Monday, October 17, 2011

Missouri to SEC: Now The Big East Needs To Worry

One of the huge dominos in the conference expansion may be close to falling. Missouri is planning on applying to the SEC and the conference reportedly has the votes to admit them in. This is huge news that will impact the entire country.

What does this mean?

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE. The SEC has 14 teams now, the same as the ACC. It looks as if the conference will stop at that number. All there is to do now is move one of the West teams to the East and figure out the scheduling. The team most likely to move would be Auburn, which would be quite interesting. Splitting Bama and Auburn could mean the two teams meet in the SEC title game.

SEC EAST: Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
SEC WEST: Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Miss State, Missouri, Texas A&M

BIG XII CONFERENCE. Now the Big XII is down to 9 teams again. They will lose A&M and Missouri and gain TCU. The league and the members want to get back to 12 teams ... meaning they must find three schools to join in. Since BYU isn't interested anymore (though the Big XII should revisit), the plan is to head east. Louisville, West Virginia and, possibly, Cincinnati should be on the list. Boise State and Air Force could be, but the MWC-CUSA merger may stop all that (more on that later).

BIG XII NORTH: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, West Virginia
BIG XII SOUTH: Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech.

BIG EAST. In short, done. With Missouri leaving the Big XII, the Big XII will look to loot the Big East for three teams. Right now, only six schools play football in that conference. If the Big XII rips half of that, only three remain: Rutgers, UConn and South Florida. UConn would then beg the ACC to let them in. Either way, the Big East football conference could be done. The Mountain West-Conference USA merger has kept those schools thinking twice about moving to the Big East. A raid by the Big XII would completely scare those schools off. Seriously, they'd have a better chance gaining a BCS berth with the MWC-CUSA merger than a rebuilt Big East.

ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE. While the ACC isn't in the mood to expand, if the opportunity to snag Notre Dame happens they will jump all over it. Then they will add UConn to be the 16th member. If Notre Dame gets scared into joining a conference, the ACC would be the most likely landing spot.

ACC NORTH: Boston College, Connecticut, Maryland, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech
ACC SOUTH: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest

MOUNTAIN WEST AND CONFERENCE USA. In reality, neither conference is now all that concerned with being looted. For those who don't know, the MWC and C-USA have agreed to have a football alignment where the champs from both conferences will play to create a sort-of champion. They think this could entice the BCS to consider the winner to be BCS bowl worthy. It could be. It probably won't be. But it would be closer than anything the Big East could offer.

Sure, East Carolina and a few other schools could bolt for the Big East but it won't bother these conferences too much ... as long as Boise State sits still.

BIG TEN AND PAC-12. It seems as if both leagues are cool with the memberships they have. Sure, Rutgers is out there and attractive to the Big Ten but unless they can find someone to join them (and under this plan, they don't) I don't see them making any move.

Friday, October 7, 2011

NFL May Need NBA-Style Lottery System

The Kansas City Chiefs will travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts. This game could help shape these franchises for the next decade. The loser could be in the driver's seat to the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and be able to select one Andrew Luck.

Sure, it is only October but this is a huge game in the race for Luck.

Luck is everyone's choice to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. Even if the Colts, who just re-signed Peyton Manning to a zillion dollar deal, would take Luck first overall and develop him behind the legend ... a-la Aaron Rodgers.

With the wealth of really bad teams this year, we could see quite an interesting dynamic as the season winds down. Could teams really tank their last few games in order to gain that top pick and, therefore, Luck? Do you think that would really happen? It just may.

Remember, this is the new NFL where the top pick can't demand a huge contract he hasn't earned. The top pick scared everyone off before since you could be tied into a bust for a long time (see: Jamarcus Russell). So drafting Luck for a relatively small contract makes him even more attractive. Plus in a league that is so pass heavy right now, getting a franchise quarterback is quite a big deal.

