Has College Football Become Too Regionalized?
Geographic lines were drawn long ago in our discussion of the finest teams in the country.
It is generally understood that the weakest college football region is New England, but what area produces the greatest number of contenders for the National Championship now known as the BCS Title?
There is no question the Northeast has the largest number of national championships in the history of the game. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale have 53 recognized titles between them.
The Tigers from New Jersey lead the way with 24, including the first year of college football in 1869.
To make a more familiar and reasonable level playing field (no pun intended), let us analyze the events of the past half century on its own merits.
Conference affiliation presents the responsibility to defend league honor against all comers.
In the past 50 years, the battle over conference supremacy has centered among the Big Ten, the SEC, and the Big 12, with its spiritual ancestors, the Big Eight and SWC.
The Pac-10 and ACC have produced National Champions during the 1958-2008 era, but these titles involve a small number of teams.
Southern California, Washington, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Florida State took away recognized titles, while members of the two leagues and Miami brought five championships into the ACC when they joined earlier this decade.
The Big East has the wonderful story of "The Elmira Express" and the 1959 Syracuse championship, along with the powerful Pittsburgh Panthers, champions of 1976.
But when Miami left the Big East for the ACC, they took those five national titles with them.
A remarkable case for the Big 12 can be made with 14 solo or shared titles during the past half century. Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Colorado are responsible for the league's great success.
One small proviso concerns Texas. The stand alone 1963 and '69 titles of the Longhorns, as well as the shared '70 ring, were during the Southwest Conference days and imported into the Big12 upon joining.
The Big Ten has stand alone titles with the 1968 and 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes and a consensus championship with the 1960 Gophers of Minnesota.
Michigan State and Michigan posted three additional championships in 1965, '66, and '97, while Penn State brought two titles with them when they joined the Big Ten.
There is a curious case to be made for the SEC regarding national championships, and here is where the tack cloth gets sticky.
LSU claimed stand alone titles in 1958 and 2007, with a shared championship in 2003.
Ole Miss has a share of the 1960 title, with a claim for part of 1962.
Georgia posted a solo title in 1980, and Tennessee has the glory of the first ever BCS Title in 1998.
Arkansas has a share of the 1964 championship but was a member of the Southwest Conference at that time. Still, they brought their trophy with them when the joined the SEC.
And then, there's Alabama.
The Crimson Tide stands alone with the 1961, 1979, and 1992 titles and has shared championships in 1964, 1965, 1973, and 1978.
The split titles of the Tide combine a mixture of the polls closing early, prior to the Bowls being played in 1964, to the longtime argument over the 1978 situation with Southern California.
Florida, for their part, leaves little doubt when it comes to their three national championships.
The Gators annihilated Florida State by 32, crushed Ohio State by 27, and whipped Oklahoma by 10 to stake their claim for the 1996, 2006, and 2008 titles.
After losing the 1995 title to Nebraska by 38, the battle plan of subsequent Gator squads is apparently to take no prisoners when they get to the big show.
A compilation of 17 shared or solo titles in the past 50 years leads to a strong case for the respect given the SEC as a conference.
When combined with the current total of nine in the Atlantic Coast Conference one is staring at 26 titles earned in the Southeastern region of the country.
Using regions as a method of identification, the Midwest has 22. This certainly stands toe to toe with totals from the South.
And, to go one step beyond, suppose we add Notre Dame's national championships of 1966, '73, '77, and '88?
Those four titles from the legendary Midwestern Independent, added to the previously listed 22, gives the Midwest a total of 26 in the past half century.
Exactly the same number as "The South."
The argument from the West is based upon the seven championships earned by the USC Trojans. Washington in 1991 and Brigham Young in 1984 add flavor to the discussion.
However, these western totals fall far short of qualifying to join the Midwest-South debate as to what region is the strongest over the past 50 years.
So, there are the numbers and figures, interpret it anyway you wish.
Just do not try to say the strongest region of college football is the South, or the Midwest for that matter. Each is equally powerful. Right down to the final total.
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