The College Football Playoff Eliminator: Week 8

The Eliminator continues to shrink the playoff-eligible field. More teams find themselves eliminated this week as conference games take their toll.

For reference, Power Five teams who are not in control of their conference championship destiny are put in the verge of elimination column. Group of Five teams with any loss, with the exception of the American, are eliminated. Two losses doesn’t eliminate any Power Five teams unless one of those losses is to a Group of Five / FCS opponent with the exception of the American (see Pittsburgh).

Here’s where we stand, conference-by-conference, after seven weeks of the college football season:

American Athletic Conference (AAC)

Still in the hunt:

#19 SMU (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: vs Temple

6-0 SMU will get a huge test in AAC play with Temple this weekend. Other one-loss opponents on schedule include Memphis, Navy, and a possible conference championship game against #21 Cincinnati. If the AAC East can give the Mustangs a ranked opponent in the title game, SMU could become a favorite to land a New Year’s 6 Bowl or CFP spot.

Verge of elimination:

Temple (5-1):

Loss: vs Buffalo (38-22)
Next up: @ #19 SMU

After beating a ranked Memphis team (30-28), Temple gets a tough two-week stretch with #19 SMU and UCF. #21 Cincinnati is also on schedule for late-November in a game that could decide the East.

Memphis (5-1):

Loss: @ Temple (30-28)
Next up: vs Tulane

Memphis’ loss to Temple dropped them from the top 25, but the Tigers still control their own destiny in the West. #19 SMU and #21 Cincinnati are also both on schedule in November.

Tulane (5-1):

Loss: @ #11 Auburn (24-6)
Next up: @ Memphis

Tulane can take control in the West if they can handle Memphis this weekend with UCF and #19 SMU in a potential West Division Championship to close the season.

#21 Cincinnati (5-1):

Loss: @ #4 Ohio State (42-0)
Next up: vs Tulsa

Cincinnati currently has no ranked opponents left on schedule, but should hope for #19 SMU to keep rolling in the opposite division.

Navy (4-1):

Loss: @ Memphis (35-23)
Next up: vs South Florida

Navy has the biggest chance to make noise in the AAC, but they don’t control their own destiny due to their lone loss to divisional opponent Memphis. #8 Notre Dame and #19 SMU are back-to-back games for the Midshipmen this November and they should root for #21 Cincinnati to continue to run the table in the East.

Eliminated:

No new teams added this week.

Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)

Still in the hunt:

#3 Clemson (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: @ Louisville

After Wake Forest’s loss, Clemson shows no remaining ranked opponents on schedule. If teams ahead (and behind) the Tigers continue to win, Clemson will have to win out to make the CFP.

Verge of elimination:

Wake Forest (5-1):

Loss: vs Louisville (62-59)
Next up: vs Florida State

After losing a shootout to Louisville, Wake gets a matchup with Florida State this weekend in a game that could decide if the Demon Deacons can bounce back into the rankings before meeting #3 Clemson in a couple weeks.

Virginia (4-2):

Losses: @ #8 Notre Dame (35-20) and @ Miami (FL) (17-9)
Next up: vs Duke

Virginia fell to #8 Notre Dame and Miami in back-to-back weekends ahead of their matchup with Duke. Clemson should hope for the Cavaliers to bounce back if they want to play a ranked opponent in the conference championship game.

Louisville (4-2):

Losses: vs #8 Notre Dame (35-17) and @ Florida State (35-24)
Next up: vs #3 Clemson

Louisville can see their playoff hopes diminish this weekend at home against the #3 Tigers, just as Florida State saw this past weekend. If they can pull out a win after taking down Wake Forest, then the ACC might fall out of the CFP picture for good.

Pittsburgh (4-2):

Losses: vs Virginia (30-14) and @ #7 Penn State (17-10)
Next up: @ Syracuse (Friday)

Pitt has been in nothing but tight matchups all year and gets to take their bye week into the Carrier Dome this Friday night. No ranked teams are left on the schedule but Virginia’s loss to Miami gives Pitt a brighter hope to come out of the Coastal Division.

Duke (4-2):

Losses: @ #1 Alabama (42-3) and vs Pitt (33-30)
Next up: @ Virginia

Duke might actually have the best shot to make a statement. #8 Notre Dame and one-loss Wake Forest are both on November’s schedule, however, Pitt holds tiebreaker over the Blue Devils in the Coastal Division.

NC State (4-2):

Losses: @ West Virginia (44-27) and @ Florida State (31-13)
Next up: @ Boston College

If they can escape BC on Saturday, NC State gets Wake Forest and #3 Clemson in back-to-back weekends to make a push into the rankings. With Florida State’s most recent loss, the Wolfpack gain back control of their own destiny in the Atlantic Division.

