College football has exciting and interesting games almost every single week, and these past two were no different. There were two in particular that stand out in my mind. Both involve Division I FCS schools, and they both involve the Colonial Athletic Association.
Last Saturday, James Madison University of the CAA took down Division I FBS No. 13 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Today UMass, also of the CAA, traveled to Michigan Stadium and gave No. 20 Michigan a real football game, eventually losing 42-37. UMass led for much of the first half, and came extremely close to pulling off an Appalachian State-esque upset.
With the CAA making waves, there have been whispers of the conference moving into the FBS and replacing the lowly Mid-American Conference (MAC). What do we make of this? What should happen? More importantly, what will happen?
First of all, I think the CAA is definitely underrated as a conference. FBS opponents, especially BCS opponents, are expected to beat these teams in massive blowouts. As we have seen, this is certainly not always the case. Although the FCS is generally weaker, they have been able to grab wins away from the Big Boys, with the CAA winning 19 games against the FBS since 2000, with at least one win coming in eight of the last nine years.
The MAC is widely regarded one of the weakest FBS conferences. In 2009, the MAC went 0-5 in bowl games, and managed just three wins against BCS opponents, with MAC victories over Colorado (by Toledo), Michigan State (by Central Michigan), and Purdue (by Northern Illinois). The only win that stands out is Central Michigan's victory against Michigan State, a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team.
The previous year, the MAC won four games against BCS opponents, but again went 0-5 in bowl games. I think's it a reasonable assumption that there are at least a few CAA schools that could beat MAC schools, such as UMass, James Madison, and defending FCS champion Villanova.
In my personal opinion, the CAA overall isn't quite good enough to move up to the FBS, and the MAC isn't weak enough to move down. They're probably almost equal, so there's no reason to flip-flop.
It's even more unlikely on a practical level. There's a lot of politics in college football, so there's absolutely no way the MAC would allow themselves to be demoted, especially when there's talk of expansion. And there's no way the FBS conferences commissioners and directors would allow the CAA to be promoted, since they generally prefer the status quo. Plus, the adjustment the CAA teams would have to make going from a playoff to the BCS would be huge.
In the end, things will stay as is, but there's no stopping the debate.