All the talk now is about the Pac-10 and Big 12 mutating to form some new Super Conference, as well as the Big Ten adding teams and even the Mountain West getting in on the action.
Everyone mentions stuff like revenue sharing and television deals. But what I care about is the actual fan viewing experience.
Take the Pac-10/Big 12 merger. So, the Western half of that conference will include all the Pac-10 teams minus Arizona and Arizona State. A team like USC will play seven of the same teams it always plays, plus its traditional rival Notre Dame. It would probably play one or two teams from the Eastern half of the conference, leaving two games against other random non-conference foes. Naturally, a team in a power conference like this one isn’t going to want to schedule anyone too tough in those remaining games. A team from the West (current Pac-10) will drop regular scheduling of ASU and Arizona in return for playing–on occasion–Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State (as well as ASU and Arizona, too).
Given that Pac-10 teams already schedule pretty strong in their OOC games, I’m not sure much will change as far as watching that conference. What will change is that the Big 12 teams will have to play more difficult home and homes, which could really hurt the records of teams like Texas Tech and Texas A&M who are known for scheduling OOC patsies.
What really strikes me about this move toward the mega-conference set up is that it looks like a way to get to a de facto playoff system. Taking the winners of these leagues and having a neat and clean Final Four at the end of it all would probably be doable and yet still keep the integrity of the regular season intact. Teams that won their division but lost in the conference title game would be the equivalent of today’s conference champs and would get prime slots in other traditional bowls.
It would also throw the Heisman race into a tizzy. The weekly mega-matchups in all these super conferences would really heighten the excitement.
I’ve always been a proponent for uniformity in college football scheduling. Either every conference should have a title game, or none of them should. So now it looks like most of the conferences will have that title game, which means that it will give more Heisman candidates more chances to pile up yards and impress voters while giving a boost to candidates from the Big Ten and Pac-10 who have always been at a disadvantage. Give Toby Gerhart one more game last year and he just might’ve won that Heisman after all.
Even though I am a dye-in-the-wool college football traditionalist, I find the proposed mergers intriguing. I foresee better matchups, more competition and more excitement without slouching toward Gomorrah (and by Gomorrah, I mean an NFL-style system).