Virginia Tech (4-2):

Losses: @ Boston College (35-28) and vs Duke (45-10)
Next up: vs UNC

VT remains the most up-and-down team in the ACC, but #8 Notre Dame and Wake Forest are both on schedule. The Hokies don’t control their own destiny in the Coastal Division, but it seems as if no other team wants to win the division anyways.

Eliminated:

Florida State (3-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to #3 Clemson, 45-14.

FSU joins a growing list of non-ranked ACC teams.

Big XII Conference

Still in the hunt:

#5 Oklahoma (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: vs West Virginia

With Jalen Hurts continuing to light it up, the Sooners look like the team to beat out of the Big XII. An important November date with #18 Baylor could also push the conference forward.

#18 Baylor (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: @ Oklahoma State

After narrowly escaping Texas Tech (33-30 in OT), the Bears get a shot at a good Oklahoma State team this weekend. #5 Oklahoma and #15 Texas in back-to-back weekends will most likely show where the Big XII stands.

Verge of elimination:

#15 Texas (4-2):

Losses: vs #2 LSU (45-38) and vs #5 Oklahoma (34-27)
Next up: vs Kansas

Texas can still meet #5 Oklahoma again in a conference championship, but they’ll have to prove it against Iowa State and #18 Baylor this November.

Iowa State (4-2):

Losses: vs #23 Iowa (18-17) and @ #18 Baylor (23-21)
Next up: @ Texas Tech

The Cyclones latest victory over West Virginia (38-14) eliminated the Mountaineers, but without controlling their own destiny in the conference their CFP hopes seem weak. They’ll need Baylor to fall off twice and to beat #5 Oklahoma and #15 Texas in back-to-back weeks.

TCU (3-2):

Losses: vs #19 SMU (41-38) and @ Iowa State (49-24)
Next up: @ Kansas State

In an elimination game for both teams, the Horned Frogs get to travel to K-State.

Oklahoma State (4-2):

Losses: @ #15 Texas (36-30) and @ Texas Tech (45-35)
Next up: vs #18 Baylor

The Cowboys lost control of their conference destiny with their second Big XII loss against Texas Tech. #18 Baylor can eliminate Chuba Hubbard and the OK State offense on Saturday.

Kansas State (3-2):

Losses: @ Oklahoma State (26-13) and vs #18 Baylor (31-12)
Next up: vs TCU

The Wildcats are another team that doesn’t control their own destiny. If chaos ensues, they would still have to get through #5 Oklahoma and #15 Texas.

Eliminated:

Texas Tech (3-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to #18 Baylor, 33-30.
West Virginia (3-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to Iowa State, 38-14.

Texas Tech and WVU will be joined next week by one of either TCU or Kansas State, depending on who wins that matchup.

Big Ten Conference (B1G)

Still in the hunt:

#6 Wisconsin (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: @ Illinois

Wisconsin continues to be the best defensive team in the nation after shutting out Michigan State (38-0). #4 Ohio State is on schedule in two weeks in a very important game that can be seen again in the Big Ten Championship

#4 Ohio State (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: @ Northwestern (Friday)

In a Big Ten title game rematch from last year, OSU will take on Northwestern before meeting #6 Wisconsin in a game that will feature two of the best defenses in the country. #7 Penn State and #16 Michigan are on schedule to close the season.

#7 Penn State (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: vs #16 Michigan

With #16 Michigan this weekend, the Nittany Lions can take control of the East Division. #20 Minnesota and #4 Ohio State are also two undefeated conference opponents that Penn State will see in November.

#20 Minnesota (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: @ Rutgers

Minnesota has ran the table thus far and gets to face Rutgers and Maryland the next two games, so they should be able to head into their home matchup with #7 Penn State still undefeated. #23 Iowa, perennial West Division opponent Northwestern, and #6 Wisconsin all follow the Penn State game to close the season.

#16 Michigan (4-1):

Loss: @ #6 Wisconsin (35-14)
Next up: @ #7 Penn State
Although Michigan hasn’t looked like a Big Ten contender thus far, they get #7 Penn State in a game to that can put them in control in the East. #8 Notre Dame will be the following weekend with #4 Ohio State to close the season. They can also play #6 Wisconsin again in a conference championship. There probably isn’t a better schedule in the country for a team that wants to find their way back in playoff picture.

Verge of elimination:

#23 Iowa (4-2):

Losses: @ #16 Michigan (10-3) and vs #7 Penn State (17-12)
Next up: vs Purdue

The Hawkeyes have one of the best defenses in the country to go along with a subpar offense. Even though both of Iowa’s losses came at the hands of East Division teams, the Hawkeyes will have to get through #6 Wisconsin and #20 Minnesota. They will also need those two teams to fall off again to reach the Big Ten Championship.

