Rewriting Conference Realignment History

What if the Syracuse Orange Had Joined Rival Boston College in the ACC's First Round of Expansion?

What if Syracuse Had Joined Rival Boston College in the ACC’s First Round of Expansion?

If you’ve checked out today’s daily links, you’ve likely noticed the top story from, with regard to a little revisionist realignment history. The piece, “Syracuse is About to Join the ACC, But What if SU Had Made the Move 10 Years Ago?” enlists a variety of folks to take a look at what might have been if Syracuse had left the Big East for the ACC along with Boston College and Miami, as originally planned. It’s a very worthwhile read, though I did want to dive a bit deeper into some of the points, and bring up a few points of contention as well. Again, definitely enjoyed the article, but I do think some of the decisions seem to forget the timeline of all these things and the motivations of certain leagues, in particular. Taking a look at their timeline…

Move 1: Boston College, Miami and Syracuse depart Big East for ACC (2004)

No qualms here — obviously this is the decision that gets the ball rolling.

Move 2: Virginia Tech departs Big East for SEC (undetermined)

Unsure when this move takes place, but I’d venture to guess not immediately after the first round of expansion above. The further away from that point in time we get, I’d agree, the more likely this happens. Though I’d also bet that if it hadn’t happened by about 2010 or so, the Hokies end up in the ACC.

Move 3: Texas A&M departs Big 12 for SEC (2010)

This almost happened in real life, and would end up coming to fruition a year later anyway. No surprise here.

Move 4: Missouri departs Big 12 for Big Ten (2010)

… And here’s where I bring up an issue. The dominoes started falling in 2010 when the Big Ten announced they were searching for a 12th member. I’d bet that even in this revised timeline, that’s still the case, meaning they’d get to move first. Their target was always Nebraska, and despite multiple overtures by Missouri, the Big Ten’s continually said no. So I’d probably adjust this to reflect the Huskers heading up to the B1G, instead of the Tigers.

Move 5: Texas and Oklahoma depart Big 12 for Pac-10 (2010)

Here’s another one where I’m at least partially confused. We all remember the first version of “OMG Pac-16!!!” but this hypothetical seems to forget the rest of it. Texas and Oklahoma weren’t going anywhere without Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And what the hell happens to Colorado here? We never find out. I’m fine with hypotheticals — this is a college football blog after all — but I think the real-life motivations need to be accounted for with these moves. It also ignores the inherent issue the Pac-10/12 has with Texas: the Longhorn Network.

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Conference Realignment: Examining the Effects on Teams After the Move (Part 1)

Texas A&M’s Fared Pretty Nicely Since Moving From the Big 12 to the SEC, But Has Every Program Made Out As Well?

There was lots of discussion this spring about teams jumping conferences… Lots of discussion! TCU and West Virginia actually did make the move to the Big 12, and there were rumors about Florida State and Clemson jumping ship as well. But for those who actually changed conferences, was it the right move? From a broader view, how has it worked out in general for teams which have changed conferences in recent years? Can even the best “mid-major” teams survive the so-called “grind” of a major conference schedule?

In the distant past (i.e. before 1990), when a team changed conferences it was generally to join one which was a better academic or geographic fit. Think Georgia Tech leaving the SEC to eventually join the ACC (via independence), or South Carolina doing the reverse. Today it’s a different story. Money generated by athletics has grown to the point where a school will actually consider joining a conference which is further away in order to grab yet more money. Imagine that – major universities motivated by money!

So we’ve seen several teams shift to/from major conferences in the past couple years:

  • Nebraska: from Big 12 to Big Ten
  • Utah: from Mountain West to Pac-12
  • Colorado: from Big 12 to Pac-12
  • Texas A&M: from Big 12 to SEC
  • Missouri: from Big 12 to SEC
  • TCU: from Mountain West (by way of Big East) to Big 12
  • West Virginia: from Big East to Big 12

Obviously there’s a pattern here, as one conference (Big 12) has been involved in the majority of these moves. But I digress…

How did these teams fare after the conference changes, though? To answer that, let’s look at before & after win/loss numbers in-conference and overall:

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Florida State vs. Notre Dame in the BCS Championship: Could the ACC’s Dream Scenario Happen?

