ACC Football Chat: Conference Realignment Rumors — Florida State, Clemson, Big 12, etc.

Is There Any Validity to the Big 12-ACC Expansion Rumors? And Who Do We Think the ACC Should Target Next?

In our weekly chats, Mike and I discuss different topics pertaining to ACC football and then post the conversation up here. Disagree with us? By all means, share your thoughts below. Happy to continue to the debate.

This week’s topic: Everyone’s favorite — conference realignment!

John: So conference realignment — people are starting to mutter about Florida State and Clemson potentially leaving the ACC for the Big 12. I call bull. Your thoughts?

Mike: I agree. No matter what anyone says, conferences are still based heavily on geography. That’s why I’ve always said that Notre Dame belongs in the Big Ten. The SEC for Clemson and FSU could make sense.

J: Well speaking of geography, do schools really care about it anymore? I mean, Syracuse & Boston College are still a bit out of place in the ACC. And Boise State‘s in the Big East.

M: Same with West Virginia going to the Big 12.

J: Agreed. So are we now agreeing that money’s most important? And if so, how much of it would it take for FSU and Clemson to leave sure shots at a BCS game and regional rivalries for a tougher road and slightly more money in the Big 12?

M: I don’t know. Longer distances between games means more jet lag and tougher matches, which could result in more losses, etc. And less time to study (hahaha). The money would have to be pretty good.

J: Yeah. And I’m unsure if the amount of money a league focused on that states of Texas and Oklahoma would get by adding the state of Florida and South Carolina’s second-most popular teams would definitely make the TV deal THAT much larger than what the ACC will have with Boston, New York, Washington, Charlotte, Raleigh, Pittsburgh and Atlanta all under its umbrella. Continue reading

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ACC 2012 Schedule Outlook: North Carolina Tar Heels

First-Year Head Coach Larry Fedora's North Carolina Squad Has a Pretty Fair Road Ahead for 2012

With all of the realignment and rescheduling nonsense going on around the country, we wanted to give a breakdown of each of the ACC‘s schedules — how the teams stack up, and some thoughts on overall difficulty. If these change at all, we’ll also be sure to update them on a rolling basis. All information is up-to-date as of publishing, based on the latest from FBSchedules.com.

Today’s breakdown: North Carolina Tar Heels

Though this year’s Tar Heels football schedule is getting some complaints as far as tradition goes, it’s also a very manageable group of games all around. Starting with the non-conference set, all four matchups are winnable for UNC, with the one questionable one being their September date at Louisville, a probable contender for the Big East title and likely preseason top-25 team. Beyond the Cardinals, however, it’s three should-wins. FCS opponent Elon opens the year on a soft note, and for the most part, East Carolina and Idaho should not prove all that challenging either. For reference, the Heels haven’t lost to ECU since 2007 (one of just two defeats for them in the series), and they’ve never faced the Vandals to this point. Continue reading

Big East Expansion: Navy-Finally-Says-Yes Edition

The Big East Makes Another Addition: And This Time, It's Navy

After a strung-out courtship that apparently lasted 10 years according to Navy Athletic Director Chuck Gladchuck, the Midshipmen are finally part of the Big East (/Country/Continent/Least, etc.)… in 2015. While I’m always one to applaud the tradition of our service academies as major college football programs, it’s still difficult to see what this addition truly gives the “country’s first national football conference” (source: John Marinatto, who also believes Syracuse, Pitt, TCU and West Virginia were wrong in leaving). While Navy surely adds more tradition than most of the current conference schools, what it lacks is success to go along with it. Yes, the Midshipmen have been to eight bowl games in the last nine years, but just nine bowl games during the previous 125 years of play. And if for some reason, their triple-option attack just can’t measure up anymore (we saw glimpses of this during 2011), Navy could end up as an annual bottom-dweller.

So now what? For the conference to truly be a “national,” coast-to-coast league, the final addition almost HAS to be west of the Mississippi. Remember, the Big East will likely have 13 teams in 2013, but then drop down to 10 in 2014 with the departures of SU, Pitt and WVU. Navy bumps them back up to 11, but with seven teams in the Eastern time zone, two in the Central, one in the Mountain and one in the Pacific, any “Western” division likely needs another team in the western part of the country. Still, we’ll dissect some quick odds on the remaining candidates, taking an open look at the country: Continue reading

Big East Expansion: “Now What?” Edition

When the Big East Expands Again, This Guy's Definitely Still Interested

When we last left our more beleaguered East Coast football brethren (former rivals, for the five defectors among us), they were busy expanding to a four timezones format, extending its reach over 3,000 miles from its original locale of Providence, to the shores of San Diego. Since then, Air Force has made it awkward, and no longer wants a seat with the USSR of college football, while fellow service academy Navy is officially locked into independent status until 2014 (at least). So at this juncture, as we’ve asked several times before: now what?

We’ve mentioned most of these at one point or another, but worth noting all of the current candidates again, with odds and explanations attached. The following schools are listed from most likely to garner an invite to least likely. Also keep in mind that a) all schools are pretty much on the table at this point, and b)the conference has not necessarily said it will stop at 12 teams for football.

