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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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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

The report is being denied by all involved, of course.


Big 12 powers Texas, Oklahoma inquire about joining SEC in potentially massive shakeup, per report


This would effectively break the Big XII. Without Oklahoma and Texas, the conference loses their already tenuous claim as a Power 5 football conference. They might look to raid other conferences to boost their membership, but you just don't replace two programs like these. 


The $EC, on the other hand, just gets bigger and better. They would be the first 16-team superconference. Alignment of the divisions would be interesting, with OU and UT probably joining the west division. Who gets shifted to the east, pray tell? 


Stay tuned....

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18 hours ago, Pariah said:

The report is being denied by all involved, of course.


Big 12 powers Texas, Oklahoma inquire about joining SEC in potentially massive shakeup, per report


This would effectively break the Big XII. Without Oklahoma and Texas, the conference loses their already tenuous claim as a Power 5 football conference. They might look to raid other conferences to boost their membership, but you just don't replace two programs like these. 


The $EC, on the other hand, just gets bigger and better. They would be the first 16-team superconference. Alignment of the divisions would be interesting, with OU and UT probably joining the west division. Who gets shifted to the east, pray tell? 


Stay tuned....


If it happens,  the shift that causes the least disruption of tradition would be Arkansas. Geologically, it should be Auburn or Alabama, but that won't happen and I doubt that any of the two school states would be split Oklahoma would also be a possibility but that would split the Red River Rivalry. Without a great deal of legal wrangling it can happen before 2025 because the BIG12 has OU and UT's media rights until then.


Thinking really radically, They should add OU, OK St., UT, Baylor and TCU, boot Vanderbilt and go to 3 six team divisions with a wildcard and a conference playoff.  .

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I'll believe it when I see it, of course.



Citing "a high-ranking college official with knowledge of the situation," the Houston Chronicle's Brent Zwerneman first reported that the SEC could announce the additions of the Longhorns and Sooners "within a couple of weeks."


Texas and Oklahoma to SEC? Live news updates as Big 12 powers may kick start conference realignment

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To the Texas A&M athletic director…


Aside from that comment at all the crying from the Aggies that kicked off this media frenzy… I have zero idea if this actually happens. But it’s interesting, I like some of the regular matchups. And the OU Athletic Department thinks it’s essentially a done deal, they were celebrating this evening at 9:18pm CST.


 It’ll be interesting. I would like playing Alabama, Florida, LSU, and Auburn in semi regular rotation. I just cannot ever do that super lame conference pride chant. 

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Yeah that’s totally legal posturing. And  that penalty is substantial… compared to current television revenue agreements especially.


 It’s half as significant compared to the projected revenue agreements, and they’ll pay it if they have to. 

It’s about money, as it always is, but in this case I’m pleased with the future matchups. Was bored with the Big XII options anyways, let’s do this. 

Should be an interesting couple years.



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I read an article predicting the ultimate locations of the 8 remaining teams:


Kansas, Iowa State: B1G (both are AAU schools)

Kansas State: Mountain West

West Virginia: ACC 

Oklahoma State, Texas Tech: PAC

Baylor, TCU: American 



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Texas and Oklahoma gave notice today that they would not renew the grant of media rights.  The current rights expire in 2025, but this is going to be a slow process regardless, so this is still a major signal that they're...not out, but completely serious about getting out.  IIRC, the rule is 11 of the 14 existing SEC teams have to agree.  That's not a lock.  


Here's one for ya.


If you think it's about the money...the current football deal for the Big 12 pays $200M a year.  The new deal for the SEC pays $300M a year.


But wait.  That's $200M split among 10...or $300M split among, presumably, 16.


So they'll get LESS.  The only other revenue generator is mens' basketball.  Not sure what the TV deals are, but push come to shove, the SEC doesn't stack up that well in basketball.  


Bowl games...the biggest aspect here is that the Big 12 ties one top bowl;  the SEC has the Sugar Bowl, and the not-much-smaller Citrus Bowl.  Factor in that the SEC always has a team in the playoffs, and sometimes gets 2...at least at the top, there's quite a bit more money there.  Some goes to the teams, but a lot is split...but again, over so many more teams.


It's probably not about the direct, obvious money.  It's probably more about the prestige...which ties to money in terms of boosters and merch.  But I think first and foremost, it's the egos.  The Big 12 is *far* behind the SEC...as is everyone else.  Clemson *individually* is at the same level, but no one else is.  It could be quite amusing;  remember how bailing worked for Nebraska, Colorado, and Utah.


If this does come about, it also might increase the push for a super conference, at least in football, and perhaps primarily for administrative and revenue sharing purposes.  

