pianoknight

NCAA with NFL Style Alignment (Updated: Auburn)

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What if the NCAA was broken up into a 32-team alignment such as the NFL?  

That was a question I kept pondering but found it almost impossible to draw the line on certain teams.  Certain decisions are easy - Alabama gets in, Appalachian State does not - but others are much more difficult.  Does Colorado make the cut?  They're a Top 25 winning team all time and have both a national title and a Heisman.  But they're currently playing at a level more like a SunBelt team than the Buffs of old.  The initial step in this project was to narrow the field to 32 teams based on merit, not geography, and then assign them to conferences or divisions based on the teams that presented themselves.  To that end, I used football.stassen.com to stack rack every team in FBS based on total wins and/or winning percentage.  I wanted a few basic benchmarks to come out of this.

 

First, I only wanted to consider teams with a better than 50% win record.  The split between 49-51% is much lower than I actually would have thought, with teams like Illinois, Oklahoma State and Rutgers just above the 0.500 mark and teams like Duke, Kentucky and Washington State just below it.  Just from historical reputation, I knew this would provide a decently sized pool of 0.500+ teams to work with.

 

Secondly, I chose teams that have won at least 500 games.  There wasn't a direct correlation between 50% and 500 games, but with most teams historically playing between 10-12 games per year, this ensures that I'm only choosing from universities that have been established football brands for 35-40 years or more.  Sorry, Boise State, your Kellen Moore heroics were fun to watch for a few years, but you're still a historical footnote.  This also gives a long term perspective as college football is very cyclical as evidenced by dynasties, both current and historical.  Florida-Florida State in the 1980s.  Nebraska in the 1990s.  Miami and USC in the 2000s.  Alabama in the 2010s.  To either include or disclude these teams based on the last 5 seasons seems foolish.

 

Finally, I wanted to give additional consideration to teams that had significant achievement in the trophy case.  National Titles and Heismans, in particular, but I also looked at teams that had a slew of conference or divisional titles.  Or a strong bowl record.  Essentially, if I was left to chose between two teams with similar records and games won, I gave preference to the team with more hardware.

 

This process left me with the following teams.  You can debate my picks (and you may be right!), but here's my list and I'm sticking to it:

 

Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Colorado, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, USC, Utah, Virginia Tech, Washington, Wisconsin

 

 

With the team selection finalized, it came down to creating divisions.  Remember, the goal here was to create a 32-team alignment much like the NFL.  The problem I quickly realized is that college football has a pretty strong history of 8-10 team conferences, so putting teams into 4-team pods seemed a bit tough.  So, a slight modification was needed.  As most of you know, the NFL plays a 16-game schedule which includes 6 games against your division foes (3 a piece) and another 10 games assigned based on the divisions that your division has/has not recently played.  

 

I found that the most appealing part of the NFL model was the ability to get both a home game AND an away game against your divisional rivals every year.  I realize there's an argument for every single game being important in the current college alignment, but can you imagine getting to see TWO Iron Bowls a year?  Or watching Michigan beat Ohio State in the Big House, only to have a nightmare game in the Horseshoe a few weeks down the road!  The appeal is far too good to ignore.

 

To balance this home-and-away feature with the traditional size of college conferences, I've arranged the 32 teams into 4 conferences of eight teams each.  Within each conference, however, are two "pods" of four teams.  Or, put another way, I've taken the NFL Divisions model and given them a buddy system.  

 

Scheduling Rules: play each team within your division/pod twice - once at home and once on the road (6 games).  Then play the remaining 4 teams in your conference (cross-division) once.  Home and away games alternate annually, just like the current college model.  This gives a total of 10 conference games.  The other 6 games on the schedule will be against the three other conferences, 2 games against each conference. 

 

Playoffs:  the team with the best record in each division (eight divisions) will win their division and advance to the playoffs.  Just like the NFL model, four wildcard teams will be chosen - the team with the next best record in each conference (regardless of division).  The 8 playoff teams and 4 wild card teams will be seeded by record, but taking a queue from the current NCAA model, any tiebreakers will be resolved by a selection committee and/or BCS-style computer rankings.

