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2021 College Football Thread

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Wait, college football in April? Yes! The 2020 FCS playoffs (postponed from last fall) begin this weekend. The FCS championship game is scheduled to be played Saturday, May 16th in Frisco, Texas.


Spring games are also underway, and of course transfers and the upcoming NFL draft will all play a role as well. It's not the usual version of spring football.


The 2020 FBS season was one of the strangest on record. Will 2021 be any saner?

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Everyone has heard about the proposed rollout of a European Super League in soccer (what they call 'football' over there). At its heart, it's a big money grab for and handful of teams from England, Spain, and Italy, with the possibility of including teams from, say, Germany and France or maybe other countries in the future. Good gig if you can get it, I suppose.


This led to an interesting op-ed by USA Today sports writer Dan Wolken: A college football Super League would be very lucrative ... for the very few.


The basic idea, as quoted in the article, is this:



But the reality for the 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision is that only the 65 who are affiliated with the power conferences have a legitimate opportunity to win the national championship under the current system. And even within that group of 65, well over half of those teams are not going to realistically compete for a championship under any circumstances.


Unless the entire structure of the sport changes, no more than 10 teams in any given year have a shot to win the title. So in a weird way, a College Football Super League of 30 or so teams might actually make the sport more competitive. 



This got me wondering ... who are the 'Super League' college football teams? The four really obvious choices are Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma. I suppose you could make an argument for Notre Dame as well, if you felt so inclined. Okay, but who beyond that?


It might be easier to decide who to eliminate.


1. All members of the Group of Five and Independents not named Notre Dame.

Let's face it, no matter how well Central Florida or Boise State or Cincinnati or Coastal Carolina or BYU plays in any given year (or decade), they're never going to be invited to sit at the adult table. Yeah, the AAC has P6 aspirations. Well, so did the Mountain West several years ago, back when the conference included Utah and TCU. It didn't happen then; it ain't gonna happen now.


2. Most of the PAC-12.

Based on recent performance, you could make an argument for Oregon to be included as a Super League team. You probably wouldn't be considered crazy if you lobbied for USC, too. And you might even be able to convince some people to hold their noses and vote for Stanford or Washington, or maybe even UCLA. Beyond that? Forget it. Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, Washington State, and Utah have no shot. At least seven, and perhaps as many as ten, PAC-12 teams aren't making the cut.


3. Most of the Big XII.

Oklahoma's a shoo-in. They've earned it. Texas probably has to be considered for financial reasons if nothing else. What's left after that? Oklahoma State? Baylor? TCU? West Virginia? Unlikely. And after that you have Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Texas Tech. Nope. Beyond Oklahoma and Texas, nobody in this conference stands out.


4. Most of the ACC.

If we were talking about basketball, you could really make a case for the ACC as the premiere conference in the land most years. But not in football. Clemson is a given. Who's the obvious next best team after Clemson, then? Well, it's certainly not Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, or Pitt. It's probably not Boston College, Florida State (at lease in recent seasons), Georgia Tech, or Syracuse. It's most likely either Louisville, Miami, Virginia, or VA Tech. How many of these four make the cut? 


5. Almost all of the B1G West.

Let's start with the really obvious: Under no circumstances should Indiana, Maryland, or Rutgers be considered. Ohio State is in, no question. Penn State is probably in as well, and so is Wisconsin. Michigan could be in based on their national profile, although it would help if they won an important game once in a while. Who does that leave in the middle? Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Purdue. I don't see it happening for most of these teams.


6. SEC teams not located in Florida, Georgia, or Alabama.

Alabama is definitely in. Florida, Georgia, and Auburn are almost certainly in as well. LSU might even be in; they probably have as good an argument as Auburn. Texas A&M has the profile if not the performance. That leaves Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. Despite occasional good years, these teams are right out. 


So, let's narrow it down to the most likely entrants:

  • Alabama
  • Auburn
  • Clemson
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Notre Dame
  • Ohio State
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Penn State
  • Texas
  • USC
  • Wisconsin


That's thirteen teams. The Super League soccer proposal calls for up to twenty teams, so let's also consider the possibility of:

  • LSU
  • Miami
  • Michigan
  • Oklahoma State
  • Stanford
  • Texas A&M
  • Washington

Maybe? Like I said, it gets really hard to pick after the really obvious ones go in.


Now, the Euro Super League also includes provisions for teams to play their way in over time--relegation, basically. Something like this could be instituted here, I suppose. But again, we're realistically looking at no more than 10-15 teams beyond those already names, none of which come from outside the P5.


Not that any of this will ever happen, of course. But it's kind of fun to think about.


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That seems like a pretty decent list to me. Nebraska has fallen so far as to be impossible to consider, which makes me sad in some ways. Michigan is maybe possible from a pure monetary perspective, they certainly are not a competitive team in that crowd. Miami is on the bubble of being not even an honorable mention. 

Florida State? they have a somewhat recent natty. Last thirty years are impressive. Maybe?


Washington is a good call. It’s a fantastic venue too. 

That’s a cool mental exercise, thank you for doing that.

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Real considerations for any teams beyond putting a quality team on the field are


1) size and intensity of the fan base - Arkansas has a very intense fan base as does Texas. But Texas's fan base is huge in comparison. There's a lot of Texas graduates scattered across the country because they graduate more students than most university systems.


2) wealth of fan base


3) whether the fan base travels with the team


4) merchandising




Any team selected will find recruiting easier and putting good players on the field easier. And they'll have more money for facilities and coaching staff.


So a real question for me isn't whether the school can put a great team on the field but rather which of the bubble teams can do the most with the financial opportunity if they're given it?  


The purpose of the league would be to suck up as much of the "college football entertainment" pool of money as possible. The teams which get the invite will be teams with the best financials at the moment plus the best financial growth potential.




I really like Pariah's list for the most part.


I'm not familiar enough with Stanford's fan base, marketing, and support to guess at whether their organization is ready to go to the "big leagues".


I don't think Oklahoma State has the fan base to take advantage of the opportunity and really rake in money for the league, regardless of how awesome their organization might be in making the transition as financially successful as humanly possible.

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If it were to be done, then rather than just barring so many "non-elite" schools...because as the Nebraska example points out, that list changes over time...go with European soccer's tiered model, with 2 or 3 tiers, with relegation and promotion.  


A major logistical problem, tho, is how do you run things even in a tier of 20 teams when you have about 10 games available?  I just looked at the EPL;  38 games played, 20 teams...presumably a full double round robin.  That argues for smaller tiers...12 would be workable, for an 11 game base schedule with 1 or 2 slots for rivalry games.  But you'd need quite a few tiers, and you'd have severe problems with the year-to-year vagaries.  Consider Chip Kelly's last couple Oregon teams...versus where they've been since, particularly 2015-2017.  Texas.  Florida State.  Ohio State has had a number of excellent seasons recently, but one need go back only to the late 90s and early 2000s.  Calling Michigan an 'elite' program now is a total joke, IMO;  how many good teams have they actually beaten under Harbaugh?  They're among the most overrated teams in the country.  (Notre Dame is the other that comes to mind instantly.)


And it's a certainty that the conferences will do everything they can to stop any such effort...and that's likely a *lot*.  Because TV and bowl game revenues get shared, which probably wouldn't happen in this structure.  And this might be the key:  the championship itself has little to do with anything.  It's getting the money to the non-competitive schools.

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