Future of College Football (1of2): Landscape 2020

Part 1: Landscape

Part2: CFB Utopia

With realignment rumors always swirling and the meetings taking place to determine a playoff format it made me want to look ahead to if/when the dust settles. This first part is simply the new college football landscape. The second part will be coming that will explain why you see 14-team major conferences instead of 12, 16, or 20. It will also explain a uniformed conference and league schedule with playoffs that is as close to college football Utopia as you can get. But that's in a couple days.

On to the new landscape of college football. I feel like there are hundreds of possibilities, but the purpose of this was to find that stabilization point or equilibrium. I don't mean every conference is equal. Quality will always go in cycles so there will always be a conference that is better, but it won't always be the same conference. I looked at realignment more as one-way diffusion, meaning every time a team moves it should make all possible next moves less likely. So a Big 12 conference with a new division of TCU, WVU, FSU, CU, GT, VT, ND and BYU would be freaking awesome, it technically doesn't make sense. That saying goes, "when everyone is special, no one is". This conference just went from great to watered down by adding some of the best programs in the country. How? Well this new conference one year may have 10 schools in the top 25 but if you go through a conference like that it means at the end of the season you have your 5 best teams with 2-4 losses each, if you're lucky. There's no way that you'll see all members stay together for more than 10 years before a group of them band together and find another home.

Major Conferences


BIG 12




A. California (19) *

B. Oregon (147) *

C. Oregon St (94)

D. Stanford (9) *

E. Wash (4) *

F. Wash St. (68)

G. Boise St


B. Arizona (30) *

C. Arizona St (64)


E. Colorado (62) *

A. UCLA (7) *

D. USC (28) *

F. Utah (51)

A. Iowa St (79) *

B. Kansas (76) *

C. Kansas St (112)

D. Oklahoma (93)

E. Okla St (119)

F. Texas (29) *

G. Tx Tech (125)


F. Baylor (38)

C. Cincinnati (46)

E. Houston (130)

B. Louisville (104)

A. South FL (50)

G. TCU (378)

D. WVU (116)

A, Alabama (204)

B. Arkansas (135)

C. Auburn (120)

D. LSU (73)

E. Mississippi (139)

F. Mississippi St (86)

G. Texas A&M (20) *


D. Florida (21) *

C. Georgia (87)

F. Kentucky (58)

G. N. Carolina St (57)

B. South Carolina (89)

A. Tennessee (72)

E. Vanderbilt (35) *

A. Iowa (39) *

B. Michigan (2) *

C. Michigan St (41) *

D. Minnesota (13) *

E. Missouri (82) *

F. Nebraska (103)

G. Northwestern (26) *


G. Illinois (34) *

C. Indiana (107) *

B. Ohio State (16) *

F. Penn State (14) *

A. Purdue (32) *

E. Rutgers (42) *

D. Wisconsin (3) *

A. BC (189)

B. Syracuse (140)

C. Maryland (37) *

D. Miami (74)

E. Notre Dame (137)

F. Pittsburgh (11) *

G. Wake Forest (101)


G. Duke (5) *

F. Clemson (108)

D. FSU (84)

B. UNC (15) *

E. GTech (25) *

C. Virginia (75) *

A. VTech (47)

Letter= cross-divisional rival, BOLD shows new members, * denotes AAU, ( ) research spending rank

*Showed the research spending rank because people hear about a school being in the AAU or Nebraska being kicked out but remember, AAU membership is not TOTAL research expenditure. There are many fantastic research schools that are not members of AAU. Membership focuses on where the support comes from (federal), memberships in national academies (NAS, NAE, IOM) and then faculty quality ratings, awards and citations.

Map of Conferences

Pac-12: This conference is in a unique position. They do not need the most obvious things to improve: top10 football program or top25 program in a large "eastern" market. They have terrific schools, good money (TV) and monopolize college football in the western half of the US. What this conference needs is passionate football schools to generate more enthusiasm for their product. This is something the west, when compared to the east, lack. The eastern part of the country has more programs and more avid college football fans. Welcome, Boise State and BYU. Boise's recent success as a top football team has given them an ardent fan base. Their story and success also has people all over the country interested and watching. BYU's program has a great history and with it comes a very "devote" following. The conference doesn't even need to change its divisions. Boise goes to the north, right in the backyard of Oregon and Washington. Think Boise-Oregon wont be a mean rivalry that the entire country would watch after their last meeting? Meanwhile BYU goes to the south division and sparks fly between them and now their divisional rival down the road, Utah. These two schools are exactly what the Pac-12 needs. I have no

Big 12: The rollercoaster ride ends as the conference goes from the brink of collapsing to a pillar of stability and power. With the already addition of WVU they decide to make a new division made up of previous Big East schools that will make the conference, as a whole, better in football, basketball and will give them more of a national presence. The conference gets into Florida and a great market with USF, and sets up camp at the intersection of the B1G, SEC and ACC with L'ville, Cincy, and WVU. Conference tradition is saved by keeping the original members together in one division. Only Baylor is moved to the new division. Baylor relies on Texas recruits, and they'll get another game in-state with this setup. They'll keep Texas annually by being their cross-divisional rival and swap Texas Tech for TCU and Houston. That gives them potentially 3 away games within 100 mile radius. Baylor fans and recruits should start celebrating this move now.

