowed to participate. (http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2012/03/10/20120310bcs-playoff-system-pac-12-plan.html)  Talk amongst the presidents also included that of a possible 8 team playoff sometime in the future.  The only firm stipulation that seemed to come from this meeting was that the integrity of the Rose Bowl be upheld as a Big Ten/Pac 12 game.  All conferences would have to agree upon a format; the SEC will not buy in to a ‘champions only’ format as stated by SEC commissioner, Mike Slive, earlier this month (http://collegefootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/03/07/only-conference-champs-not-t he-way-slive-wants-playoff-to-go/).  Jim Delany has been somewhat quiet on the specifics of a format only agreeing that the Rose Bowl is what is important to Big Ten presidents and that playoff games at campus sites would be ideal.  John Swofford has also been quiet regarding a playoff format, but the ACC seems to be in line with the SEC.  The format that might come out of all these negotiations and concessions (and with the proposed conference changes illustrated above) may be a tweaked 8 team playoff.  To placate the Pac 12 wanting champions only, the 5 conference champions of the ACC, Big Ten, Pac 14, SEC, and 20 team Big 12 would all automatically qualify for the playoff.  The remaining 3 seeds would be left as at-large bids to placate the wishes of the ACC and SEC to not have a ‘champions only’ playoff.  The Pac 14 and Big Ten would be seeded on one side of the bracket, the ACC and SEC would be seeded on the other.  The Big 12 champion along with the 3 at-large teams would be seeded as required with the emphasis of Big Ten and Pac 14 teams being placed on the same side of the bracket.  The first round of the playoffs could be played at campus sites of higher seeded teams.  The semi-final games would be played at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.  The Rose Bowl semi-final would be for the Big Ten/Pac 14 side of the bracket; the Sugar Bowl semi-final would be for the ACC/SEC side of the bracket.  If the teams were in the 14 team format conferences this past year, this playoff would have looked something like this:

Game 1
Wisconsin - Big Ten Champion
Stanford - at large

Game 2
Oklahoma St - Pac 14 Champion
Oregon - at large

Game 3
Clemson - ACC Champion
Alabama - at large

Game 4
LSU – SEC Champion
Kansas St – Big 12 Champion

The winner of Game 1 would play the winner of Game 2 in the Rose Bowl while the winner of Game 3 would play the winner of Game 4 in the Sugar Bowl.  The national championship game site could be bid out much like the Super Bowl is before the season begins.  A playoff format of this type would satisfy the desire to keep the Rose Bowl within the Big Ten/Pac 14 and would also keep the Sugar Bowl relevant to the SEC. 

            These ideas are all guesses about what could happen in the landscape of college football within the next decade.  Some guesses are more educated than others; some guesses are extrapolated to their extents.  I realize that not everyone will agree with some of these situations I have illustrated, but a few of these could very well happen.  College Football has changed more in the past 5 years than it has in the previous 15 combined, no matter if all these illustrations happen or none at all, the growing popularity of the game is undeniable.  It will be interesting to see what the game produces to advance itself in the coming decade.

Monday, March 19, 2012

CUSA/MWC: The Alliance



A month ago, the officials for the two premier non-AQ conferences announced that their leagues would dissolve and merge to create a new super-conference in 2013.  While this merger will possibly form the largest conference the NCAA has ever seen, the CUSA/MWC merger is more a marriage of necessity than convenience.  The inconveniences of having a league with 18-24 teams that stretches from Honolulu, HI to Greensville, NC (roughly 5,000 miles) are probably more than I can list on one blog posting; but this new league has some interesting ideas to combat at least a few of them.  First off they will use the pod format utilized by the old 16 team WAC.  This assures that more games are played within the region of a given school.  With the current 16 teams the leagues share, the pods may look something like this:

