Who's better, who's worse after the mass realignment
Posted: Thursday July 7, 2005 12:45PM; Updated: Thursday July 7, 2005 1:05PM
With little fanfare, college football's national landscape shifted dramatically last Friday. On July 1, 18 Division I-A football teams officially changed conferences. It was the culmination of a massive, nationwide realignment that began two summers ago when the ACC plucked Big East members Miami and Virginia Tech. The domino effect wound up affecting all but four of the sport's 11 Division I-A conferences.
To properly prepare for the 2005 season, you may find it helpful to study up on which teams are where and which leagues look different. The following is a breakdown of the new look and the potential competitive impact for the seven conferences affected. Note that the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC remain unchanged; Temple, formerly of the Big East,and Army, formerly of Conference USA, are now independents (though the Owls will join the MAC in 2006) and two schools, Florida Atlantic and Florida International, are new to I-A this season.
The 2005 Lineup
Added: Boston College Lost: None
State of the league: Slightly better
Breakdown: Though the Eagles aren't a national power like Miami and Virginia Tech, they've been a consistent bowl team in their eight years under head coach Tom O'Brien and should continue to be competitive, with occasional runs at the division title. The biggest attraction for the ACC, obviously, was the ability to split into divisions and stage a championship game, but whether it will be as compelling as the SEC or Big 12's remains to be seen. Now, the divisions appear to be unbalanced. The Coastal side has two established powers in the Hurricanes and Hokies, perennially competitive Georgia Tech and a recently successful Virginia team. On the Atlantic side, however, Florida State has towered over the other five teams for more than a decade, and while Clemson, Maryland and N.C. State have all shown recent flashes, none appears capable of becoming a consistent power if, as some suspect, the 'Noles soon suffer a tumble.
The 2005 Lineup
Added: Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida Lost: Boston College, Temple
State of the league: Better than last year, but still much worse than pre-2004
Breakdown: The Big East, crucified for its horrendous showing last season (in which Pittsburgh won the conference at 8-3 and got trounced by Utah in the Fiesta Bowl), remains the weakest of the six BCS conferences, but gains a potential powerhouse-in-the-making in Louisville. The Cardinals finished sixth in the country last season and, though they'll be taking a step up in competition, could still be the class of the league. Pittsburgh, under new head coach Dave Wannstedt, is also a rising program, and West Virginia has had several years of success under Rich Rodriguez. New coach Greg Robinson could rebuild once-proud Syracuse within a few years. Connecticut and South Florida are rising programs but still have a ways to go. And while the league does benefit from evicting bottom-feeder Temple, it remains to be seen whether Cincinnati will bring anything more to the table than Rutgers.
Breakdown: In Cincinnati, Louisville and TCU, the league loses three teams that had made a combined 13 bowl appearances over the past five seasons. Of the incoming programs, only Marshall has had similar success, and even the Thundering Herd have slipped the past couple seasons and recently lost coach Bob Pruett. UTEP had a breakthrough season last year under Mike Price but he may not be there much longer. Rice, SMU and Tulsa have been predominately horrible. UCF, though it went 0-11 last season, actually may have the most potential with accomplished coach George O'Leary and a tremendous recruiting base. The West division figures to be wide open most years, while Southern Miss should be the favorite in the East more often than not, facing competition this year from UAB and Memphis.