Indiana (4-2):

Losses: vs #4 Ohio State (51-10) and @ Michigan State (40-31)
Next up: @ Maryland

Indiana’s shutout of Rutgers (35-0) won’t show much as to what this team can be. Maryland and Nebraska the next two weeks also probably won’t be too telling unless they lose. They don’t play another Big Ten East opponent until #7 Penn State and #16 Michigan in late November.

Eliminated:

Maryland (3-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to Purdue, 40-14.
Michigan State (4-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to #6 Wisconsin, 38-0.
Nebraska (4-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to #20 Minnesota, 34-7.

An abundance of Big Ten teams head to the eliminator as the top of the conference continues to heat up.

Conference USA (C-USA)

Eliminated:

The entire conference.

Independent Teams

Verge of elimination:

#8 Notre Dame (5-1):

Loss: @ #10 Georgia (23-17)
Next up: @ #16 Michigan

ND finds themselves ranked ahead of the team they lost to in the latest AP Poll, but the CFP Poll will be a lot more telling for the Irish, who have to get through #16 Michigan in impressive fashion as that is their last ranked opponent on schedule.

Eliminated:

No new teams added this week.

Mid-American Conference (MAC)

Eliminated:

The entire conference.

Mountain West Conference

Still in the hunt:

#14 Boise State (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: @ BYU

Boise continues to look like one of the strongest Group of Five teams, but #19 SMU has a stronger schedule to close the season. BYU should be a tough opponent this weekend after the Broncos handled a good Hawai’i team (59-37) this past weekend.

Eliminated:

No new teams added this week.

Pac-12 Conference

Still in the hunt:

#12 Oregon (5-1):

Loss: @ #11 Auburn (27-21)
Next up: @ #25 Washington

The Ducks should be thankful that the Huskies found their way back in the top 25 ahead of their matchup this weekend. #17 Arizona State is the only other ranked team on schedule before a potential Pac-12 title game.

#17 Arizona State (5-1):

Loss: vs Colorado (34-31)
Next up: @ #13 Utah

Thanks to Colorado continuing to lose, Arizona State finds themselves back in control of their conference destiny ahead of an important ranked matchup with #13 Utah. #12 Oregon is also on schedule for late November.

Verge of elimination:

Arizona (4-2):

Losses: @ Hawai’i (45-38) and vs #25 Washington (51-27)
Next up: @ USC

In a must-win game for Arizona, they get to travel to LA. The Wildcats are still in control of their own Pac-12 South destiny and get to face #12 Oregon, #13 Utah, and #17 Arizona State in the last three weeks of the regular season.

#13 Utah (5-1):

Loss: @ USC (30-23)
Next up: vs #17 Arizona State

USC still holds tiebreakers over the Utes, but they can make a statement against a ranked Arizona State team on Saturday.

California (4-2):

Losses: vs #17 Arizona State (24-17) and @ #12 Oregon (17-7)
Next up: vs Oregon State

Cal doesn’t have a blowout loss on their resume, but like most of the Pac-12 – they still don’t control their own destiny within conference play.

Eliminated:

Colorado (3-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to #12 Oregon, 45-3.
USC (3-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to #8 Notre Dame, 30-27.
Washington State (3-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to #17 Arizona State, 38-34.

The Pac-12 continues to beat themselves out of playoff contention. The ACC is also beating themselves out of contention, which can be good if there is chaos within the SEC and Big Ten down the stretch.

Southeastern Conference (SEC)

Still in the hunt:

#2 LSU (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: @ Mississippi State

With Joe Burrow leading the offense, LSU looks like the best team in the country. #11 Auburn and #1 Alabama should be exciting SEC West matchups in the coming weeks.

#1 Alabama (6-0):

Loss: None
Next up: vs Tennessee

Alabama has a favorable schedule but has actual competition within conference play with #2 LSU looking like a battle of undefeated opponents in three weeks.

#9 Florida (6-1):

Loss: @ #2 LSU (42-28)
Next up: @ South Carolina

Florida is doing all they could without their starting quarterback in play. They control their own destiny in the East despite their loss to #2 LSU.

#10 Georgia (5-1):

Loss: vs South Carolina (20-17)
Next up: vs Kentucky

Georgia was upset by SC this weekend in a game that was all about the special teams. They can bounce back with Kentucky this weekend before they meet #9 Florida in a game that will propel someone to second in the East behind #22 Missouri.

#11 Auburn (5-1):

Loss: @ Florida (24-13)
Next up: @ Arkansas

Auburn can make a case to and still control their own conference destiny. With #2 LSU, #10 Georgia, and #1 Alabama all on schedule, there is no reason to count out the Tigers as an SEC dark horse.