West
Hawaii
Fresno St
Nevada
UNLV

Mountain
Air Force
Colorado St
Wyoming
New Mexico

Central
Tulsa
Rice
UTEP
Tulane

East
UAB
Marshall
ECU
Southern Miss

Second, they have proposed not only a conference championship game, but also (an NCAA first) semi-final conference games.  Under current NCAA rules semi-final games are not allowed, so some rule petitioning would have to happen before this vision comes to fruition.  It would work like this though:  At the end of the season, the team with best pod record from the East would play the team with the best pod record from the Central.  The team with the best pod record from the West would play the team with the best pod record from the Mountain.  The winner of those two games would then play in the Conference Championship Game.  Example, say ECU wins the East pod.  Tulsa wins the Central pod.  Air Force wins the Mountain pod.  Hawaii wins the West pod.  ECU and Tulsa would play in a semi-final and Air Force would play Hawaii in a semi-final.   The winners of those two games would play for the Conference Championship.  On to the next question: most press releases talked about an 18-24 team conference, so who gets added?   One team that may be a shoe in is Utah St.  It was already offered membership to the MWC and they would fit nicely with geography the new conference would be touting.  Other candidates that make sense are (keep in mind I am completely aware that none of these teams will ‘capture’ a TV market, their presence in new markets is what I see as value):

*San Jose St: would add a travel partner with Fresno St and adds a large TV market

*Louisiana Tech: would add another market in Louisiana and fits excellent geographically

*FIU: re-establishes a presence in the state of Florida filling the void left by UCF

*N. Texas: re-establishes a presence in the DFW area in Texas

*Troy: solid program with geographic fit

*Middle Tenn State: another program that re-establishes markets voided by teams leaving for the Big East, also fills in geographically

*Arkansas St: a new market, and a good fit geographically

Other outside expansion candidates:

*Idaho: hard to believe Idaho actually had a chance to join the PAC-8 at one time, I just don’t see any way Idaho gets in.

*New Mexico St: the only shot they have is that New Mexico (a current member) may drag their in-state rival in the fray.

*Appalachian St: would have to make a quick jump from FCS to FBS; but has the facilities and the support (I actually hope they get a shot)

*UTSA: just made the jump to FBS this year; has tremendous support but is a fledgling program

*Toledo: rumored to have asked for a CUSA bid in 2004; may or may not still be interested

My best guess is that Air Force will eventually join the Big East and that CUSA/MWC will target 20 as the optimal number of teams.  20 teams (4 pods of 5 teams) makes the most sense for scheduling.  Play every team in your pod and every team from another pod for two years; then rotate the pods every 2 years.  This enables teams to have 9 conference games a year, allows teams to play their division round robin each year (an NCAA rule), and allows every team to see each school home and home every six years.  Using the candidates I have outlined above, I think CUSA/MWC might end up looking something like this:

West
San Jose St (new addition)
Fresno St
Hawaii
Nevada
UNLV

Mountain
Colorado St
Wyoming
Utah St (new addition)
New Mexico
UTEP

Central
Tulsa
Rice
Tulane
Louisiana Tech (new addition)
North Texas (new addition)

East
ECU
Marshall
UAB
Southern Miss
FIU (new addition)

Who knows though in realignment.  If San Diego St is in a conference called the Big East, then you know it is far from a perfect science.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Game 23: #4 Stanford vs #2 Alabama - The Virtual National Championship

If you missed the introduction post about the Playoff, no problem! Read it here: http://short-sideoption.blogspot.com/2012/02/ok-cowboy-cardinal-and-duck-fans-this.html


There are no reality bites today; It must have been a slow day around the country yesterday in the world of College Football.  On with the the Virtual Championship......


Game 23:  #4 Stanford vs #2 Alabama

January 14, 2012
Kickoff:  7:30 pm
Location: Pasadena, CA
Weather: 72 degrees, clear, 0 mph wind

EA Sports Ratings:        Stanford, Overall: A, Offense: A+, Defense: B+
                                        Alabama, Overall: A+, Offense: A, Defense: A+

This is the first virtual National Championship played at the ‘grand-daddy of them all’ the Rose Bowl.  I can’t imagine the pageantry that would precede a game like this being played in the most tradition rich bowl game college football has to offer.  The game itself would be extremely physical and would feature two power running games.  Alabama’s edge on defense might be slightly offset by the exceptional QB for Stanford, Andrew Luck.  This game would have a multitude of good matchups and would be a fitting conclusion to a college football postseason.     

