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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dereg

Conference championship deregulation is expected to pass in the near future. If it does, it will be the end of the current NCAA regulations that require a conference to have two division of at least six teams apiece to stage a conference championship game. While the primary impetus may be the Big 12 believing the lack of a championship game kept them out of the inaugural college football playoff, such a change could mean big changes for other conferences as well.

Other than the destruction and demotion of my conference (about which I'm not bitter at all, no...) the thing I dislike most about conference realignment is how infrequently conferencemates can meet if they're in opposite divisions. In the SEC, for example, Alabama and Georgia haven't met in the regular season since 2008, and were subject to a similar drought between 1995 and 2002. The permanent crossovers can also create inequity: Les Miles shared his thoughts not long ago about how LSU has to play a (usually tough) Florida squad each year as a crossover, while Ole Miss, for example gets to slum it with a (usually weak) Vanderbilt. While there are crossovers with history, like Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn, several others were put together by happenstance. In the Big Ten, Indiana-Purdue is the only protected crossover, but in the SEC, for equality's sake, everyone has one. This also presented an issue with the most recent conference expansion: A geographically logical division would have kept both Texas A&M and Missouri in the West, but the new line of demarcation would have split the Iron Bowl in two. Clearly that wasn't happening, which is why Mizzou is racking up frequent flyer miles.

I present the idea to follow with the caveat that it's not original. Someone in some comment on an SB Nation article put something similar to this out there, and I wish I could find it so that I could properly credit them. I don't recall if their matchups mirror my own, but I will say that I came up with them on my own.

My scheduling idea works to promote two ideals: Preserve rivalries, and have teams play as often as possible. Starting with the SEC creates a workable model for the other 14 team conferences, because they have the most rivalries to preserve. The model is a 3+5: Each team is assigned three permanent rivals, and cycles through the other conference teams five a year in an eight game conference schedule. This would allow teams to get through the entire conference, home and away, over a four year career. My permanent opponents would be as follows:

TeamPR1PR2PR3
FloridaGeorgiaMissouriTennessee
GeorgiaFloridaAuburnSouth Carolina
KentuckySouth CarolinaMississippi StateVanderbilt
MissouriArkansasFloridaAuburn
South CarolinaKentuckyTexas A&MGeorgia
TennesseeVanderbiltAlabamaFlorida
VanderbiltTennesseeOle MissKentucky
AlabamaAuburnTennesseeMississippi State
ArkansasMissouriLSUTexas A&M
AuburnAlabamaGeorgiaMissouri
LSUTexas A&MArkansasOle Miss
Ole MissMississippi StateVanderbiltLSU
Mississippi StateOle MissKentuckyAlabama
Texas A&MLSUSouth CarolinaArkansas

A few quick notes: This works out pretty soundly, if I do say myself. The only pre-2012 crossover lost is LSU-Florida (you're welcome, Les) and while typically everyone hates everyone in the SEC (though less than they hate everyone else) nearly all strong rivalries are preserved. Kentucky misses its border war with Tennessee, but the Vols' dance card was full. Alabama loses LSU, which has gotten heated lately, but preserves the Iron Bowl, the Third Saturday in October, and the 90 Mile Drive. Further, it's worth remembering that with this schedule, anyone you miss you still get to see two out of every four years, so even weaker ties won't be strangers. The conference newcomers get the shorter end of the stick, with less to preserve, but both schools have history/geography with Arkansas, and LSU has a past with A&M.

And what's to follow? With no divisions, the top two records could meet in the conference championship game. This is particularly attractive in the ACC, typically perceived as the fifth of the five power conferences, because it means that its champion gets one more quality game. It'll take thinking of things differently and putting away some pieces of tradition, but I think it would be a change for the better.
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