Missouri (5-1):

Loss: @ Wyoming (37-31)
Next up: @ Vanderbilt

Missouri is sitting atop the SEC West and can win it outright if Kelly Bryant and company can make it past #10 Georgia and #9 Florida in November.

Eliminated:

Mississippi State (3-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to Tennessee, 20-10.
Texas A&M (3-3): Eliminated with week 7 loss to #1 Alabama, 47-28.

Mississippi State and Texas A&M both fall flat from the SEC, which has no teams on the verge of elimination this week.

Sun Belt Conference

Still in the hunt:

#24 App State (5-0):

App State continues to run the table. With South Carolina’s big win over #10 Georgia on Saturday, their November 9th matchup could be very intriguing and telling for the Mountaineers.

Eliminated:

The rest of the conference has already been eliminated.


Here is a complete list of teams that have been eliminated this season:

Eliminated in Week 0/1 (21 teams):

Akron: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Illinois, 42-3.
Arkansas State: Eliminated with week 1 loss to #19 SMU, 37-30.
Ball State: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Indiana, 34-24.
Coastal Carolina: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Eastern Michigan, 30-23.
Colorado State: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Colorado, 52-13.
Florida Atlantic: Eliminated with week 1 loss to #4 Ohio State, 45-21.
Florida International: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Tulane, 42-14.
Fresno State: Eliminated with week 1 loss to USC, 31-23.
Georgia Southern: Eliminated with week 1 loss to #2 LSU, 55-3.
LA-Lafayette: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Mississippi State, 38-28.
Liberty: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Syracuse, 24-0.
Louisiana Tech: Eliminated with week 1 loss to #15 Texas, 45-14.
Miami (OH): Eliminated with week 1 loss to #23 Iowa, 38-14.
Middle Tennessee: Eliminated with week 1 loss to #16 Michigan, 40-12.
New Mexico State: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Washington State, 58-7.
Rice: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Army, 14-7.
South Alabama: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Nebraska, 35-21.
Texas State: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Texas A&M, 41-7.
Toledo: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Kentucky, 38-24.
UMass: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Rutgers, 48-21.
Western Kentucky: Eliminated with week 1 loss to Central Arkansas, 35-28.

Eliminated in Week 2 (21 teams):

Army: Eliminated with week 2 loss to #16 Michigan, 24-21 (OT).
Bowling Green: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Kansas State, 52-0.
Buffalo: Eliminated with week 2 loss to #7 Penn State, 45-13.
Central Michigan: Eliminated with week 2 loss to #6 Wisconsin, 61-0.
Charlotte: Eliminated with week 2 loss to #24 Appalachian State, 56-41.
Eastern Michigan: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Kentucky, 38-17.
LA-Monroe: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Florida State, 45-44 (OT).
Marshall: Eliminated with week 2 loss to #14 Boise State, 14-7.
Nevada: Eliminated with week 2 loss to #12 Oregon, 77-6.
North Texas: Eliminated with week 2 loss to #19 SMU, 49-27.
Northern Illinois: Eliminated with week 2 loss to #13 Utah, 35-17.
Ohio: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Pittsburgh, 20-10.
Old Dominion: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Virginia Tech, 31-17.
San Jose State: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Tulsa, 34-16.
South Florida: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Georgia Tech, 14-10.
Southern Mississippi: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Mississippi State, 38-15.
Tennessee: Eliminated with week 2 loss to BYU, 29-26.
UNLV: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Arkansas State, 43-17.
UTEP: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Texas Tech, 38-3.
UTSA: Eliminated with week 2 loss to #18 Baylor, 63-14.
Western Michigan: Eliminated with week 2 loss to Michigan State, 51-17.

Eliminated in Week 3 (10 teams):

East Carolina: Eliminated with week 3 loss to Navy, 42-10.
Georgia State: Eliminated with week 3 loss to Western Michigan, 57-10.
Georgia Tech: Eliminated with week 3 loss to The Citadel, 27-24 (OT).
Hawai’i: Eliminated with week 3 loss to #25 Washington, 52-20.
Houston: Eliminated with week 3 loss to Washington State, 31-24.
Kent State: Eliminated with week 3 loss to #11 Auburn, 55-16.
New Mexico: Eliminated with week 3 loss to #8 Notre Dame, 66-14.
Troy: Eliminated with week 3 loss to Southern Miss, 47-42.
Tulsa: Eliminated with week 3 loss to Oklahoma State, 40-21.
UCLA: Eliminated with week 3 loss to #5 Oklahoma, 48-14.