SEC: The conference welcomed Texas A&M and Missouri initially but all wasn't perfect. A&M was happy and eventually gained respect in the conference by winning but Missouri never felt at home and leaves to go to where they belong, the B1G. That leaves one spot open that will change one school's future forever. NCSt finally steps out of the shadow of their neighbors UNC and Duke and the SEC adds the last piece to their college football dominance in the shape of the state of North Carolina. The wolfpack aren't yet ready for SEC football but when you are the largest university in North Carolina and the only one in the SEC, they won't be lacking in high quality recruits to build a team worthy of their new conference. Old divisions are kept with NCSt taking Missouri's place and will be rivals with A&M, which restores the rivalry between Arkansas and South Carolina.

B1G: Finally decides that Missouri fits too well to pass on and welcomes them with open arms. Mizzou is the flagship state university with a great academic profile and AAU membership. They are completely dedicated to their football program. And Texas fans won't be happy to hear this, but they may have had the best fan base in the conference. They'll only get better as they regularly pull in recruits from B1G areas such as Illinois, Iowa and Michigan each year. Oh and I didn't know this, but they started the "Homecoming" game. Along with the tigers come Rutgers, which may even be a better fit. Academically and culturally compatible and they also just happen to be the birth place of college football (Rutgers-Princeton 1869). They are a B1G equivalent school with a rising football and basketball program that will bring the B1G to the most important area in the nation, NYC. After getting situated for a couple seasons, don't be surprised to see Rutgers winning. They won't be the lame-duck of this conference.

ACC: In the end the ACC only loses one school and the remaining schools will probably take all of 1 day to forget about it with the arrival of Notre Dame. With the Big East dissolved, it forced Notre Dame to seek a home for its sports. And the new college football landscape gave the ACC and ND the perfect marriage. The ACC is the only conference with teams spanning the east coast, which is the most important place for Notre Dame to play along with southern California. So unless a school from Boston, New York, DC, Atlanta and Florida all join another conference, don't expect to see Notre Dame anywhere but the ACC. And those teams aren't random, but actual rivals of the Irish (BC, Pitt, Miami, GT) with two more games going to important markets; Syracuse(NY) and Maryland(DC). The ACC creates new divisions, essentially North and South, but Miami and Wake are in the northern division. Miami has more in common with those schools than the southern ones anyways and as long as their annual rivalry with FSU is kept, they will be very happy with this arrangement. On the surface it may look as if Wake Forest is getting the short end, but they really aren't. Here are some numbers to think about:

  • Only 25% of enrollment (~1,100) is from NC (home games and rival Duke), 18 football players in-state
  • Next 9 states with the most students enrolled are;
    • Florida 285, 24 FB players (Miami is in division so will play annually)
    • New Jersey 275
    • Virginia 270, 5 FB players (Don't play UVA/VT annually now so no change)
    • New York 239 (Syracuse)
    • Pennsylvania 236 (Pittsburgh)
    • Maryland 220 (UMD)
    • Georgia 208, 9 FB players (Don't play GT annually now so no change)
    • Massachusetts 192 (BC)
    • Connecticut 170

So this shows that a large percent of the school is actually made up of northern backgrounds and football recruiting shouldn't be negatively affected. There are 5 current players from VA and 9 current players from GA, but Wake does not currently play any teams from those two states annually so you shouldn't see a decrease in potential recruits from those areas. And if you add some of the north central states like Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois that the ACC now reaches into with Notre Dame that's an additional ~300. So if you add all these up you have a student population of ~2800 or 64% from north of VA, the north central states specified and NC but only ~1000 or 24% from "Southern" states (AL, GA, KY, LA, MS, SC, TN, TX, VA). But GA, SC and VA are the only states involved in the ACC and the only one that changes is SC with the loss of Clemson on the schedule. So technically the new division would serve Wake's school and football interests more so than now. And lastly, Wake's schedule before this will be BC, MD, Cuse, Duke, FSU, Clemson, NCst... with the change they swap FSU for Miami, Clemson for ND and NCst for Pitt. No one would call this a bad thing. Wake would agree and agree with their new division.


Mid-Major Conferences






Fresno State




San Jose State

Utah State


New Mexico

Air Force

Arkansas State

Florida Atlantic

Louisiana- Lafayette

Middle Tennessee

North Texas


Western Kentucky

Colorado State

Louisiana Tech


East Carolina





San Diego State




Ball state

Bowling Green

Central Michigan

Eastern Michigan

Miami (OH)

Northern Illinois


Western Michigan









Southern Miss

I'll post Part 2 soon, which will be conference and league model rational, scheduling, and playoff model.

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