Both Sitting at 4-0, Could Florida State and Notre Dame Meet for the National Championship?

There exists a dream scenario for the ACC — an ideal ending to the season, where Florida State meets Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game – in the Orange Bowl, no less!

Could it happen? Currently Florida State and Notre Dame are #4 and #11, respectively. For them to play each other in the BCS national championship game they would have to be #1 and #2. So the questions are who’s ahead of them, and what would have to happen for these two teams to climb that high?

Florida State

The Seminoles are already #4, so they only need to move up two spots. Two of those teams are Alabama and LSU, who play each other, thus guaranteeing a loss to one of them. Could FSU possibly jump them both?

Alabama plays consecutive road games at Missouri, then Tennessee. If Missouri is able to at least work them hard enough, it’s certainly possible for the Volunteers to finish the job  and give the Crimson Tide its first loss of the season. Alabama then has to travel to LSU — another possible loss. Two losses would certainly be enough to knock Alabama out of the national championship game. Even one loss should be enough to allow an undefeated FSU team to pass them.

Between the top two SEC teams, LSU appears to have the tougher conference schedule. In addition to the SEC West teams, the Tigers must travel to Florida and also host South Carolina (note: to make it even more difficult, those games are back-to-back). So a loss outside of the ‘Bama game is certainly possible for the Bayou Bengals. Furthermore, if Florida beats LSU, that would be ideal because Florida States plays the Gators and could not only take them down but also hurt LSU’s strength of schedule at the same time.

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A Tale of Two Upsets: Why ULM Beat Arkansas, But Syracuse Couldn’t Beat USC

UL-Monroe Slayed Their Giant, Arkansas; But Why Couldn’t SU Defeat USC?

While the rankings we assign to teams during each week of the college football season are so subjective and arbitrary that there are calls to abolish them, they do, in many cases indicate the relative strengths of the teams on the field. So, when something like UL-Monroe 34, #8 Arkansas 31 happens, it’s still a shock.  But it also requires something special to happen. Something so whacky and unexpected that the collective consciousness of college football fans is drawn to the game and immediately dons the cap of the Cinderella story. So when Warhawks QB Kolton Browning completes a 23-yard TD pass on fourth down to tie the game, and then later runs for a 16-yard touchdown to seal the victory in OT, that’s when lightning strikes and huge upsets happen. When it doesn’t? Well, that’s when you see USC beat Syracuse by 13.

SU coach Doug Marrone wanted his team to believe they could knock off the second-ranked team in the land on Saturday, and for the most part they did believe it was possible. On the ride down from Central New York, in the locker room and in pre-game warm-ups, there’s a good chance that message still permeated through the minds of every Orange player. But then the proverbial glass slipper was forcibly removed the second the game started. Why? Conservative play-calling.

With his NFL coaching background, it’s understandable why Marrone wouldn’t take many risks. At the professional level, you take very calculated risks to help ensure victory because of the money at stake for you, your players and your franchise. It’s not fun to lose in the NFL, but if you do, there are no rankings to watch out for the next day, no bowl game to position for. At the end of the day, your only job is to make the playoffs, and then see what happens next. Marrone allows himself to forget this at times – see last season’s 49-23 upset of a ranked West Virginia team and the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl victory as prime examples – but for some reason, he wouldn’t against USC.

