This is the fourth part of my six-part 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 super-conferences whose champions will compete in a national semifinal. (How does "Football Four" sound?)
A newly-formed Eastern Conference would be one of these new 32-team conferences whose champion will earn a spot in the Rose Bowl against the Pacific 32 Conference champion reviving the Rose Bowl tradition of battling the best school of the Northeast versus the West Coast.
How will this Eastern Conference be formed?
The Eastern Conference would be split into the sixteen team Atlantic Coast and Rust Belt divisions. The conference will include the Big East (except South Florida and Louisville), the Northern ACC schools, along with Notre Dame, Army, Ohio State, the Michigan Schools, and some MAC schools. Notre Dame could have been swapped for a MAC school and played in the Midwest, but with the subway alumni and the Irish's history with Northeastern teams, I thought they would be a better fit in this bracket.
Atlantic Coast Division:
Carolina Region: Duke, UNC, Wake Forest, NC State- This is an incredibly strong pool for basketball, but the state of North Carolina has not historically had football powerhouses. Even with four BCS schools, this group is mediocre at best in terms of compelling football outside of ACC country. However, pooling the tobacco road schools together can also set up for some interesting rivalries.
Predicted Winners: NC State and UNC
Virginia Region: UVA, Va Tech, *James Madison, East Carolina
James Madison gets the call up to balance the region and will be tested to see if they can keep with their instate rivals after recently beating Virginia Tech. UVA and East Carolina have decent football programs, but Virginia Tech will be a consistent favorite in the pool.
Predicted Winners: Virginia Tech and UVA
Winner Plays for Virginia/Carolina Championship
Predicted Winner: Virginia Tech
Mid Atlantic Region: Maryland, West Virginia, Deleware*, Marshall- Similar to other Atlantic division pools, the Mid-Atlantic has some respectable teams. West Virginia is a clear favorite here and things may get interesting when Maryland returns to respectability
Predicted winners: West Virginia and Maryland
Northeast Region: UConn, BC, Buffalo, Syracuse- This pool shows you the lack of big time football North and East of State College, Pennsylvania. Boston College will return to competing against schools in area for the first time since leaving the Big East. If Syracuse can ever get out of its funk, this would be the strongest pool in the division.
Predicted winners: BC and UConn
Winner Plays in Northeast Championship Pool
Predicted Winner: West Virginia
Rust Belt Division (Readers please comment if you can think of a less patronizing, but just as accurate name for this division)
Pennsylvania Region: Pitt, Penn State, Akron, Temple- This pool will bring the traditional rivalry of PItt and Penn State with title implications of the line. Temple will also have a chance to play its in state rivals at home as a rising program in its own right.
Predicted Winners: Penn State and Temple
Classic Group: Notre Dame, Army, Rutgers, Navy- The one thing that this pool is not weak on is tradition and history. All four programs have won national titles (Rutgers dubiously split the 1869 championship with Princeton) and were powers in the pre-World War 2 era. Currently existing rivalries such as Notre-Navy, Army-Navy, Notre Dame-Army, and Navy-Rutgers will be maintained. This grouping will be a favorite for the Beano Cooks of the world and college football purists.
Predicted Winners: Navy and Rutgers
Winners of these two pools play for Old Time Championship
Predicted Winner: Penn State
Ohio Region: Ohio State, Cincinnati, Ohio, Miami (OH)- Ohio State is the clear dominant power in the region, but maybe a rivalry with Cincinnati can grow. The winners of the Ohio group will play the Michigan winners to maintain the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry unless either team has incredibly down year. In that case, the game would not be worth watching anyway.
Predicted Winners: Ohio State and Cincinnati
Michigan Region: Michigan, Michigan State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan- The Michigan pool is deepest and strongest pool in the conference with the two Big Ten Michigan schools and Central Michigan as the class of the MAC.
Predicted Winners: Michigan and Michigan State
Winners Play in Ohio/Michigan regional championship
Predicted Winner: Ohio State
Rust Belt Championship (Old Time vs. Ohio/Michigan winners): Ohio State defeats Penn State
Atlantic Coast Championship (Northeast vs. Virginia/Carolina): West Virginia defeats Virginia Tech
The Eastern Conference title game will be a new game played in the New Giants Stadium entitled the Empire Bowl.
Predicted Winner: Ohio State
The Eastern Conference seems to be the weakest of the four conferences. The Rust Belt division is also much stronger than the Atlantic Coast with traditional football powers such Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, and Notre Dame. A few eastern Big Ten powers save it from losing all of its credibility. This really seems to show the concentration of college football powers centers in the Midwest and the South.