Eliminated in Week 4 (11 teams):

Air Force: Eliminated with week 4 loss to #14 Boise State, 30-19.
BYU: Eliminated with week 4 loss to #25 Washington, 45-19.
Illinois: Eliminated with week 4 loss to Nebraska, 42-38.
Kansas: Eliminated with week 4 loss to West Virginia, 29-24.
San Diego State: Eliminated with week 4 loss to Utah State, 23-17.
South Carolina: Eliminated with week 4 loss to #22 Missouri, 34-14.
Stanford: Eliminated with week 4 loss to #12 Oregon, 21-6.
UConn: Eliminated with week 4 loss to Indiana, 38-3.
UNC: Eliminated with week 4 loss to #24 Appalachian State, 34-31.
Vanderbilt: Eliminated with week 4 loss to #2 LSU, 66-38.
Wyoming: Eliminated with week 4 loss to Tulsa, 24-21.

Eliminated in Week 5 (6 teams):

Kentucky: Eliminated with week 5 loss to South Carolina, 24-7.
Ole Miss: Eliminated with week 5 loss to #1 Alabama, 59-31.
Oregon State: Eliminated with week 5 loss to Stanford, 31-28.
Purdue: Eliminated with week 5 loss to #20 Minnesota, 38-31.
Rutgers: Eliminated with week 5 loss to #16 Michigan, 52-0.
UAB: Eliminated with week 5 loss to Western Kentucky, 20-13.

Eliminated in Week 6 (5 teams):

Boston College: Eliminated with week 6 loss to Louisville, 41-39.
Miami: Eliminated with week 6 loss to Virginia Tech, 42-35.
Syracuse: Eliminated with week 6 loss to NC State, 16-10.
UCF: Eliminated with week 6 loss to #21 Cincinnati, 27-24.
Utah State: Eliminated with week 6 loss to #2 LSU, 42-6.

Eliminated in Week 7 (11 teams):

Colorado: Eliminated with week 7 loss to #12 Oregon, 45-3.
Florida State: Eliminated with week 7 loss to #3 Clemson, 45-14.
Maryland: Eliminated with week 7 loss to Purdue, 40-14.
Michigan State: Eliminated with week 7 loss to #6 Wisconsin, 38-0.
Mississippi State: Eliminated with week 7 loss to Tennessee, 20-10.
Nebraska: Eliminated with week 7 loss to #20 Minnesota, 34-7.
Texas A&M: Eliminated with week 7 loss to #1 Alabama, 47-28.
Texas Tech: Eliminated with week 7 loss to #18 Baylor, 33-30.
USC: Eliminated with week 7 loss to #8 Notre Dame, 30-27.
Washington State: Eliminated with week 7 loss to #17 Arizona State, 38-34.
West Virginia: Eliminated with week 7 loss to Iowa State, 38-14.

One

It is in our hearts that we
Can be repumped
With blood
To find again
What we lost

It is in our hearts that we
Can forge our memory
To allow for more
Breathes
Of new life

It is in our hearts that we
Can chase what is true
While allowing
Our hearts
To stop beating

For while they stop beating
While the Earth reverses
Its rotation
We are born again
A new life
A new life

Afraid

At one point we were all very afraid
To take that moment
And let it go, to become stronger;
As people, we were weak.

Another time, we stopped counting
And instead, started running.
To take our time, we said
Ruined us.

The last time we were on the bridge
Seeing heights above moving currents
We stopped for a moment.
We were strong

And jumped.

The Edge

One time I walked
Along to the edge
And the devil came down
To sit close to the ledge.

He told me hello
And acted so kind.
He said that knowing my future
Could ease my mind.

I asked him, “what if
I don’t want to know my fate?”
He answered, “but knowing this
Could lead to something great.”

He stepped forward towards me
And leaned in real close,
Handed me a pill, and said,
“Just take a small dose.”

For with it I would know
What my future would hold
And without it, well, how
My life would be cold.

I stopped for a moment
Before taking his hand
And told him how I
Had one last demand.

If I knew my fate,
Would I be able to change?
Or is it impossible
To fix or rearrange?

He said, “fate is what’s true.
It is what lives as you die.”
And that’s the moment I knew
All he said was a lie.

The Door

“Down the hall and on the left,”
the attendant says.
She hands the key to the room
hanging from the slot
marked as room one.

She helps you with your luggage,
none of which belonged to you
in the first place.
The silent elevator
brings you to the top floor.

She mentions
to have a nice stay
as she
disappears
behind closing elevator doors.

Walking down the hotel hall,
confusing carpet schemes
keep you moving,
but you refuse
to find the door on the left.

The other doors,
barricaded by loud noises,
scream their secrets.
The temptation to open them
all take its toll on you.

Rushing to each one to see
if the key fits.
It doesn’t.
Over and over again,
the key refuses to fit.

There are no turns
in the rotation.
There are no turns
in the hall.
Just the door on the left.

Lights flicker to fade
as more doors are passed.
Locks bolted in place
in front of
loud scenes.