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ACC 2012 Season Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Much of Georgia Tech’s Success in 2012 Will Rely on Tevin Washington’s Progress as a Passer

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2011 W-L: 8-5 (5-3)

Head Coach: Paul Johnson (33-19; four seasons)

Returning Starters: 13 (7 Offense, 6 Defense)

Through six games, the 2011 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were an absolutely terrifying opponent. They won their first six, mostly in resounding fashion, and climbed all the way up to the number-13 ranking in the country. They throttled Kansas so badly that they even made a t-shirt just to commemorate the occasion. But by their fifth win to start the year, you knew something was up. On October 1, they only beat a then-mediocre NC State team by 10. The next week, they battled a terrible Maryland team to a 21-16 victory — a crime for a team that had come into that contest averaging about 48 points per game. And we’re all pretty familiar with what came next. Bye weeks started giving teams ample time to prepare for the triple-option, and Tech started losing. After starting so hot, they’d drop five of their final seven and that hot start and the t-shirts were just a distant memory.

On offense, everything for Paul Johnson’s team is simple: just run the triple-option. Every play. With little variation. Oh, they had a star receiver in Stephen Hill, but unfortunately, they rarely threw to him — which ended up becoming the team’s biggest issue. When looking back at Paul Johnson’s most successful Tech teams (specifically the ’09 ACC Championship squad), you see teams that are lethal running the ball, while competent passing when called upon. That element of surprise keeps defenses off-balance and it’s how the triple-option works most effectively. Unfortunately, that’s not how current starter Tevin Washington runs the triple-option.

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Conference Realignment: Which BCS Schools Have a Right to Complain About Their League?

Which Teams Have Severely Outperformed Their Conference-mates Over the Past Five Seasons?

Though conference realignment talk has simmered a bit over the past week, it’s still a hot topic in the back of everyone’s heads as we await news on what the college football playoffs will look like. Teams like Florida State claim they pull more than their own weight when it comes to the product on the field in the ACC. But there’s also plenty of other schools that either fail to do so, or consistently do so, yet are mum on the subject. This is where our debate starts today.

We’ve broken down each of the six current “BCS conferences,” calculating the average wins over the last five years on both a per-conference, and per-school basis. While wins aren’t the only factors in conference realignment, the thought is that actual football performance may still matter somewhat in the game of “who brings the most televisions to market” — or at least that’s what we hope. As a forewarning, for some this exercise was a point of validation (Oregon, Alabama, in particular), while for others it was a sobering glance at ineptitude (Washington State and Syracuse, to name a few). Enjoy… Continue reading

2011 ACC Season Recap: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

In 2011, Tevin Washington Proved He Can Be the Engine That Runs Georgia Tech's Offense

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

W-L: 8-5 (5-3)

Postseason: 30-27 Sun Bowl loss to Utah

Top Offensive Performer: Tevin Washington, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Julian Burnett, LB

During a season that started in stunning, impressive fashion, it’s amazing that everything would end in so much disappointment for the Yellow Jackets in 2011. Starting out 6-0, the triple-option was firing on all cylinders early on and Tevin Washington looked as if he was born to run this offense. Looking back, however, the wheels started coming off after a huge week-three win over Kansas, and an ill-fated t-shirt to commemorate the beating. Lost in the 178 points they totaled through those first three contests was how unimpressive the defense was, and how truly awful their opponents were (just three wins between them versus FBS competition). Add to that the fact that the Wreck’s offense, though the second-best running attack in the country, was also among the most one-dimensional, and the recipe for disaster was written well in advance. Seven games after their undefeated start, Tech limped to a 2-5 finish including their blown 14-point fourth-quarter lead in the Sun Bowl.

On the defensive end, appearances say that Georgia Tech (which allowed 26.1 points per game) were marginal at best, and were mostly bailed out by a prolific offense. Much of this is true, but it short-sells the Yellow Jackets’ strong pass defense, ranked second in the ACC in terms of average yardage per game (197.6). On the ground, Tech was a middle-of-the-road squad in terms of yards, yet allowed 19 scores on the ground. When added to the 23 passing touchdowns against them (again, among the worst in the conference), there’s a simple explanation for how everything devolved so quickly. The only games they held their opponents to less than 20 points? A close win over lowly Maryland and an expertly designed scheme against Clemson. Continue reading