Temple Owls (Odds — 2:1): Already members of the Big East once, Temple fits the league’s original profile (good at basketball, eastern location), and this time brings a more formidable football program (they’d hope). The biggest barrier to their admittance has always been Villanova, but unless the Wildcats want to play basketball in the Atlantic 10, that stance will probably be changing soon.

Memphis Tigers (Odds — 8:1): Another all-sports addition, Memphis could contend immediately in basketball, but would likely be the new Temple of the league (while Temple would become the Rutgers of the new Big East?). Losing 10 games this past year won’t help them out much, but another defection (not unlikely) would.

ECU Pirates (Odds — 10:1): We’ve mentioned this several times before, but the Pirates have already applied to join the Big East! That was easy. A school that regularly draws 50-60K for football would normally be a big attraction, except that they’re the fifth-best game in town down in North Carolina, and provide little in terms of TV revenue. Ceiling in the new iteration of the league would likely be an 8-4 record.

Villanova Wildcats (Odds — 15:1): Given they’re already a member in all other sports, adding Villanova would be an easy fix. And at this point, the soonest they’d join is 2014, which as luck would have it, could coincide with Navy’s entry date. On the other hand, they play home games in a soccer stadium and usually play less compelling football than (at the very least) Penn and Temple.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles (Odds — 25:1): And to be honest, if they were in an even marginally larger media market, this would be a slam dunk already. The reigning Conference USA champs would love to continue rivalries with UCF, SMU and Houston, and raise their own national profile (they’re the San Diego State of the Gulf Coast, really). Even better than all of this: They’d be an immediate contender in a budding Western division.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (Odds — 35:1): If you’ve already got two teams in Texas, why not add an Oklahoma team, too? Tulsa’s always been decent at football, especially with the whole not-playing-defense thing which seems to work so well for C-USA teams. The drawback — most eyes in Tulsa are likely on the other two big football teams in the state, plus it would be difficult to finish higher than fourth in that Western division.

Toledo Rockets/Colorado State Rams/UNLV Rebels (Odds — 100:1 each): And this is just a sampling of the schools the Big East could consider. Hell, might even throw Hawaii in there while they’re at it. If they’re going for eyeballs and institutional cache, then they’re going for UNLV or to be honeset, Hawaii (have been to a BCS game). Logically, the pick’s Toledo — probably as good as half of the league this year and a natural rival for Cincinnati. Colorado State’s more tossed in there to represent any mountain-type team in that general region of the country.

If we’re stopping at just one additional school (to pair with Navy), Temple would appear to be the pick. However, to avoid pushing too many teams out West (and further toward leaving the conference), they may go with another choice left of the original conference footprint. If that’s the choice, I’d give Southern Miss the call first. In the case of more than just one invite though, no blog post can truly capture the amount of teams on the table. Might as well include every team currently in the MAC, Mountain West, WAC and C-USA. And that’s just for starters.

Big East Expansion: Spurned By Air Force Edition

Without Air Force in the Mix, Where Will the Big East Turn Next?

After yesterday/today’s big news, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before Navy and Air Force joined the Big East so the league could get to 12 teams (the magic number to split into divisions and stage a championship game). Now, it appears there’s about to be a wrench thrown into that whole plan. Or maybe multiple wrenches.

With Air Force officially saying “thanks, but no thanks” (using the surprising logic of travel time and geography!) and Navy apparently locked into independence until at least 2014, the Big “East” is once again in a tough spot. Do they wait around for the Midshipmen, or just move on two new options? Logistically, if they manage to force Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia from departing for greener pastures in 2014, the conference becomes even more of a mess — supporting 13 schools for football, and 19 for basketball for one season — and that’s assuming they stand pat. If they add two more teams, now you’re looking at 15 for football (ironically, a superconference) and possibly 21 (!!!!!!!!) for basketball. Horrifying.

As much as Navy made sense before, especially with Air Force in tow, adding them no longer pays real dividends. The conference needs additions to be further west, to help bridge the enormous geographic gap between current schools and the recent five invitees. As much as people like watching the military academies, Navy usually has an eight-win cap on their season (and that’s while making their own schedule) and may not even be the biggest draw in the Annapolis area. Without a natural rival (Rutgers?), any remaining intrigue around their contests vanishes and people just wait out the string until we get to Army-Navy come years’ end.

So what’s left? As always, Temple is the top replacement candidate, and the conference would be foolish not to add the Owls for all sports. Unless, of course, they fessed up to the fact that they are no longer a basketball conference. In that case, now you’ve suddenly got some better options: ECU, Southern Miss, Toledo, Marshall (and their hoops program’s on the upswing) — hell, why not throw Tulsa into the mix? No, none of these solutions are perfect, but “perfect” went out the window for the Big East long ago. They have to do what’s necessary to survive. In this case, it might mean compromising basketball (gasp!) for the good of the football side.

Parting thoughts: They’ll end up adding Temple and Navy. However, if I were John Marinatto (and thank God I’m not), I add ECU and Southern Miss, and call it a day. Not only do you invade ACC territory, but you also inch a bit further west, making it slightly less awkward for UCF to be in the same division as Boise State. Once again, it’s not perfect. But how can it be anymore?