The door on the left
is not locked.
In fact, it never was.
It has always been shut,
awaiting to be opened.

As approached,
it cracks open.
Awaiting to reveal
what is behind it,
lights burn out.

Wasteland

As rough patches fill with
endless waste,
an unlit candle appears.
Wax drips
from the cold wick and
ponders its next move.

Sliding down
the barren hill;
this is a wasteland.

While winds blow and halt
to stops only to begin again,
paper flies.
In circles and wisps,
words are elevated
off the pages.

Meanwhile, the candle of cold air
sits dripping, shrinking;
this is a wasteland.

The sand is picked up
by cloud’s gusts and
pelts all objects.
In fluid motion,
light gets erased by nature’s
bright colors.

All at once,
trees fall;
this is a wasteland.

Again, the candle shrinks
as the top diminishes
into rubble.
A fate awaits
the broken patch of land
that once accompanied it.

Who is to say
that the path of the land
lays in the path of the candle?
Although it is true
that grass will still grow;
this is a wasteland.

The candle,
on its last strike,
is still unlit.
Cold and forgotten,
it rests
at last.

A small stream of smoke
rises from its resting place;
this was a wasteland.

 

College Football’s Biggest Dilemma: Conference Alignment

Since the College Football Playoff (CFP) system began in the 2014 season, there has been a lot of speculation as to the fairness of the four-team playoff.  The bowl season has always been one of the biggest highlights for America’s biggest sport and the CFP has been no exception to that since its beginning.

The ten conferences in college football’s Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) are not all created equal and this is certainly noted by what teams make the CFP. The Power Five conferences of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten, Big Twelve (Big XII), Pac-12, and Southeastern Conference (SEC) cannot all possibly be represented with the four-team playoff system. In some cases, only three are represented when an independent team like Notre Dame (2018) or two teams from one conference like Alabama and Georgia (2017) take a spot away from a conference that otherwise would not play against worthy opponents.

The arguments surrounding college football have pivoted the spotlight to increasing the playoff to eight teams. However, the bigger problem comes from the conferences and scheduling of teams being geographically and unequally imbalanced.

Before a push for an eight-team playoff can occur, a new system that its proponents say would be more fair for allowing new conferences to join the race for a national title, there needs to be a push for conference realignment. To achieve equal balance in college football, geography and rivalries need to be preserved.

Fairness, above all else, has to be at the forefront.

Here is an updated picture of a more fair way for the ten FBS college football conferences to be aligned, with explanation behind the shifting of different teams to different conferences.

Conference Re-Alignment for the Power Six

One of the main reasons for the move from a Power Five system to a Power Six system is due to the number of teams that deserve to be considered a Power Five school in football. Currently, there are 64 Power Five schools. By rearranging the conferences so that there are six conferences with 12 teams each, that would only move eight teams to Power Five status.

Teams like Brigham Young (BYU), Central Florida (UCF), Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, Notre Dame, Temple, and UConn are schools with a rich enough history in football and athletic status in other sports that they deserve the position to succeed in the new Power Six.

American Athletic Conference (The American)

East

  1. Boston College (from ACC)
  2. Connecticut (UConn)
  3. Maryland (from Big Ten)
  4. Rutgers (from Big Ten)
  5. Syracuse (from ACC)
  6. Temple

West

  1. Cincinnati
  2. Louisville (from ACC)
  3. Memphis
  4. Notre Dame (from FBS Independents)
  5. Pittsburgh (Pitt) (from ACC)
  6. West Virginia (from Big XII)

The first step in the process of creating equality in college football is moving Notre Dame to an actual conference. By adding teams like Maryland and Rutgers out of the Big Ten along with some other ACC teams and West Virginia, the conference that claims to be a “Power Six” can develop into a stronghold among mid-majors and the northeastern United States. West Virginia’s move to The American is based upon their rivalry with Pitt and an escape from the extremely long travel that exists for them as a member of the Big XII, a conference dominated by central American teams. In an eight-team playoff scenario, they would also be an automatic bid.

Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)

North

  1. Duke
  2. North Carolina (UNC)
  3. North Carolina State
  4. Virginia
  5. Virginia Tech
  6. Wake Forrest

South

  1. Central Florida (UCF) (from The American)
  2. Clemson
  3. Florida State
  4. Georgia Tech
  5. Miami (FL)
  6. South Carolina (from SEC)

For the most part, the ACC stays pretty consistent aside from the loss of teams to the AAC. The new ACC is split between North and South, rather than Coastal and Atlantic. With the removal of teams like Boston College, Louisville, Pitt, and Syracuse, the conference is able to become more coastal and more southern geographically. UCF is also a strong fit based on their school enrollment, increasing popularity, and location. The addition of South Carolina is based off their rivalry with Clemson along with the fact that they are not historically bounded to the SEC.

