Only a few teams I’ve placed previously are West of the Mississippi: Arkansas and Texas A&M of the SEC (or soon-to-be); and Minnesota (which is actually on both side of the river), Nebraska, and Iowa of the Big Ten (+6). If you were wondering, LSU is entirely on the East Bank of the Mississippi.
Big 8/SWC Revival
Geographical notes out of the way, the more central part of the West seems the most problematic lately. Colorado has become a far-eastern outgrowth of the former Pac-10. Nebraska and Texas A&M, as mentioned, have been lost to the so-called Big Ten and SEC, respectively. There seem to be new rumors of defections and expansions every week. I don’t know if my proposal would make everyone happy, but I think it would work.
As before, there is one division on the left, one on the right…North and South work, could also be Midwest and Southwest or something of that nature. They’re lined up so that proposed annual opponents share the same line.
This is the easiest solution for the West-Middle (to distinguish from Midwest and Far West). Colorado could conceivably be replaced by BYU though. But since we’re talking about what my ideal would be, I’ll just concentrate on what I’m putting up there. The Northern Division is the Big 8, replacing Nebraska with Air Force to give Colorado a more local rival. There is also national interest in Air Force, and part of my idea would be to set it up in such a way that more out of place teams like that would want to be in the newly created set-up. I think pairing Colorado with the West Texas team is more helpful to both than the alternating home-and-homes of the Big XII.
The Southern Division is 7 Southwest Conference teams plus Tulsa. Rice might be a stretch to have in a major conference, but I think their history justifies inclusion in the top 80 to start with. There is no better place to go either to the West or to the East. I think it would make sense to see who does well in the lower divisions and have that make the decision though, even assuming Rice would eventually get demoted. Just some of the teams that would make sense if they were to get promoted from the bottom 40 grouping: La. Tech, Tulane, ULL, ULM, Arkansas St., Memphis, North Texas, New Mexico, New Mexico St., UTEP, Colorado St.
As far as the other permanent rivalries, Oklahoma-Texas is a given, and Oklahoma St.-Tulsa is obvious. Air Force-TCU would be a good MWC holdover. There is no real logic for the other 4 sets of permanent opponents. Missouri-SMU aren’t that far away from one another. I believe that trying to have a selection of teams close to one another is worth adding a little bit to the distance in the other “rivalries”. For example, Oklahoma St.-SMU and Tulsa-Missouri might be less combined travel distance, but I think Oklahoma St.-Tulsa is just more likely to catch on for obvious reasons.
I continued to follow the North-South model for my first draft of the Far West/Pac-whatever group, with the Arizona-New Mexico and Colorado-Utah border as the basic dividing line. I had mentioned I didn’t like California teams being place in the North. So this is the first draft.
San Diego St.-Boise St.
As recent BCS teams that don’t fit elsewhere, Boise St. and Hawaii are sort of obvious as additions. A lot of Pac-10 teams played Hawaii anyway. Boise St. is a natural rival of the Pacific Northwest teams (and in their short history have played at least one of them fairly regularly). BYU has history as well as strong academics. San Diego is an under-utilized market. That was more about potential than how great of a program San Diego St. is right now, although it has been improving.
BYU-Arizona is a classic WAC rivalry, although I don’t remember Arizona being in the WAC. I thought Utah-Arizona St. made a good rivalry between big city teams that happen to be almost at the same line of longitude. I wasn’t completely insensitive to television markets. Washingon-USC seemed like it worked as well. Nevada-Hawaii is another traditional WAC rivalry. Nevada would also be the closest Northern team to Hawaii. Reno might even have direct flights. It seems like there has been more of a rivalry between Cal and Oregon at least until the last couple of seasons. Maybe Oregon and Oregon St. could be switched though.
Then I had another idea. What if I took more of the model from the Western-Middle/Big XII grouping? So why not just make it traditional and leave the former Pac-8 together. San Diego St. and Hawaii would be more out of place, but it might work. The names of the divisions could refer to the conferences from which the teams are taken, such as Pacific and Western divisions. They’re also vague enough titles that it wouldn’t be weird. Hawaii would seem silly in an Eastern or even Southeastern division.
UCLA-San Diego St.
Oregon St.-Boise St.
USC-Hawaii and Oregon St.-Boise St. have been playing one another with some regularity anyway. Cal-BYU might work. Mormons vs. Hippies. People talked about BYU being relatively incompatible with the former Pac-10, but I thought they could just embrace it. Stanford-BYU might not be bad either, with the private-school, named-after-rich-guy thing. Nevada would be a good permanent opponent for a Bay Area team since it’s basically the closest point in Nevada to the Bay Area. I went for another big-city nexus with Washington-Arizona St. They’re both NFC West cities, so there could be some carry-over from the NFL in getting fans excited. Oregon-Utah seems reasonable since I decided to pair Nevada and Boise St. with other teams. Also (if you count Portland anyway) quasi-big markets, big enough to support NBA teams (both in the same division as well). UCLA and San Diego St. both play in major stadiums in Southern California and are more populist teams. I think that would work well. I sense there might be less complaining by the more traditional Pac-10 fans in this format overall. The non-research-oriented WAC/Mountain riff-raff would be in the other division, so they wouldn’t feel as violated.
I have one more of these to do. Next time, I’m just going to talk about how I would organize the bottom-40 teams.