2012 may be over, but football, both college and professional, are still in the 2012 season. The Pros still have weeks of playoffs to go, but the college ranks will be finishing off this week with a Monday night, crowning of a national champion. This week, let focus on College. So how did the season go? The experts fawned over the SEC all year. It turns out that they were correct. The SEC leads the rest of the conferences with 5 bowl wins and one more chance in the championship game. The ACC, Big XII, Pac 12 and USA all came in with 4 wins. The SEC and Big XII put 9 teams into bowls with the Pac 12 putting in 8 bowls appearances. So who did not do as well? The Big Ten and Big XII both had 5 bowl losses with the MAC having a chance to join them on Sunday night. The Big Ten number is skewed since the two best teams in the conference were not bowl eligible. This forced lesser teams into stronger bowls.

Even now, the experts are talking about the rankings next year. Obviously, the SEC will figure strongly in the predictions and rightly so, but all trends change. A few years ago, the Pac 10 was the best, before that the Big Ten. All these things cycle, although some conferences drift to the bottom never to return. Just two years ago, Notre Dame was on the ash heap of history, but now they are playing in the national championship.

There are also people complaining about the conference realignments. This is a natural part of the sport as each school positions for the best possible financial return on their programs. The demise of the Big East has most of the experts (who are east coast centric) upset, but even in their own analysis, they show that this is an evolution. The Big East is 34 years old (founded in 1979) and was not a football conference until 1991. Teams have come and gone constantly, some by choice such as West Virginia, and some were voted out such as Temple.

These same reporters did not shed a tear when the Southwest Conference evaporated, a conference that included a three time national champion in football and contenders in basketball (men’s and women’s). The Southwest Conference was exceptionally stable, with seven members staying from 1923 to 1991 (when Arkansas left for the SEC), before it dissolved in 1996.

Other conferences such as the Big Ten and Pac 10 have been even more stable, while the SEC has been on a steady growth path to the fourteen teams that now make up that conference (expect this to grow to sixteen for the first super conference). The SEC started in 1932 with ten of the current teams as part of that line up. They had lost three teams by 1966 but gained two in 1991 and two more in 2012. The Big Ten started in 1896 with six of the current teams, adding two in 1899, one in 1960, one in 1990, one in 2011 and two more will join in 2014. University of Chicago dropped out in 1946. Expect the Big Ten to expand to sixteen teams as well to make a second super conference. The Pac 12 started in 1915 with four of the current teams, adding and losing teams to stabilize at eight teams in 1928. Two schools were added in 1978 and two more in 2011. Expect the Pac 12 to become the Pac 16 to become a third super conference,

One conference that has changed dramatically in the last three years is the Big XII. This conference was created from the Big 8 and the Southwest conference when the SWC folded. When two teams left a couple of years ago, the experts were calling for the dissolving of the Big XII and the creation of a super conference based on the Big East. That was interesting in that the Big East at the time only had a couple of teams that could be considered good, while the Big XII still had at least three if not more high quality football programs. Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M have left with West Virginia and TCU joining. Comparing the impact of these gains and losses based on bowl performance shows that it is pretty much a wash for the Big XII. Two of the teams that left did not make it to bowl games, the other two were one loss and one win in their bowls. The two newcomers both made it to a bowl, and both lost.

Sitting at a total of ten teams, the Big XII does not seem to be in a position to become a super conference, but they could by scavenging from the Mountain West, MAC and WAC. If the political questions could be overcome, the ACC and Big East could merge to become a super conference, but there is some bad blood between those conferences as far as membership goes.

Next year, the NCAA will try a playoff of the top four teams to make sure that they are crowning the true champion. Some of the experts have stated that there should be automatic bids for positions in that playoff. Such predetermined matchups are for elites who are afraid to lose their position to a better team. The four slots should be filled by the four best teams of that year. I do have an opinion beyond what the NCAA has posted. I think that any member of that group must be the champion of their conference. I state this to avoid another same conference championship like happened last year, or the whining that got Texas into the Rose Bowl in 2004 (and I am a Texas Alumni). If you don’t win your own conference, how can you claim to be one of the best teams in the nation?

If super conferences do come into being, a playoff would be inevitable. There are currently 124 schools in the NCAA Division 1 FBS. If there were 7 super conferences of 16 teams each, 112 of these teams would be filtered down to 7 champions. An 8 team playoff would pit these champions against each other and 1 non-super conference team that was qualified based on record (this would allow independent teams like Notre Dame and Navy to have an opportunity to play for the championship). Will it happen? I think so. There is so much money to be made, all of the universities will be drawn to it. The traditional bowls will never go to the wayside, it is too good of an excuse to party and for northern teams to have a warm holiday.

 

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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