A Very Realistic Conference Realignment

With the Big Ten talking expansion, the college football blogsphere is in an uproar of speculation frenzy. Who would they take? Who are they looking at? What would a Big Ten expansion do to college football? These are all excellent questions and a lot of analysis has been done, but it is time to do away with all the speculation and show you the only two scenarios that can play out in this upcoming round of conference realignment.

Before we talk Big Ten, it is important to talk MWC. It is no surprise to anyone that they plan on inviting Boise State to the mix. The Broncos will obviously take this invitation as it positions them in much better competition, giving them a better chance to crack the BCS. Not only that, this will make the MWC a sure fire automatic BCS qualifying conference. They are already on the mark for this four year evaluation period. Grabbing Boise State will push them over the top.

But with a Boise State departure, the WAC will have nothing left. More on what is likely to happen here in just a minute, first lets talk Big Ten.

They are taking Syracuse or Missouri. That’s it. No one else will be in the mix when all is said and done. So now with these two very different scenarios playing out, what would each one cause? First, let’s look at Missouri. The Big 12 would need to replace them. There is no way they go for TCU and add yet another Texas school, so that is out, along with half of Conference-USA. However, Tulsa from Conference-USA is a geographical fit with the conference. Unfortunately, the Big 12 owns the Oklahoma market, so that is unlikely. How about Colorado State? They already have Colorado. So where else could they expand where there is a new market for them.

Answer? Utah, New Mexico or Louisiana. That leaves, Utah, BYU, New Mexico, and potentially Louisiana Tech or another Louisiana school. You have to think the most likely move is to go with New Mexico. Since the MWC will likely be adding Boise State, this wouldn’t hurt them at all. But then again, it may cause them to want to invite a couple of other WAC teams, potentially Utah State, Idaho, Nevada or Fresno State. Should this happen, the WAC as we know it would be gone. Either a bunch of FCS teams would make the jump to FBS and fill the conference, or the remaining teams will either play as independents or drop back down to the FCS.

However, with the Big Ten adding a 12th team, the Pac-10 would feel a lot of pressure to act likewise. Their likely targets are easily Hawaii, UNLV or Nevada. Geographically makes sense and opens up two new markets for them. Again, same fate for the other WAC teams not invited to the MWC.

Scenario number two is Ohio State picking Syracuse or some other Big East team. The Big East would be forced to replace that team and probably expand to at least 10 teams. This means Conference USA would get raided. The first choice is clearly Memphis, who along with having a great basketball team, is dying to get into a BCS conference. The next pick is likely Marshall, who already plays Big East teams and has a natural rivalry with West Virginia. The third team would either be East Carolina or UCF. Either way, this takes away from C-USA who needs to replace some teams. My guess is they grab Louisiana Tech from the WAC and go to ten teams.

As stated earlier, the Pac-10 grabs Hawaii and Nevada, the MWC grabs Boise State and a few others, and the remaining WAC teams disappear for the most part.

And there you have it. I hope the Big Ten does expand. And when they do, you can be guaranteed the Pac-10 will expand. On top of that, the Big East will have to either expand or replace a team, so you know something is happening there. This great conference realignment is coming. I really hope the MWC gets Boise State, Idaho, and Fresno State and gets to a two division automatic qualifying conference. I really hope the Pac-10 gets Hawaii and Nevada and becomes a two division conference. I hope the WAC fades into irrelevance.

There are a lot of possibilities here, but I’m confident the Big Ten gets either Missouri or Syracuse. I’m confident the MWC will be inviting Boise State. From there, let the ripple effect begin. This can only end well for college football.