 

The Alignment:

uFxaz4Z.png

 

Preserving rivalries was of course, a priority.  Where possible, traditional rivals have been placed into the same division or in the same conference.  For instance, Florida will get two games a year against both Florida State and Miami, but they're still guaranteed annual games against Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn, preserving some of the real-world SEC rivalries.  Originally, I had a four-four split of SEC/ACC in the new Southern Conference, but with the swap of North Carolina-Auburn, I had a 5-3 split, which meant somebody was getting moved.  FSU, Miami and Clemson are a solid group to keep together, so I've added Florida to that mix as many suggested.  The other conferences will relatively easy to split in divisions based on historical alignment or geography.

 

I will acknowledge a few rivalries that were sacrificed in this model.  Notably, Iowa and Wisconsin are split into two different conferences and are not guaranteed an annual game.  Also, I had the problem of Arkansas and LSU.  I essentially wound up having to recreate some weird blend of the old Southwestern Conference, the former Big XII and the SEC West.  I really hated having to split Alabama from LSU and Arkansas, but there just wasn't an easier way to do it unless I swapped out a team like LSU for Texas Tech or Oklahoma State, which feels like an even worse decision to make.  I don't have any issues with sticking Nebraska, Mizzou and A&M back with Oklahoma and Texas, although that was not a goal of mine from the outset.  This alignment still preserves several classic rivalries as well, including LSU-Ark, Ark-Mizz, Ark-A&M, Tex-A&M, Tex-Okla, Neb-Okla and Neb-Mizz. 

 

Western Conference

Washington, Oregon, Stanford, USC

Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, Colorado

 

Heartland Conference

Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma

Arkansas, LSU, Texas, Texas A&M

 

Great Lakes Conference

Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State

Notre Dame, Syracuse, Penn State, Virginia Tech

 

Southern Conference

Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Georgia

Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Miami

 

 

 

To illustrate scheduling, I'll write out a few examples below.

 

Ohio State

The Buckeyes get two clashes per year against Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin, plus an annual game against Penn State, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Virginia Tech.  They then have six more remaining non-conference games against Oregon and Stanford (Western), Oklahoma and LSU (Heartland), and Florida State and Clemson (Southern).

 

Washington

The Huskies get two games against Oregon, Stanford and USC, plus a game each against Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State.  Finally, they pick up Arkansas and Iowa (Heartland), Notre Dame and Wisconsin (Great Lakes), and Tennessee and Miami (Southern)

 

Auburn

The Tigers play Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama twice, plus they get games against the Three Florida schools and Clemson.  Finally, they draw a non-con slate with Penn State and Michigan (Great Lakes), Colorado and Arizona State (Western) and Texas and Missouri (Heartland).

 

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You're still here?  It's over!  Go home.

 

Comments and critiques welcome.

 

 

 

 

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Only one disagreement. I would have WVU(maybe I'm biased) instead of Syracuse. Keep who you want though. This is going to be good.

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15 minutes ago, JosiahWVU said:

Only one disagreement. I would have WVU(maybe I'm biased) instead of Syracuse. Keep who you want though. This is going to be good.

 

This was one that I really struggled with.  West Virginia has a slightly better win record all time, but Syracuse has a little more on the hardware side (claimed NT in 1959) and a better bowl record.  

 

After the Top 10-15, it got TOUGH picking teams.  Nobody's gonna debate Notre Dame, Oklahoma or USC, but you get down to the teams like Utah or No. Carolina and you start having to piss people off. :)

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20 minutes ago, pianoknight said:

 

This was one that I really struggled with.  West Virginia has a slightly better win record all time, but Syracuse has a little more on the hardware side (claimed NT in 1959) and a better bowl record.  

 

After the Top 10-15, it got TOUGH picking teams.  Nobody's gonna debate Notre Dame, Oklahoma or USC, but you get down to the teams like Utah or No. Carolina and you start having to piss people off. :)

I understand completely. I would have trouble doing this myself. And I LOVE College Football.

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I really like what you've done here. I am happy to not play Bama every year. More wins for the hogs.:lol:

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1 hour ago, cjm3114jr said:

I really like what you've done here. I am happy to not play Bama every year. More wins for the hogs.:lol:

 

Plus, when you look historically, Arkansas has a longer history against Texas and A&M as part of the SWC.  Until TAMU joined the SEC, that rivalry was dead and this alignment gives them back the Texas game, too, plus the LSU and newish Mizzou rivalry, too. 

