College Football Teams We'd Love to See Switch Conferences in 2020
Have you ever thought things set up pretty well for your team to excel, but you had a couple of powerhouse conference foes standing in your way? Are you sick of hearing about how your team dominates inferior competition and that's the reason it's held in such high regard?
Let's open up the transfer portal for entire college football teams for a season then, shall we? For 2020 only, any team in any conference can go anywhere. That presents some appetizing scenarios worth examining.
Some of you will scoff at the moves because of your blue-blood status in a certain conference. Feather-ruffling is fun, but remember these moves are designed to put your team in a position to make a lot of noise on a national scale.
In most cases, it's to put a very good team in a position to win a title. In others, it's to give an elite team more competition. Then there are some teams who play a particular style of football that would better fit into the framework of another conference.
Each move is independent of one another. For instance, in this hypothetical exercise, if Clemson moved from the ACC to another conference in one scenario, it would have no bearing on what move another team makes.
In other words, a Clemson-to-the-SEC situation would be awesome, but if we moved another team into the ACC in another slide, it's OK to discuss a showdown with Clemson because the Tigers would still be in the ACC in that particular scenario.
That's enough justification and rules. Let's take a look at the handful of college football teams we'd like to see change conferences next year (with the caveat they could go back to their original conference in 2021, if they want).
Boise State to the Pac-12
The Boise State Broncos pretty much ran roughshod over the Mountain West in 2019. They also opened the season with an upset of Florida State, proving they can hang with the big boys.
Coach Bryan Harsin's team went undefeated in the conference, cruising to the title and earning a date in the Las Vegas Bowl. Considering they return a lot of talent, including running back George Holani and quarterbacks Hank Bachmeier and Chase Cord, 2020 could be a big year for them yet again.
Let's see how they do in the Pac-12 for a season.
If last year's bowl date against Washington—a 38-7 walloping—is any indication, it may not be pretty, but the Broncos' youngsters have another year under their belts, the offensive line should be better, and it would be fun to see if they could hang.
The only real competition the Broncos faced in '19 was an overtime win over Wyoming and a seven-point victory over Colorado State, which happened despite losing their top two quarterbacks to injury over the course of a season.
While the Pac-12 has a couple of strong teams in Oregon and Utah and USC looks like it could be poised for a better year, the rest of the league has issues. Arizona State could be on the come-up, and Washington may be in line for a rebound season. But getting Boise in the mix would provide another possible quality team.
Every season, Boise is a mid-major powerhouse. It's time to see if the Broncos can keep that going in the Power Five.
Clemson to the SEC
This is the big one.
Playing in the ACC the past few years, Clemson looks like it's thumping Pop Warner competition every weekend; the conference just hasn't been able to consistently produce quality opponents the past few years.
While North Carolina, Miami, Florida State and others could begin to see an uptick soon, the Tigers temporarily moving out of the ACC would make that conference a free-for-all and give the other programs time to try to close the gap.
Also, how much fun would it be to see Clemson play an SEC schedule?
There's no question the Tigers could hold their own, as they've proven against Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M over the past few years. But with Clemson expected to be elite in 2020 with Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Justyn Ross and others, this would be the ideal time to ramp things up.
Imagine placing Clemson in the SEC East along with Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and hated rival South Carolina and giving the Tigers a rotational battle with Alabama or LSU. If they came out of that gauntlet with a loss, nobody would be complaining about their strength of schedule.
If that seems unfair, remember it's the slate SEC programs must play every year. Having coach Dabo Swinney's team facing it with so much talent would shut the critics up for good. Then, Clemson could move back home in a year and the ACC would be better-equipped to compete.
We can dream, can't we?
Memphis to the Big 12
If there was ever a mid-major match made in heaven, it would be Memphis heading to the Big 12. The Tigers' wide-open, high-octane offense is a perfect fit.
It would offer a lot of intrigue if they moved to the ACC, of course, where new coach Ryan Silverfield could battle former coach Mike Norvell, who left for Florida State. But playing in the Big 12 makes a lot more sense geographically and stylistically.
With quarterback Brady White entering his senior year with a ton of weapons surrounding him, like receiver Damonte Coxie and running back Kenneth Gainwell, 2020 would be the perfect opportunity for Memphis to announce its place in the upper echelon of offensive teams.