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That money doesn’t count the $3 billion ($300 million per year) over 10 years starting in 2025 that ESPN paid for the CBS rights on top of the contracted amount. Or the new school game rights that get added on. It’s a lot according to Forbes.


 And the application is official now.


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My reading was ESPN was paying $300M/year, where CBS was paying $55M/year under the current contract for the SEC rights.  And that's not per school.  The rights that the schools sell to the conference aren't independent of this;  I would assume, in fact, that they're for a slice of that money.  (And the money from other contracts.)  That means it might not be even...but...come on, Oklahoma and Texas aren't going to get more than Alabama...and given the longer SEC reps, Georgia, Florida, or LSU.  If it's even, and if Texas and OU get equal sharer, it's less than $20M per school per year.


And obviously Texas and OU stop getting shares of their existing contracts...which pays them $20M a year, assuming it's split evenly.

So it's not as if they're finding some new, substantial income source.


I think the key to getting OU and Texas playing together is a shared view that the rest of the Big 12 is Not In Our League.  Remember back in the 70s and 80s, when the Big 10 was Ohio State and Michigan and the 8 dwarves...I think that's the situation in the Big 12 now, from the OU and Texas perspective.  Ya gotta remember that Texas' football ego is second to *no one*.  Including Alabama.  Mack Brown had them at that level 3 times, which is exceptional in the era of organized recruiting and scholastic football factories...but...from 1980 to 2000, they had only 2 years finishing in the top 5.  Brown's stretch from 2001-2009 was exceptional...and beginning to look like both exceptionally good, and an exception to where they've been, because since losing the BCS title game, they've been poor.  So really...by the long term record...they've generally been nothing remarkable since the days of Darrel Royal.  Doesn't matter, tho, not to them.


OU has the better argument that the rest of the league isn't at their level.  They've won the league 14 times since 2000.  But they've never gotten a top-2 seed in the playoffs...and a big reason's always been the conference, or at least the *image* of the conference...all spread offenses, run and shoot, defense-optional teams if they're any good at all.  


Well.  We shall see how it plays out.  Personally, I'd *love it* if the SEC says NO, but I have to think OU and Texas don't expect that to happen or things wouldn't have reached the current point.  But hey, maybe whoever leaked the story...A&M has been suggested...might've forced their hands.  So maybe it won't happen.  And OU and Texas end up severely embarassed.  It'd be much like the soccer Super League debacle.

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$67M per school, and you still get some limited non conference negotiating. It’s a pile more than they were getting before.


The Big 12 was approaching distributions of $40 million per school before the pandemic led to distributions dropping to $34.5 million per school this year.”


And more lawyer speak about “not proactively seeking new members” (nobody sue us). Like anyone believes that the relevant parties haven’t been talking about this through back channels… please.

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Yeah, that's the first numbers connecting all the dots together that I've seen...football, bowl money, other sports.  So they're anticipating a windfall.

BTW:  one thing to remember with Texas is they're NOT a former Big 8 school.  They're Southwest Conference.  Which...gee...died when the SEC broke away from the blanket TV arrangement, the CFA.


A side thought...the SEC Network.  The Big 12 Network existed but didn't show football.  The SEC Network is secondary in terms of the games they show, but there are *many* compelling, interesting games in the SEC even before adding UT and OU.  Found this too:



And there's this story that makes a lot of sense...the Longhorn Network was never about...you know...showing *games*.....



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"I'm absolutely certain [ESPN was] involved in it with the [American] trying to poach our members," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told CBS Sports.


Big 12 believes American is attempting to grab eight remaining members with Texas, Oklahoma leaving for SEC


I don't believe there's any way this is actually going to happen. West Virginia, for example, will never settle for the AAC if the ACC is in play, is the conventional wisdom seems to believe it will be. There are a couple of Big 12 schools that are AAU research universities that would be eligible for Big 10 membership. And so on.


At this point, it feels like the Big 12 is grasping at straws. Bowlsby is talking like he believes the Big 12 will continue in some form and retain its media agreements in the process. I don't believe there's any way that's going to happen, either. One Big 12 school official (I forget who) put it this way when the subject came up a few years ago: "Without Texas and Oklahoma, we're the Mountain West."


Seriously though, what's going on in the Big 12 that's driving everyone to leave? First Nebraska and Colorado, then Missouri and Texas A& M, now Texas and Oklahoma? This conference is as dysfunctional (and has had almost as many membership changes) as the progressive rock band Yes.


Of course, Yes is releasing a new album later this year, so who knows?

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