1st Quarter:
            -As expected, the offenses in this contest struggle to gain traction but Stanford gets
             on the board first with a 30 yard Eric Whitaker FG.                                                        (3-0 Stan)

2nd Quarter:
            -Alabama responds with a 5 yard TD pass from AJ McCarron to Michael Williams.    (7-3 Bama)

            -Stanford’s offense marches down the field on the next drive and scores with a
 1 yard TD run from Ryan Hewitt.                                                                                   (10-7 Stan)

            -Alabama scores the last points in the first half with a 28 yard TD pass from
             AJ McCarron to Marquis Maze.                                                                                       (14-10 Bama)

3rd Quarter:
            -The defenses control the 3rd qtr until Jeremy Shelley hits a 36 yard FG for the
 Crimson Tide.                                                                                                                 (17-10 Bama)
           
4th Quarter:
            -Stanford responds early in the 4th qtr with a 63 yard TD pass from Andrew Luck to
             Coby Fleener.                                                                                                                   (17-17 Tied)

            -Alabama quickly returns fire with a 6 yard TD pass from AJ McCarron to Marquis Maze.  (24-17 Bama)

            -Stanford takes the ball and methodically moves it down the field then scores with
             a 13 yard TD pass from Andrew Luck to Griff Whalen.                                                 (24-24 Tied)

            -Alabama makes one final drive and scores with just under a minute remaining when
 Trent Richardson breaks off a 21 yard TD run.                                                           (31-24 Bama)
                       

Stanford Stats:
Passing:           Andrew Luck, 23/35, 325 yards, 2 TD
Rushing:           Stepfan Taylor, 28 att, 84 yards
Receiving:        Griff Whalen, 5 rec, 98 yards, 1 TD
                         Coby Fleener, 3 rec, 88 yards, 1 TD

Defense:           3 sacks

Total Offense:   435 yards
Passing:            325 yards
Rushing:            110 yards

Alabama Stats
Passing:           AJ McCarron, 19/31, 289 yards, 3 TD
Rushing:           Trent Richardson, 31 att, 131 yards, 1 TD
Receiving:        Marquis Maze, 7 rec, 144 yards, 2 TD
                          Darius Hanks, 7 rec, 118 yards

Defense:           1 Sack, 1 Fumble Recovery

Total Offense:   410 yards
Passing:            289 yards
Rushing:            121 yards


Box Score
           
                                    1Q        2Q        3Q        4Q        T 
Alabama                        0        14         3        14       31
Stanford                        3         7          0        14       24



On Monday, I’ll recap the Virtual Playoff and point out what we’ve learned from in from an accuracy standpoint.  Either way, Alabama hoists the Crystal Ball in reality as well as virtually.  I’ve had a lot of requests to simulate the Alabama/Oklahoma St game or the LSU/Oklahoma St game to see what might have happened.  I did both; but didn’t take the time to record every detail.  But here’s a brief summary of both:

Alabama vs Oklahoma St

Alabama wins 42-26.  Oklahoma State throws for 368 yards, but only rushes for 27.  Alabama rushes for 267 with Trent Richardson gaining 221.  Justin Blackmon catches 2 TD’s and has 164 yards receiving. 

LSU vs Oklahoma St

LSU wins 34-24.  Oklahoma State throws for 331 yards, and rushes for 127; but has 3 INT’s one returned for a TD.  LSU rushes for 194 yards but is actually out gained by Oklahoma State in total yardage.  Justin Blackmon is somewhat held in check though with only 96 yards receiving.

Here is the completed Virtual Playoff Bracket: