This is the second part of my six part of series about how to legitimize the national championship in college football by turning the regular season into a long playoff. For more details about the format on a national scale check out the first article by clicking here or my bleacher report archive.
As part of the new "playoff season structure", all of the Division I FBS will be divided into four superconferences whose champions will compete in a national semi-final (How does "Football Four" sound?) and a spot in the Rose Bowl against the Eastern Conference champion. How will this Western Conference be arranged? Below I have listed the expansion and realignment of Pac-10 conference to form the Pac-32 Western Conference that will fit all of the team west of the Rockies. Each conference is broken into two sixteen team divisions. For the Pac 32 it is Pacific and Mountain division whose champions face off in the Fiesta Bowl for the conference title. I will also break down the strength of each pool and my predicted winners based on early season results.
Breakdown of Pac 32 Conference by Pool and Region
Pacific Division (* means team added from FCS to create even 128 team tournament):
Southern California Group:
USC, UCLA, Hawaii, and San Diego State- A solid pool with USC as the clear dominant power of the group. USC and UCLA would advance to the California Championship in most years, but Hawaii and its unique home field advantage can make things interesting (and possibly block UCLA from bowl games).
Predicted Winners: USC and UCLA
Northern California Group:
Stanford, California, Fresno State, San Jose State- While this pool lacks a national superpower like USC in the SoCal pool, the Northern California Pool contains three consistently strong programs in Cal, Stanford, and Fresno State. New rivalries of the Bay Area schools with Fresno State would make compelling games as the battles of Silicon Valle versus the Central Valley. It would be a pretty unpredictable race every year except for San Jose State's reservation of the cellar.
Predicted Winners: Stanford and Fresno State
Winners of these two pools face off in the California Championship Pool
Predicted Winner: Stanford
Washington, Washington State, Boise State, Idaho- Boise State would now have a legitimate chance of winning a national title by winning its pool and facing the Oregon schools in the regional championship. This pool looks weak with the Washington schools being down, but when the Huskies come back to prominence a budding rivalry with the Broncos would make things interesting.
Predicted Winners: Boise State and Washington
Oregon, Oregon State, Montana*, Montana State*- The Montana schools are some of the stronger FCS schools so they have a chance of being competitive in the long term. However the Oregon schools would dominate this pool in this scenario. Due to the strength of Oregon and Oregon State's programs, putting the FCS schools in this pool evens out the Pacific Northwest region.
Winners of these two pools play in Pacific Northwest Regional Championship
Predicted Winner: Boise State (they have had Oregon's number recently)
Nevada and Arizona Group:
Nevada, UNLV, ASU, Arizona- This pool reminds of a weaker version of the Northern California pool. However, some interesting desert rivalries can intensify with elimination on the line (ASU vs. Arizona and Nevada vs. UNLV for example).
Predicted Winners: Arizona and Nevada
New Mexico and West Texas Group:
New Mexico, New Mexico State, UTEP, Texas Tech- Texas Tech is clearly a step above the other programs in its pool and would coast to regionals until competition improves. UTEP also looks pretty safe for 2nd place for the time being until the New Mexico schools improve
Predicted Winners: UTEP and Texas Tech
Winners of the these two pools face off for Southwest Regional Pool:
Predicted Winner: Arizona
Utah Group: Utah, BYU, Utah State, Wyoming
The intrastate rivalries in Utah will intensify with playoff berths on the line. The Holy Wars with Utah and BYU in the first two rounds will guarantee one gets knocked by the other before the Sweet 16. Wyoming has the closest geographical fit to these schools. The winner of the division would usually be favored against the Colorado Champion
Predicted Winners: Utah and BYU (may be close versus Utah State)
Colorado Group: Colorado, Colorado State, Air Force, *Northern Colorado
This may be the weakest of the Pac 32 divisions, but a four way intrastate rivalry pool would make things interesting for Rocky Mountain fans.
Predicted Winners: Colorado and Air Force
Winners of these two pools play in the Utah and Colorado region
Predicted Winner: Utah
Divisional Title Games:
Mountain Division Title (Colorado/Utah winner versus Southwest Champion): Utah versus Arizona
Predicted Winner: Utah
Pacific Division Title (Northwest vs. California Champ) Stanford vs. Boise State
Predicted Winner: Boise State
Fiesta Bowl (Pacific vs. Mountain): Boise State defeats Utah for Rose Bowl
Overall the Pacific Division seems to be stronger than the Mountain division, but that's how the geography settles out. I think that the pool system will create or restore some compelling West Coast rivalries and make for an interesting conference season.
For more of Nick's work, check out his website commonsensemag.com