With Maryland announcing their intentions to join the Big Ten conference the college football realignment roller coaster is up and running once again. But with another round of changes on the way it begs the question: what would the college football landscape be like if realignment hadn’t changed football forever. To do that, we have to go all the way back to 1991 (before I was born). Let’s take a look at what this year’s BCS rankings and records would look like in the conferences from 21 years ago.
Now, obviously not all these rankings/records would be the same as different conferences means different schedules which, of course, means different records. But its fun to speculate, so as you can see, things were quite a bit different back then. 1991 was Florida State’s inaugural year in the ACC after being a long-time independent. This was the Big East’s first year too, assembling a team of conference misfits around powerhouse Miami.
The Big Ten conference would be slightly weaker. Nebraska and Penn. State added two bowl eligible teams and one ranked one. Rutgers brings another ranked team and it’s own unique…charm as well. And Maryland is well…Maryland (you can’t win them all). So it seems like alignment benefitted Big Ten the most.
What jumps out the most is the probable success of the defunct* Big Eight conference. Aside from perennial bottom feeders Kansas and Colorado, it appears the conference would continue to be a powerhouse in this era. Half of the conference’s teams are ranked in the top 25 and the final two teams both have the opportunity to go to a bowl (no matter how small that opportunity may be for Mizzou)
*Yes, some say the Big Eight is now the Big 12 but I don’t buy it. It’s missing three of the eight in “eight” for God’s sake.
So if the Big Ten was helped the most, who was hurt the most? The WAC would be a very competitive conference if it weren’t for conference realignment. But we know that isn’t the case and in reality none of the 1991 WAC members are in the 2012 WAC. So, what would be (in this scenario) a good, BCS-busting conference is now reduced to FBS newcomers.
The Pac-10/12 would be stronger without its additions as well. It would be without two more bowl ineligible teams and more than half of its teams ranked in the top 25. The Pac-10 would be arguably the premier conference without realignment.
Not much would be different for the SEC. Even with the 1991 alignment, the conference would still host four top ten teams and overall, would still be one of the best conferences in the nation. The MAC wouldn’t be much different either. It would still be the solid, mid-major conference with an occasional ranked team (in this case, Kent St.).
The Big East would be stronger without alignment as well. More importantly, without realignment, the Big East would be, well, East. And even more importantly than that it would still have revenue cash cow Miami, which would provide more advantages for the conferences.
This scenario makes it obvious why the Big West is a basketball-only conference now, as it would only have five teams, only three of which bowl eligible. Another relic of the past, the Southwest conference, would be an average league too. It would have a couple strong, powerhouse teams (TAMU and Texas) but the rest would range from average to subpar.
I’ll let you draw the other drastic conclusions, but needless to say, college football would be much different without realignment. Some, like myself, say it would be better, and with this setup who could argue?