Today is, mercifully, the beginning of the college football season (and more mercifully, the end of The Worst Offseason Ever). There are many interesting topics I could cover here--this year will see the long-awaited Return of the Leach, for one thing--but let's just do the basics. Let's make sure we all know who's in which conference.
Teams new to the conference will be *ed.
As you can see, the divisions are really more Southwest/Northeast, but calling an SEC division "Northeast" would be untenably hilarious.
I still have mixed feelings about the Ags being here. I am pro the money, the increased TV exposure (both for recruiting and my own personal ability to see more games), but I have not convinced my brain yet that I am an SEC fan. It's weird. Also, if we had to bring somebody from the old clubhouse, why Missouri (other than as a sacrifice to Almighty TV Footprint, of course)? They're so . . . blah.
I also have mixed feelings about the La Tech postponement. Obviously, you have to be careful about the weather, but it's too bad the Ags aren't going to have a bye week. On the other hand, I was not convinced we were going to walk into La Tech's own stadium and walk out with a win. If our season is going to start on an embarrassing defeat, better for the victor to be Florida than the best of the seven teams in the WAC.
Team to watch: The Ags, obviously. Be sure to bring your high pain tolerance, though.
Even though the Big Ten didn't add anyone this year, they are still entering a brave new world. One of the conference's premier brands, Penn State, will not be competitive for a very, very long time. The number of scholarships they'll have in upcoming years will basically make them an FCS school in an FBS conference. In the short term, that combined with Ohio State's postseason ban makes the "Leaders" race pretty unsuspenseful. If Wisconsin doesn't win a division where half of teams are ineligible or Indiana, something has gone terribly wrong for them. (This also shows why trying to split a conference by competitive balance is folly. You never know what the future holds, so you might as well just use geography.)
And of course, these are still the worst division names in the history of dividing things. (Rece Davis did give me this handy hint, though: LegeNds is made up of Ms, Ns, and Iowa. That still leaves me coming up with "Leaders" by subtraction, but it's better than nothing.)
Team to watch: The Badgers, why not? They've got another senior ACC transfer QB, since that worked pretty well last time.
Yes, still ten teams in the Big 12 and twelve teams in the Big Ten. Up is down, left is right, and Charlie Weis is the right man to rebuild a college football program.
I don't feel about the Big 12 the way I would about an ex-boyfriend--no, more like I would about a good friend's ex-boyfriend. I know I'm going to see him around, probably with his sketchy new girlfriend (West Virginia), and it's not going to be heart-wrenching, but it is going to be pretty awkward.
Team to watch: K-State's success last year defied logic, so I'm interested to see if it's at all repeatable. In any event, Bill Snyder Part II is going much better than I thought it would.
Now, I like these Pac-12 divisions. Sure, they play a little fast and loose with "north" and "south" when you get to northern California vs. Utah and Colorado, but still! It makes sense.
Last year was the first roll-out of the Pac with Utah and Colorado, and of the divisions, but this year will probably be a better showcase for them. Remember, because USC's bowl ineligibility, 6-6 UCLA got to go to the inaugural Pac-12 championship game, which was ludicrous. Utah and Colorado should be better (although in Colorado's case, they almost have to be), so that should help too.
Team to watch: This is not a hard question. It's Washington State, because MIKE LEACH IS BACK, BABY! I can't wait for all the insane post-game interviews. I'm so excited.
Miami (FL [obviously])
I'm not going to lie to you--if I were given a pop quiz on ACC divisions, I'd probably score like 25%. These are the original geographically meaningless divisions, but at least I can physically speak their names without rolling my eyes/doing air quotes, Big Ten.
The ACC looks deceptively stable here, but next year they're joining the ranks of the 14-team conferences, as we'll see more about very soon.
Also, sorry about the map. The Raleigh-Durham area has a ridiculous number of Div I schools.
Team to watch: Florida State is getting hype again, but I'll believe they're contenders when I see it. I always like Va Tech, but I'm going to be taking a greater interest in Virginia. One of my friends got hired as a professor there! So Wahoo-wah, apparently.
This year, the Big East lost West Virginia and subbed in former member Temple. Next year, they're losing Pitt and Syracuse and are wildly overcompensating for it.
Seriously though, it's a little tragic that the Big East cast out so desperately for members to try to keep their automatic bid status, just before college football decided to switch to a system without automatic bids. Oh, Big East.
Team to watch: Realignment-wise, Temple is a feel-good story. To quote Phil Steele in his eponymous preview magazine, "Coming in '09, the Owls had not had winning season in an amazing 18 str yrs and in '08 they topped 4 wins for the first time s/'90. The Big East booted Temple out after the '04 ssn." (I left Phil's abbreviations intact because they amuse me.) Temple did better once they got into the MAC, clawing their way into respectability. So when West Virginia left the Big East in the lurch, it was obvious who they should call.
And that ties in to the overarching theme of this post: conference realignment: she's a fickle mistress.
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