 

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My favorite part is how you used "TWO iron bowls a year" as a selling point, then left half the iron bowl off the list.. Kinda hypocritical, especially when Auburn has multiple national titles and Heisman winners, along with a better bowl record and all-time record than North Carolina, as well as more conference and division titles in a tougher conference/division.. Not sure I understand how West Virginia and Utah were so perplexing, yet Auburn was omitted without mention..

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23 minutes ago, WavePunter said:

My favorite part is how you used "TWO iron bowls a year" as a selling point, then left half the iron bowl off the list.. Kinda hypocritical, especially when Auburn has multiple national titles and Heisman winners, along with a better bowl record and all-time record than North Carolina, as well as more conference and division titles in a tougher conference/division.. Not sure I understand how West Virginia and Utah were so perplexing, yet Auburn was omitted without mention..

 

That was your FAVORITE part? :)

 

It's a valid cririque and I actually agree with the idea that Auburn is more accomplished than UNC. Still, it's never gonna be perfect. 

 

Like I said earlier, the top ten are easy, mostly because that same group has both the best winning percentages and most games played, plus a majority of the NTs and Heismans. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have picked AUB. My bad for calling out the IronBowl as an example and then leaving the Tigers off the list. 

 

Nobody tell Clint, okay? ;)

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Plus it would make more sense regionally (moving from a team at the extreme northeast corner of the conference to one in the center).. Not to mention how much fun it would be to have a conference with  5 orange teams.. NC just has no natural or established rivalries, no significant history (or historical significance for that matter), and exists currently in your model as an outlier.. To think the two programs are even comparable is laughable.. Auburn is a better choice than several teams who made the cut, but regionally speaking, NC is unquestionably the one That should be replaced by auburn.. That simple adjustment would exponentially improve both the conference and overall project.. Simply replacing NC with Florida and then replacing Florida with Auburn solves everything.. 

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Hey mistakes happen.  

 

My gut told me that the Auburn omission was likely an oversight as I intrinsically "knew" the Tigers to be a higher caliber team than UNC.  Apologies to Tar Heel fans, but you can wait for basketball season.  Anyway, reviewing my data I see what happened. I had Auburn right at a page break on my master list and completely overlooked them.  Thanks to everyone for pointing out the oversight.

 

I've also updated the map to be a little nicer.  Divisions are now marked by a plus or circle icon in the top right of the team icon.  I also wanted to be a little different and use (mostly) mascot icons instead of the traditional block letters that most schools have.  Thought it came out kind of fun.

 

Also, I can't claim the updated 3D render of the US map in the background.  It was a Wikipedia snag, so credit to whomever the original artist is.  I'm not THAT good.

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Love what you've done here. But there is one thing I'm not liking here, heartland? Could that maybe be Central?

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Arizona and ASU surprised me with how consistently they've been to each other. Usually you get an in-state thing like Oklahoma-OkState where the Sooners are just far and away the better team. Both the Cats and Devils are pretty solid programs and historically both pretty competitive to each other.

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This is really cool, my concern IRL would be profitability. The states of Illinois, Minnesota, and New Jersey, as well as the entire New England region are not represented, that's a huge population to miss out on. That said, I would add Minnesota over Colorado. They have 4 national championships, have won over 600 games and the 6th largest student enrollment in the country. They've fielded bad teams in recent memory however with a change like this, that could change. Also I would consider Illinois, Cal, Rutgers, and Boston College.

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13 hours ago, User9113 said:

This is really cool, my concern IRL would be profitability. The states of Illinois, Minnesota, and New Jersey, as well as the entire New England region are not represented, that's a huge population to miss out on. That said, I would add Minnesota over Colorado. They have 4 national championships, have won over 600 games and the 6th largest student enrollment in the country. They've fielded bad teams in recent memory however with a change like this, that could change. Also I would consider Illinois, Cal, Rutgers, and Boston College.

 

All of those teams were just on the cusp, honestly.  And while I agree about population centers in IL, MN and NJ, that wasn't a primary determinant of which teams got added.  Population doesn't really have any bearing on success at either the college or NFL level.  Take USC or the 49ers and the bazillion people living in California.  Or take Nebraska or the Packers and hardly anyone living in Lincoln or Green Bay.  Yet all four of those teams have had tremendous success.

 

While I can respect the idea of profitability, it wasn't a big consideration for this project.

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