Big East Expansion: Spurned by BYU Edition

Like the Pioneers, Big East Commish John Marinatto Keeps Heading West, In Spite of Hardships

As most know, the Big East (furthermore notated as Big “East”) has been courting a full Western annex to appease the whims of the Boise State Broncos (the linchpin in the conference keeping its AQ status). This Frankenstein-like setup would include Boise, Air Force, SMU, Houston and a fifth team, plus UCF in the west to complement the traditional eastern division. That fifth team was supposed to be currently-independent BYU, who everyone thought would jump at the chance to be an automatic qualifier. Yeah, about that.

So now what? Well, there’s the logical next step of inviting Temple. Though the Owls were tossed out of the Big “East” back in 2004, there’s rumblings all around for them to return. Temple sure wants it, as does Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. There’s also the simple option of ECU, who applied for football-only membership back in September. And of course, Villanova, who’s already a league member in every other sport, is still pretty interested in making the jump. But why would the conference be interested in any of these logical choices?

No, instead, the Big “East” is probably gunning for the least logical option this side of Hawaii: San Diego State.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Aztecs are a fine program in both football and basketball (invite for that sport unlikely, but humor me) — a real rising power the likes of which would’ve been an enterprising addition under better circumstances, honestly. But logistically, think about this one for a second: schools traveling from Florida to Idaho, Cincinnati to San Diego, New Jersey to Colorado. If invited for basketball, you’d potentially have to watch Providence head to Southern California every other year (a 3,039-mile trip according to Google Maps). Regardless though, the travel costs associated with a conference of this size and breadth would be downright staggering, and unfair to anyone involved with the program, from fans to athletes.

We’re still in wait-and-see mode at the moment, but if this happens, the Big “East” may as well be a conglomerate of independents who happen to schedule each other for convenience purposes. If the league decides to go to 16 teams in football, I’ve heard Warsaw Tech is available.

Today in the Big East Expansion Soap Opera

Will Temple Resume Its Losing Ways if it Rejoins the Big East?

While many in the Syracuse and Pitt camps forget at times (I am very guilty here), we’re still members of the Big East for the time being. As such, expansion plans do, in fact effect us, especially if we’re going to be sticking around for the next 27 (now 26!) months. As most probably heard yesterday, the conference is looking to pick up six programs potentially, assuming everyone else stays put, to grow its ranks to 12 football-playing members. While I do not wish ill on any of the institutions left in the Big East — many are longtime rivals that have created some of my best memories of Syracuse — you can’t deny the fact that the league’s doomed to look like a bulked-up version of Conference USA.

So who’s in line to join West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Connecticut and USF in the smallest and least “Big” “East” possible? We’ll break down the odds of the candidates:

Temple Owls (Odds — 2:1): At this point, anyone who’s been paying attention would be shocked if Temple didn’t rejoin the BIg East, this time for all sports. You might recall their last stint didn’t go well, but Commissioner John Marinatto is willing to let that slide.

UCF Knights (Odds — 3:1): Even if USF wanted to block the Knights, their choices are playing them in the Big East, or playing them in Conference USA. Either way, they’ll be league foes. Might as well keep the BCS berth (for now).

Navy Midshipmen (Odds — 10:1): And only if at least one of the other service academies join them. While many have forgotten Navy’s dark days in the late 90s/early 00s, I have not.

Air Force Falcons (Odds — 10:1): Same deal as above. Air Force wants to protect its rivalries with the other academies, so the only way this gets done is if one or both join. Somehow, even though the Colorado-to-Connecticut geography is stupid, this is probably going to happen.

Houston Cougars (Odds — 20:1): Houston’s football program is on the rise, plus they’re in a large market (as the fifth option or so), so the Big East is on board. Without TCU anymore, this makes less sense, but there is another alternative to make this make more sense…

SMU Mustangs (Odds — 20:1): SMU wants in on a BCS league. While this isn’t the first choice, both could provide a strongish Texas contingent for the conference, and get a shot at a money bowl for at least a season or two until everyone’s reevaluated. Not a huge fan of any Texas team that’s not TCU heading to the Big East, but maybe that’s just me.

Army Black Knights (Odds — 25:1): Wary about moving to the Big East after their last conference stint went so terribly (C-USA), Army doesn’t necessarily need to follow Navy. Still, what have they got to lose? I guess respectability, which is something this team only recently gained back on the football field.

ECU Pirates (Odds — 35:1): While they fit the profile of a Big East school, and compare pretty favorably to West Virginia, they lack a large TV market, national recognition and academic prestige. Still, even though they’ve already completed a submission to join the league, they’ll probably be on the outside looking in.

Boise State Broncos (Odds — 50:1): As much national recognition as the Broncos have, they’re currently subject of an NCAA investigation (for nothing serious), lack a large market and are subpar academically. Also, they’re in Boise, IDAHO! You can ignore the arguments that the MWC as is is better than the Big East, since it’s an enormous joke, but is the slight upgrade worth the travel? We’ll find out soon enough.