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July 17, 2010 Welcome back football fans! The heat of the summer has hit us full bore in the midwest, and that can only mean one thing: college football is right around the corner. Over the next few weeks we will bring you the normal complement of preview articles covering each conference in FBS football. Before we jump into what may happen in the autumn, we have a lot to talk about since we broke camp with Alabama raising the crystal football. The biggest news on the block coming right out of the BCS bowls was the potential of Big Ten expansion. But what ended up happening when the Pac-10 starting pushing the issue forever changed college football.

When the Big Ten started sending out feelers about schools to add, the most likely candidates included Rutgers, Syracuse, Nebraska, Missouri, Notre Dame, and (if the door was open) Texas. While the Big Ten sent up smoke signals indicating that they were considering becoming a mega-conference of 14 to 16 teams, the Pac-10 decided to move first in the game by offering membership to Colorado and the Big XII South division sans Baylor. This was enough impetus to force the Big Ten's hand, who took on Nebraska alone. In the end, this move ends up being the most brilliant of all the major conference moves. The Big Ten now has twelve teams, another football historic powerhouse, another strong academic school, and a farther reach into the core of the country. Down the road the Big Ten may nab more teams from the Big East to force Notre Dame out of independence, but for now, moving to 12 like everyone else was a great move...and Nebraska had to be choice number 1 without Texas or Notre Dame on the table.

Meanwhile over in the Pac-10, the Texas and Oklahoma schools were apparently offered a deal they could not refuse from the weak 5 teams left hanging in the balance. So the Pac-10 offered membership to Utah, who will make a nice travel partner with Colorado. Utah finally got what it has always craved, which is BCS legitimacy. While the Pac-10 did not fare quite as well as the Big Ten overall, you have to like the movement toward more conference championship games. One would figure that the Big XII will seek two more teams next offseason, and that would create 5 BCS twelve team conferences for a nice balance. For the time being, we have a cute situation developing where the Big XII has 10 teams for 2011 and the Big Ten has twelve teams for 2011. Maybe a full swap of intellectual property rights is in order? However, it does appear that the Big XII will not stand pat because money drives Texas and two mroe teams brings in more money, especially if the teams are SEC schools. I believe the next move will be a stunning LSU and TCU to the Big XII, which will leave the SEC to grab Miami or Florida State or Clemson. Although things certainly happen quickly when the dominoes fall, there may not be any more movement until 2012 while the current changes shake out.

The minor move that actually got a bit swept under the rug is Boise State bolting the WAC to the MWC, which made the Mountain West truly more relevant than the Big East until Utah bolted for the Pac-10. Boise State may be a better program at the moment, but Utah was a key piece to long term BCS busting. TCU, BYU, and Boise State will now hope for the best as all the true BCS busters have come together in one conference. What the Boise State move does to the WAC is the downside of realignment. Like the Big East last time, the WAC just became about as relevant as the MAC and the Sun Belt, which is to say...if FBS football wanted to cull 40 teams from the ranks there is no question which three leagues would be the first to go. However, that should not stop those teams from jumping for joy at a new lease on life and cofnerence championships. It is not healthy for one team to dominate a conference, both for the team and for the conference. So perhaps in the long run this will work out. However WAC fans, I feel for you.

So that leaves us with the big question for 2011. How exactly will the Pac-10 and Big Ten split their divisions? For the left coast, the most logical arrangement would be North-South with Washington State, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State in the North and UCLA, USC, Arizona State, and Arizona in the south. It's a close debate where the other two travel pairs go, but I think splitting california is key so I'd put Stanford and Cal in the north and Utah and Colorado in the south. More crazy ideas include splitting every travel partner to ensure a trip to southern california every other year, but I think recruiting needs to take a backseat to common sense. The Pac-10 is known for their travel partner rivalries and this is no time to break a good system. North-South is the split here.

Over in the midwest, one of the biggest debates over the past 20 year has been what do you do to split the league geographically if Notre Dame joins. Having three teams in Indiana, two in Michigan, and two in Illinois made the split weird any way. However, with a clear west team joining in Nebraska, the split is obvious. The Big Ten will debate some plans, but the upshot is the only logical way to break is East-West. The East will have Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, and Penn State. The West will have Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern. Some people want to split the trio of PSU, UM, and OSU for power reasons, but the only way to do this in a decent way would be to trade the Michigan schools for the Illinois duo. However, the end of season rivalries are clearly preserved in the East-West I propose, as well as most of the other important current rivalries like OSU-PSU, Iowa-Minnesota, Iowa-Wisconsin, and Michigan-MSU. If the Big Ten meetings come up with anything else, I'll be shocked. There's no reason to exacerbate travel in an already expansive conference by somehow joining Happy Valley or Columbus with either Minneapolis or Lincoln. On the bright side, the Big Ten will make lots of money no matter what they decide.

Most of realignment is looking ahead, so let's take a look at the past to balance things out. As it turns out, the magical USC-Texas championship battle from five seasons ago is now going down as a farce as USC has been slapped with major sanctions for paying Reggie Bush improper benefits. In the most classless move outside of a television show called "The Decision," Pete Carroll left what he knew was a sinking ship to drown while he rakes in the big bucks in Seattle on the pro level. So now USC will move on with Lane Kiffin, who bolts Tennessee after only one tumultuous year. Lane Kiffin now has the unenviable challenge of saving USC on the way down without being able to bring in as much talent in big numbers as before. Additionally, the ban against celebrities on the sidelines will have a huge effect on the USC tradition of recent years. Every dynasty in college football comes to an end, and just like Miami and perhaps Florida, USC's time has come and gone. The Trojans will also not be bowl bound this year, which will be quite different. However, watching Oregon in the BCS last season was a refreshing change and I look forward to the conference race in 2010.

Speaking of Oregon, the other major discipline-related storyline is the continued problems at Oregon. While it seemed that the Ducks had turned around their problems which centered on LeGarrett Blount's sucker-punch at the end of the Boise State loss by making their first Rose Bowl in decades, the lingering issues resurfaced in a hurry after the Rose Bowl loss. The most striking problem is that their Heisman candidate quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has now been kicked off the team for burglarizing a frat house and a marijuana possession charge. The star freshman running back who replaced Blount was LaMichael James, who pled guilty to a harassment charge based on a domestic violence-type altercation, leading to his suspension for the opener. All of a sudden the high octane offense that was supposed to roll to a Rose Bowl win not only got embarrassed by the Buckeyes, they will basically be gutted by the off-field problems. Hopefully the Pac-10 favorites can reload in a tough situation, but this and the USC situation have the Pac-10 more open than any other major conference race in FBS football. 2010 will be a pleasure to watch, assuming the news is on the field and not off the field (or sucker punched after a game).

So that's where we stand after a tumultuous offseason. There will be some new faces in familiar places like Jimbo Fisher taking over for the legend Bobby Bowden. Other coaching stories such as Kiffin at USC, Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, and Urban Meyer at Florida will all be key components to a 2010 season full of drama. Although I'm certainly not spilling the beans on the SCS Top 25 preseason poll due out next month, you know the college football world is in a good place when Boise State could legitimately be the strongest team in America. Perhaps the WAC can celebrate a national title before their only true contender goes away. And with that, we're off! See you in a week or two with the first preview articles.

As always, you can contact me at with any questions, concerns, or rants. I appreciate hearing from you the readers what you would like to see more or less of around these parts.

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