In case you’ve not heard, the NCAA is nixing the requirement for divisions in NCAA conferences if they want a title game.
The proposal would no longer require FBS conferences to have divisions which could really help lower-ranked G5 conferences try to put their best foot forward when it comes time to access the College Football Playoff. by allowing them to match their two best teams during championship week.
Typically this would hurt the MAC East as the West usually has two better teams... But... What if there was no MAC East?
We’ve seen in the MAC that 13 teams plays hob with scheduling if the divisions are unequal. Both the Temple experiment and the UMass phase were difficult and that experience probably factored into the MAC not taking WKU this spring despite the fact the conference and the Toppers’ were both interested.
As I see it there are two major challenges with going withoug divisions in a CFB conference.
- Loss of rivalries
- The risk of no clear path to the Championship
Loss of Rivalries.
Divisions tend to create rivals and maintain, or at the very least, help you to dislike teams you would otherwise have no reason to dislike. Ohio, for example, is a school that I have no solid reason to dislike but we see them every year, and some heated back and forth have helped Buffalo to start to circle that game on the calendar.
In a 12-team open MAC there is no guarantee you play Ohio every year. Unless you let the conference carve out two or three rival pairs per school.
Something like this:
- Directional Michigan (Gives each team two rivals)
- NIU gets BSU (Bronze Stalk) and Toledo
- Toledo gets BGSU and NIU
- BGSU get’s Toledo and Kent
- Ohio Gets Miami and Buffalo
- Akron Gets Kent and Buffalo
- Kent gets Akron and Bowling Green
- Ball State get’s NIU and Miami
- Miami gets BSU and Ohio
- Buffalo get’s Ohio and Akron
This gives schools what I think would be the best “pair” of rivals every season, your in and year out. It also leaves schools with five open games to rotate around the MAC every year.
No clear path to the Title game
The real concern for me is that you’re #1 and #2 teams are hard to lockdown. Between tiebreakers, and different schedules it’s very possible a #3 team has a legit beef to being one of the best in the conference.
With 7 set games (two rival games and five open) you’re left with a big empty slot on Black Friday.
Let’s use that for a mini MAC tournament.
In the last week of the season, you have the top four play a mini playoff.
- #1 vs #4
- #2 vs #3
Not only will this reduce the chances that one of the better teams in the conference misses out, it helps the two eventual championship game contenders buff up their resume before Detroit.
What about everyone else?
I would pair off the other teams. You could either go with a format that pits weak against strong (#5 vs #12), or a parity week where you’re more likely to see competitive games (#5 vs #6).
Or you could just make it a random event where you “draw” an opponent.
The key here is that when you get to Detroit you have your two best teams to present, hopefully coming out of Ford Field with a ranked opponent in the conversation for a contract bowl slot.
One last benefit is that the MAC no longer has to worry about adding teams in pairs. WKU could be a MAC member and they would be a fantastic fit.