Big Ten Conference (B1G)

East

  1. Indiana
  2. Michigan
  3. Michigan State
  4. Ohio State
  5. Penn State
  6. Purdue

West

  1. Illinois
  2. Iowa
  3. Iowa State (from Big XII)
  4. Minnesota
  5. Northwestern
  6. Wisconsin

Like the ACC, the Big Ten stays intact for the most part. Although the East Division pulls four of college football’s historic programs, the rivals and geographic locations allow for them to stay in the same division they are already in now. The big change is in the West Division with the addition of Iowa State. Iowa State is not historically bounded to the Big XII, has a rivalry with Iowa, and can compete on a recruiting and on-the-field standpoint.

Big Twelve Conference (Big XII)

North

  1. Colorado (from Pac-12)
  2. Kansas
  3. Kansas State
  4. Nebraska (from Big Ten)
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Oklahoma State

South

  1. Baylor
  2. Houston (from The American)
  3. Texas
  4. Texas A&M (from SEC)
  5. Texas Christian (TCU)
  6. Texas Tech

Moving Colorado into the conference was actually a tough decision, but one that saw the potential for a renewed rivalry with Nebraska coming from the Big Ten. Houston was an easy move from The American as was Texas A&M back from the SEC, creating an all-Texas South Division.

Pac-12

North

  1. California (Cal)
  2. Oregon
  3. Oregon State
  4. Stanford
  5. Washington
  6. Washington State

South

  1. Arizona
  2. Arizona State
  3. Brigham Young (BYU) (from FBS Independents)
  4. Central Los Angeles (UCLA)
  5. Southern California (USC)
  6. Utah

The Pac-12 remains mostly unchanged aside from the addition of BYU. Although BYU is not a major powerhouse, their Holy War rivalry with Utah and historical relevance played a part in them being the equalizer in the new conference alignment.

Southeastern Conference (SEC)

East

  1. Alabama
  2. Auburn
  3. Florida
  4. Georgia
  5. Tennessee
  6. Vanderbilt

West

  1. Arkansas
  2. Kentucky
  3. Louisiana State (LSU)
  4. Mississippi (Ole Miss)
  5. Mississippi State
  6. Missouri

The SEC is the only conference that does not add teams from other conferences. Geographically, everyone is a perfect fit and the realignment of divisions comes from the exit of South Carolina and Texas A&M.

Scheduling for the Power Six

The Power Six conferences have 12 teams each, which creates a set of 3 rivalries in each division of every conference. As far as scheduling goes, a more balanced system needs to be created so that every conference is not only playing a balanced divisional and cross-divisional schedule, but also a fair out-of-conference schedule.

The conference scheduling for the Power Six conferences, as a suggestion, would go as follows:

  • Every team plays their five divisional opponents every year.
  • Every team plays half (three) cross-divisional opponents every year, rotating on a year-to-year basis. For example, Ohio State would play at home against Wisconsin one season, play a different cross-divisional game the following year (say, Minnesota at home), and play at Wisconsin the year after.

This is where things get competitive. Every year, out-of-conference scheduling would be determined by how a team does the year prior. The top two teams from a Power Six conference would play the 3rd and 4th best teams from another conference. The conference that each conference plays every year would be on a constant rotation.

For example, if Oklahoma and Texas play in the Big XII Championship game like they did in 2018, they would play the 3rd and 4th best teams from another conference the following year (say, the Big Ten). One game would be at home, one game would be away. The 4th best team from the Big Ten would play at home against the Big XII champ and on the road against the Big XII runner-up and the 3rd place team from the Big Ten would play at home against the Big XII runner-up and on the road against the Big XII champ.

If Ohio State and Northwestern play in the Big Ten Championship game like they did in 2018, they would play a different conference’s 3rd and 4th best teams.

This system would continue down the line with the 5th and 6th place teams of conferences playing the 7th and 8th and the 9th and 10th playing against the 11th and 12th.

With two games left on the 12-game schedule, this leaves room for two mid-major opponents. The top Power Six team from the final CFP rankings would be granted the privilege of playing the lowest ranked team from the new “Group of Four” conferences. There would also be room in the schedule for all 72 Power Six teams to play a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent.

The reasoning behind keeping FCS opponents in the schedule is because these games are a major funding boost for smaller Division I opponents. These are the types of games that allow for a FCS opponent to grow their program.

Conference Re-Alignment for the Group of Four

Outside of the new Power Six conferences, the alignment of the remaining four groupings gets interesting. As the Power Six conferences each have 12 teams each, the Group of Four each have 16. These 16-team conferences will ensure that every conference champion from a mid-major conference will be deserving of a bigger bowl game and, if there were to be an expansion, possible a spot in the CFP.