If the defense lags a good bit behind, what does that matter? Oklahoma has made a living in the Big 12 being one-dimensional. Defense is optional during the conference season.
Silverfield's team likely could hold its own in '20. Other than the Sooners, there are no guarantees in that league. Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and others have potential, but so would Memphis, right?
It sure looks good on paper, but that's where it will have to stay.
The Tigers look like a program that should repeat as the AAC champions, even though Cincinnati, UCF, SMU and Navy could pose a threat. There's nothing wrong with that conference, but everybody would be interested in seeing if Memphis could work in the Power Five.
Notre Dame to the Big Ten
With the way Notre Dame fashions its slate, the Fighting Irish's strength of schedule is hit or miss. That's what happens when you won't join a conference, which puts them in a precarious position with the College Football Playoff committee every year.
When the Irish went to the playoff in 2018, some said they were undeserving, despite an unblemished record. They didn't really beat any quality opponents. That talk got louder when Clemson dispatched the Irish in the national semifinal, even though it was soon obvious how formidable the Tigers were.
After another strong 11-2 season in 2019, the Irish look like they could be poised for another playoff run this year, and it would be awesome to see them put that to the test in the Big Ten.
Coach Brian Kelly's team routinely plays opponents from the league, such as Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State in recent seasons, but the Irish don't venture into the Big Ten as much as they used to, despite the geographic fit.
This scenario would make them.
Putting the Irish in the East division would be incredible since that side of the league already has Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan. Even putting them in the West with Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa and giving them a couple of strong East opponents would be fun.
There wouldn't be any groaning about Notre Dame's competition then. The Irish play Wisconsin, Clemson and USC in 2020 anyway, so this may be a moot point. But it would be even better if this was a long-term fix.
Oklahoma to the Big Ten
While we're in the Big Ten, let's remove Notre Dame and its stubbornness with regard to joining a conference and see how Oklahoma translates in the Big Ten.
In recent years, it's been obvious the Sooners wouldn't fit into the SEC. Georgia, Alabama and LSU ended their past three seasons in the College Football Playoff semifinals. But what about the Big Ten?
Moving the Sooners into that conference would strengthen the league's belief it is college football's elite conference and draw them a little closer to the SEC. It would also offer several more big matchups than OU has in the Big 12, where the Red River Rivalry and Bedlam Series are about all there is.
Last year, the Sooners and Baylor Bears played two classics, but who knows if that will continue now that Bears coach Matt Rhule is out of the equation?
It would also reunite Oklahoma with old rival Nebraska, which would be fun if the Sooners slotted into the West division. Matchups with the Cornhuskers, along with Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa would be interesting.
Pair the Sooners with the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes in the East and watch the fireworks. That battle with the Buckeyes would give defensive coordinator Alex Grinch another opportunity to beat his old mates, too.
With OU breaking in a new starting quarterback in 2020, it may not be as fun as it would have been the past three seasons, but it would add a lot of intrigue nonetheless.
Oklahoma State to the Pac-12
Oklahoma State is going to make plenty of noise in the Big 12 in 2020, but just think of how much fun it would be to see the Cowboys in the Pac-12.
Coach Mike Gundy has a team that would immediately make things more exciting out West, and before you scoff at a Midwest team being in the "Pacific" anything, Colorado's mountain-dwellers say, "Hi."
This exercise is about making some intriguing moves, and the Pac-12 doesn't have a whole lot of firepower in the upcoming season aside from Oregon, Utah and perhaps USC. So even though it would be robbing a Big 12 conference that is looking for powerhouses, why not combine forces?
Gundy's team welcomes back Heisman Trophy candidate running back Chuba Hubbard, 2018's Biletnikoff Award runner-up wide receiver Tylan Wallace and an exciting young quarterback in Spencer Sanders. There are some decent defensive pieces, too.
Oklahoma State would give the Colorado Buffaloes a more natural rivalry and would produce some fun showdowns.
Put them in the South with Utah, USC and Arizona State, and that division suddenly looks like it can compete with the North, which features Oregon, Washington and Stanford, three teams that have fared pretty well in recent years.
