Surprise, surprise, TCU is changing conferences again.
The Horned Frogs will join their fourth conference since the dissolution of the SWC in 1996. First, it joined the WAC superconference. Shortly after the MWC teams left the WAC, it moved to the CUSA. Then it jumped to the MWC. Now it will be in the Big East, starting in 2012.
I understand that football teams must start in a new conference by 2012 in order for its statistics to count in the new conference for BCS purposes. The current evaluation period is between 2008 and 2011.
It has driven me crazy that a team in Fort Worth, TX, belonged to the Mountain West Conference since they joined, but they’re moving to a conference that, at least as compared to the current MWC, makes even less sense geographically.
Plus, TCU has a basketball team, so that will be 17 members of the Big East. That’s beyond ridiculous. I think they should make it two separate conferences for the purposes of other sports. Will there now be a play-in game to reach the 1st round of the basketball tournament, where the four winners then get a chance TO PLAY FOR a spot in the quarterfinals?
The travel times listed below are based on Google Maps driving directions.
TCU will leave a conference whose closest rival was 10 hours, 19 minutes away to join one whose closest rival will be 13 hours, 48 minutes away. (South Florida, in Tampa, may be closer in the air than Louisville, but I’m not sure.)
The longest trip will be 28 hours away (it doesn’t give minutes when you go over 24 hours). In the MWC as currently constituted, the longest trip (San Diego St.) was 21 hours, 19 minutes.
But to be fair, it could have gotten worse had TCU stayed. Boise will be 26 hours away, but Hawaii (if they choose to join the MWC) would have been even farther away, about 2900 miles, almost 1200 more than the distance to Connecticut. There is of course no driving time to Hawaii. Confirmed new additions to the MWC, Nevada and Fresno St., would have also been farther away than any current MWC team.
Obviously, there are other reasons, but it’s interesting that three teams have now left the MWC since it was announced that Boise St. was joining. No one wants to play them, unless it’s another team that wants to go out its way to prove itself (I’m sure Fresno St., for instance, was happy to follow them to the MWC).
As I referenced in the second paragraph, I also read that apparently these moves are all about jockeying for automatic qualifier status. TCU’s BCS appearance last year will count toward the Big East, Boise’s will count toward the Mountain West, and Utah’s in the 2008 season will count toward the Pac-10.
Hawaii’s BCS appearnce in the 2007 season apparently doesn’t matter, so the WAC could really be deprived even if Hawaii stays. The WAC might be the new Sun Belt when all is said and done. Idaho, Utah St., and New Mexico St. were all Sun Belt teams at one point, incidentally. San Jose St. isn’t much better. Louisiana Tech (another severely out-of-place team) actually won the WAC in their first season in the conference, but it’s been pretty much downhill since then. Those five teams are the only ones left if Hawaii also leaves. Maybe they’ll add some California FCS teams, but I think the last thing we need is more FBS teams. The Sun Belt is getting bloated, maybe a some of them will go out West (there are two Louisiana teams and one Texas team who might go well with Louisiana Tech).
The Sun Belt is currently scheduled to have 10 football teams with the addition of South Alabama in 2013. I don’t know if Denver plans to field a football team, but they are moving to the WAC, where BYU will also play in sports other than football.
The Big East is also considering adding Central Florida and Villanova, should the latter choose to move up to FBS. Central Florida would increase the number of basketball teams to 18.
I don’t know if there is any interest in bringing Temple back to the Big East, but that would be a more logical fit than the MAC, especially since the Owls have been improved in the last couple of years. It would also be a good basketball program to add, though its previous membership in the Big East was football-only. Temple would also of course be a natural rival with Villanova. The teams have already played each other multiple times in recent years and have an intense basketball rivalry.
Oregon vs. Auburn
I don’t think either team will have it easy this week, but I expect both to come out on top. I just don’t think the opposition is good enough. On the other hand, just ask Bobby Bowden how tough it is to face a rematch with Steve Spurrier.
A Pac-10 or Big Ten national-championship-game team would automatically send TCU to the Rose Bowl. It’s not right for Stanford, but that’s the breaks. So the Rose Bowl doesn’t really get to pick a team.
So there is the second match-up: Wisconsin (projected Big Ten champion based on BCS standings) vs. TCU.
This would probably leave an automatic #4, probably Stanford, Oklahoma or Nebraska as the Big XII champions, Virginia Tech or Florida St. as the ACC champions, and probably either Connecticut or West Virginia (Pitt would only make it if both lose) as the Big East champions. This leaves open the possibility of two non-automatic at-large teams.
The Sugar Bowl gets the first two real picks, the replacement for Auburn and the regular first pick. I think they’d definitely pick Arkansas (leaving only one other non-automatic slot). They might like to pick the Big XII champion, but they’re contractually obligated to the Fiesta Bowl, so my guess is they knock out that last non-automatic spot and pick Ohio St. The Buckeyes were in a New Orleans bowl game in 2007 (the national championship game), but I still think the team and fan base are the most attractive option. I don’t think there is enough of a gap between Stanford and Ohio St. to ignore all the other positives for Ohio St.
So there is our third match-up: Ohio St. vs. Arkansas
The Orange Bowl will have the ACC champion automatically, and they’ll get to pick a second team. Especially if it’s Connecticut, I don’t think they’d want the Big East team instead, so my guess here would be they’d take Stanford. Even if WVU wins the Big East, I don’t know if you pick a team that’s 20 spots worse because their fans are better.
So the fourth match-up: ACC vs. Stanford
The Fiesta Bowl will automatically get the Big XII champion, and they’d be stuck with the Big East Champion, assuming no one else selects that team.
Fifth match-up: Big XII vs. Big East
Select other bowl projections:
CapitalOne: LSU vs. Michigan St.
Cotton: Oklahoma St. vs. Alabama
Outback: South Carolina vs. Penn St.
Peach: Virginia Tech vs. Florida or Florida St. vs. Mississippi St.
Gator: Florida or Mississippi St. vs. Illinois or Iowa (The Ron Zook Bowl sounds interesting, but if it’s Mississippi St., they might go with Iowa instead)
Alamo: Texas A&M vs. Arizona
Insight Bowl: Nebraska vs. Michigan
Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Illinois or Iowa
Holiday Bowl: Missouri vs. Washington
Champs Sports Bowl: Notre Dame vs. U. Miami (I don’t know why they’d pass that game up, I don’t care how bad Miami looked against South Florida)
I also think it would be interesting if maybe the Sun Bowl (which used to be somewhat important) matched Notre Dame and Boise St., since there aren’t enough Pac-10 teams and Notre Dame can go to the Big East bowls, but Notre Dame would probably prefer not to play Boise St. anyway. It would be a shame for Boise St. to have to play a team that’s even worse than that. Boise St./Utah would be a good out-west game (the Las Vegas Bowl would be a possibility, since that’s another open Pac-10 spot), but Boise might be possessive and the Broncos could be stuck on the blue field for the Humanitarian Bowl.