With the official defections of Pitt and Syracuse from the Big East to the ACC, a new round of re-alignment madness is officially touched off. Everyone expected the Big 12 to be the first domino to fall, but it seems now as if the Big East will be the conference that initiates the armageddon that has seemed certain since Texas A&M announced its intent to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.
Now all that's left is to see how the dominoes will fall. Which conferences will become Super Conferences and which will be enveloped in the madness? Below are my personal predictions for how everything will end up, eventually. Some of these changes will be in effect for the 2012 football season, while some likely won't be finalized for another season or two after that. This is especially true in the Big 10, which may wait until its TV deal runs out to expand.
1. Pitt, Syracuse, UConn, and Rutgers leave the Big East, join the ACC.
This move destroys the Big East as a football conference, something that has seemed inevitable ever since Miami, BC, and Va Tech left the conference in 2005 for the ACC. This move would leave the ACC with 16 teams, 2 divisions of 8. I believe these divisions will be as follows:
North: Boston College, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Pitt, Syracuse, UConn, Rutgers
South: Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State, Miami, UNC, NC State, Duke, Georgia Tech
2. Texas A&M and West Virginia leave the Big 12 and Big East, join the SEC.
This move is already in motion, as Texas A&M has already accepted their invitation to join the SEC, while West Virginia is a logical 14th team with the Big East in shambles after Move 1. I see the SEC holding firm with 14 teams rather than moving to 16, as no other teams outside of the ACC make good sense to join the SEC (although I have heard rumbles about some of the Big 12, such as Mizzou). I don't see the SEC divisional alignment changing much, with A&M joining the West division, and West Virginia joining the East division.
3. Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma St leave the Big 12, join the Pac-12
This has been the most heavily publicized and debated move, and with the other pieces in motion, the two big boys in the Big 12 (Texas and Oklahoma) abandon ship and take their little brothers with them to the newly christened Pac-16. This essentially dooms the Big 12, and I see it folding, with the leftovers scrambling to find Major conferences to join. I see the divisions shaping up like this:
Pacific: UCLA, USC, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon St, Washington, Washington St
Southwest: Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, OK St, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, ASU
Interesting wrinkle here is that the new divisions could be the old Pac-8 teams versus the new additions (the new conference may split up the newcomers for revenue reasons, but this alignment makes the most geographic sense IMO).
4. Missouri and Notre Dame join the Big 10.
Missouri is left on the sinking ship of the Big 12 and is forced into joining the Big 10. Notre Dame finally agrees that it's time to join a conference and picks the obvious choice as well. Here's how I see a 14 team Big 10 looking:
Lakes: Michigan, MSU, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, Penn State
Plains: OSU, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Wiconsin, Indiana, Purdue
5. Kansas, KSU, Baylor, Iowa St (from Big 12), TCU (from Big East), BYU (Independent), and Nevada, Hawaii, and Fresno State (from WAC) join Mountain West.
With the Big 12 and Big East ceasing to exist (at least as football conferences), the leftovers will be left scrambling. I see the Big 12 remainders ending up in a new, super Mountain West, in addition to some teams that were already scheduled to join (WAC teams) and the re-addition of TCU and BYU, who probably should have never left in the first place. That would leave the new Mountain West with 16 teams, two 8-team divisions that would be as follows:
West: Hawaii, Nevada, Fresno St, BYU, Boise St, UNLV, SD St, Wyoming
East: Colorado St, TCU, Air Force, New Mexico, Kansas, KSU, Baylor, Iowa St
6. Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida (from Big East) and Louisiana Tech(from WAC) join Conference USA.
The Big East leftovers join the C-USA, which is a kind of geographic mash-up, and wouldn't mind adding former members such as Louisville to form a 16 team conference with two 8-team divisions, with La Tech and Louisville going West and Cincinnati and USF going East.
7. WAC, Big East, and Big 12 fold as football conferences, remaining WAC teams go down to FCS level or join Sun Belt.
Most of the WAC plays at a D1-AA level anyway, wouldn't be a huge change for the leftovers of that conference (Idaho, Utah State, SJ State, NM State).
The Final Consequences
2 BCS AQ conferences (Big East and Big 12) would be kaput as football conferences, meaning that their auto-bids would have to go elsewhere. I would vote that one become and at-large bid and the other go to the new Mountain West. That would leave the ACC, Big 10, Mountain West, Pac-16, and SEC as the new AQ conferences. A ton of other issues would still need to be resolved, such as conference scheduling (9 in-conference games for sure, more than 2 BCS bids per conference most likely), but this new alignment works for the most part. It isn't as ideal as the old setup maybe, but the times they are a'changing, and we need the best possible solution.
Comments/questions/other plans are welcome.