This may be the biggest stretch of all, but Oklahoma State in the Pac-12 would hold your interest, if nothing else. You'd want to watch, and isn't that the point of college football anyway?
Penn State to the ACC
If we're going to keep Clemson in the ACC, it's paramount for the Tigers to get some better competition. Right now, unless North Carolina can prove it figured them out for more than a season, it doesn't look like there will be much once again in 2020.
Year 2 of Scott Satterfield at Louisville could give Clemson a bit of a challenge—maybe. And the Tigers won't play Miami and its rebuilt defense unless it's in the conference title game.
But what if we added Penn State into the conversation? If you did that and put it in the Coastal to even out the powers, you'd have to schedule it to play cross-divisional games against coach Dabo Swinney's Tigers. At the very least, you'd expect them to battle it out in the conference championship game.
Putting Penn State in the ACC Coastal would also match it up against in-state rival Pitt, and that game is always fun. That's another reason to place the Nittany Lions here.
It's also exciting to think about coach James Franklin's best team in Happy Valley not having to navigate its way out of the rugged Big Ten East with Ohio State and Michigan. Putting them in the ACC Coastal gives them a better chance to play for a conference title.
This team with quarterback Sean Clifford, running back Journey Brown, elite linebacker Micah Parsons and others would be an exciting addition to a football conference that isn't quite ready for prime time yet, outside of Clemson.
And even if the Lions and Tigers didn't play in the regular season, who wouldn't want to watch those two powerhouses in the ACC championship game?
Tennessee to the ACC
If you have any presence in the college football social media landscape, over the past few years, you've heard Tennessee fans talk about how many Clemson players "should be playing for the Vols."
Trevor Lawrence's parents were Tennessee fans, and he wanted to play for the Vols as a kid. Travis Etienne heavily considered UT for a while during the recruitment process.
Tee Higgins grew up in the shadow of Neyland Stadium, as did Vols legacy Amari Rodgers, now a Clemson receiver and the son of Tennessee assistant and former national champion quarterback Tee Martin. Defensive end Justin Foster also makes this Big Orange List of Lamentations.
Why not give the Vols a chance to pay Clemson back on the field?
Tennessee enjoyed a nice second-half rebound in coach Jeremy Pruitt's second season as head coach, but the Vols are still blocked in the SEC East by Georgia and Florida. Jumping to the ACC would also give Tennessee a one-year hiatus from that every-year gauntlet against Alabama.
Yes, they'd probably have to play against Clemson, but the Vols actually may translate well in a rebuilding ACC. Putting them in that division would excite a fanbase itching to play important games again, and it isn't like putting them in the ACC would hurt the league.
A move by Tennessee wouldn't exactly add a powerhouse to the ACC, but it would be an ideal match. Clemson and Virginia Tech are quality geographical rivals, as are Virginia, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Georgia Tech.
If we're doing one-year switcheroos, this would make a lot of sense for all parties.
Texas A&M to the Big 12
During the Johnny Manziel days, Texas A&M's move to the SEC looked like it was going to go swimmingly. But thanks to the sputtering remainder of the Kevin Sumlin years, it never really took off.
Now that Jimbo Fisher is in College Station, if the recruiting is any indication, the Aggies could be competing with Alabama, LSU and Auburn every year soon enough. But why not send the Aggies back to their original stomping grounds for one year?
Everybody would want to see the hated, heated rivalry between Texas and Texas A&M kicked back up again somewhere other than the recruiting trail. Plus, both of those programs have budding potential for next year, but neither is expected to be a championship contender.
Putting them on the same field would be one of the most exciting matchups of the entire college football season.
The Aggies also could make a ton of noise in the Big 12 in signal-caller Kellen Mond's final season, especially considering there's no clear-cut favorite out there with Oklahoma facing some question marks. The Texas A&M translation looks better out West than it does in the SEC West.
Even though LSU has question marks of its own, the Bayou Bengals are coming off a national title. Alabama and Auburn look plenty tough enough, too. That division is the toughest in all of college football, and A&M is going to find tough sledding every year.
Watching them in the Big 12 in 2020 would be fun and strengthen the league. Let the Aggies come back to the SEC a season removed from battling for a conference title.