Conference USA (C-USA)

North

  1. Appalachian State (from Sun Belt)
  2. Army (from FBS Independents)
  3. Eastern California (from The American)
  4. James Madison (from FCS)
  5. Liberty (from FBS Independents)
  6. Massachusetts (UMass) (from FBS Independents)
  7. Navy (from The American)
  8. Old Dominion

South

  1. UNC Charlotte
  2. Coastal Carolina (from Sun Belt)
  3. Florida Atlantic
  4. Florida International
  5. Georgia Southern (from Sun Belt)
  6. Georgia State (from Sun Belt)
  7. Middle Tennessee
  8. South Florida (USF) (from The American)

The new Conference USA would consist of teams that were formerly in the Sun Belt, but rearranged so that geography and competitiveness can play a factor. Rivalries such as Liberty and James Madison and Army and Navy in the North Division will highlight the conference as a whole. The addition of South Florida in the South is also a big step forward.

Mid-American Conference (MAC)

East

  1. Akron
  2. Bowling Green
  3. Buffalo
  4. Kent State
  5. Marshall (from C-USA)
  6. Ohio
  7. Toledo
  8. Youngstown State (from FCS)

West

  1. Ball State
  2. Central Michigan
  3. Eastern Kentucky (from FCS)
  4. Eastern Michigan
  5. Miami (OH)
  6. Northern Illinois
  7. Western Kentucky (from C-USA)
  8. Western Michigan

The MAC is a staple of Big Ten country mid-major football. The addition of Youngstown State, a traditional FCS powerhouse, and Eastern Kentucky would be beneficial for the conference. Western Kentucky coming over from C-USA would also be a good geographical fit.

Mountain West Conference

Northeast

  1. Air Force
  2. Boise State
  3. Colorado State
  4. Eastern Washington (from FCS)
  5. Idaho (from FCS)
  6. Montana (from FCS)
  7. Utah State
  8. Wyoming

Southwest

  1. Fresno State
  2. Hawai’i
  3. Nevada
  4. Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV)
  5. New Mexico
  6. New Mexico State (from FBS Independents)
  7. San Diego State
  8. San Jose State

The Mountain West would be split into Northeast and Southwest Divisions based upon the location of the schools. The addition of higher-level FCS teams will expand the conference and the rivalry of New Mexico and New Mexico State would be reignited, as it should.

Sun Belt Conference

East

  1. Alabama Birmingham (UAB) (from C-USA)
  2. Louisiana Lafayette
  3. Louisiana Monroe
  4. Louisiana Tech (from C-USA)
  5. South Alabama
  6. Southern Mississippi (from C-USA)
  7. Troy
  8. Tulane (from The American)

West

  1. Arkansas State
  2. North Texas (from C-USA)
  3. Rice (from C-USA)
  4. Southern Methodist (SMU) (from The American)
  5. Texas El Paso (UTEP) (from C-USA)
  6. Texas San Antonio (UTSA) (from C-USA)
  7. Texas State
  8. Tulsa (from The American)

Many of the teams that would form the new Sun Belt would be coming from C-USA and vise versa, along with SMU, Tulane, and Tulsa from The American. The East Division consists of many schools in Alabama and Louisiana while the West Division will be mostly mid-major schools in Texas.

Scheduling for the Group of Four

The Group of Four conferences have 16 teams each, which creates a set of 4 rivalries in each division of every conference. Scheduling for the Group of Four would be balanced throughout, with the majority of the games being played to be divisional.

The conference scheduling for the Group of Four conferences, as a suggestion, would go as follows:

  • Every team plays their seven divisional opponents every year.
  • Every team plays three cross-divisional opponents every year.

Every year, out-of-conference scheduling would again be determined by how a team does the year prior. The top team from a Group of Four conference would play the best team from another Group of Four conference. The conference that each conference plays every year would be on a constant rotation, just like the Power Six.

For example, if Tulsa wins the Sun Belt Championship game, they would play the Mountain West Conference champ the following season.

This system would continue down the line, where teams that finished in the same position from different Group of Four conferences would play the following season.

With one game left on the 12-game schedule, this leaves room for the single Power Six opponent. The top Group of Four team from the final CFP rankings would be granted the privilege of playing the lowest ranked team from the new Power Six conferences.

This new system would allow for the conference champ from a Group of Four school to prove that they are above the other schools they play.

The growing need to expand upon a CFP system cannot be done without an equal balance within the college football conferences themselves. If there is to be an expansion from four to eight teams making the playoff, there needs to be an even playing field for all teams. With that comes the importance of set scheduling that can prove how other conferences compare to others. A more balanced playing field to ensure a more even playoff at the conclusion of the season can be achieved if scheduling and geographical considerations are taken into account.