Could we see the Colts, Chiefs, Dolphins, Vikings, Rams, Jaguars, Broncos or Seahawks tank games down the stretch to get a shot at Luck? Maybe. We could even see a team like the Carolina Panthers tank games in order to get the No. 1 pick and make a huge deal to someone who falls in love with Luck.

If we see this, the NFL may need to look at an NBA-style lottery. In the NBA, teams were tanking games in order to get the No. 1 pick. It works since the No. 1 pick in the NBA usually changes the entire dynamic of a franchise (Kareem, Magic, Shaq, LeBron, etc).

While that isn't always the case in the NFL, getting a perceived franchise quarterback is what teams are looking for. In the last 10 drafts, 8 of the top overall picks were QBs (and 10 of the last 13). While not all those guys became stars (Russell, Alex Smith, David Carr, Tim Couch) there have been some big picks (Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Michael Vick, Carson Palmer, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford).

Since the NBA has used the lottery, the team with the worst record in the league has won the top selection just 3 out of 27 times. Quite amazing. While tanking does give you a better chance at getting the top pick, it doesn't guarantee squat. Imagine if that happened in the NFL.

There may have to be some changes to what the NBA does. In the NBA, all non-playoff teams are eligible for the lottery. That's only 14 out of 30 teams. The NFL has 20 out of 32 teams miss the postseason. That's too many teams to put in the lottery. Maybe all teams with losing records? Maybe just the bottom 10 teams? Who knows, but the NFL may need to implement something to keep from watching teams rob their fans by tanking games.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

TCU to Big XII: Big XII's Shoots First Against Big East

The Big XII has invited TCU to join their conference and the school is reportedly ready to accept. That means that TCU, who is currently in the Mountain West Conference and were set to join the Big East conference in 2012, will be moving yet again.

It is huge for both TCU and the Big XII. For TCU, they still get to be in a BCS conference and one that looks like it should live on after all this craziness ends. They get to rejoin old Southwest Conference rivalries with Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor. Also, it would keep TCU from having to join a Big East conference that geographically could cripple other sports (especially basketball).

For the Big XII, they got their 10th member to replace Texas A&M ... who is leaving for the SEC next year. The league would still be stuck at nine if Missouri joins the SEC as well, but it would make the conference healthy enough to go after three more schools.

For the Big East ... well ... they are in deep trouble.

This is the second conference that has come calling for a Big East school. The ACC lured Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East a month ago. UConn has all but fawned over joining the ACC as well and Rutgers could join them. West Virginia is on the short list for the SEC, not to mention the Big XII could come calling for them as well.

It could get worse. If Missouri indeed does leave for the SEC, the Big XII would want to add three more schools to their conference. BYU is one, but Louisville and West Virginia could be others (Cincinnati falls in there as well). That would all but kill the Big East as a football conference.

This is quite a move considering what has happened in the last several weeks.

In the Great Expansion Race, both the Big East and Big XII seemed to be on the last legs. Once the Pac-10-12-16 decided to stay put at 12 members, that kept the Big XII intact (for now). When both conferences were facing extinction, the two league got together and were talking about a "merger". By "merger", the stronger conference would gobble up the lesser one. Up until the Pac-12's decision, it was thought that Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas and Kansas State would join the Big East ... which TCU was set to be a member of. Now the Big XII is a bit stronger and they could come after two or three Big East schools to get to the XII in Big XII.

The fact that the Big XII went ahead and did this is both cold and a smart decision. This puts the ball back in the Big XII's court and makes it more likely the conference will survive this mess. It pretty much writes the obituary for the Big East as well.

The Big East, right now, is left with UConn, Rutgers, West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida. Pittsburgh, Syracuse and TCU have left. UConn and Rutgers would love to leave to join the ACC (UConn is more likely to be invited). West Virginia would leave in a heartbeat for the SEC or Big XII. Louisville will also most likely be asked to leave for the Big XII.

While the Big East could conceivably rebuild around Cincinnati, South Florida, Villanova (who is thinking about stepping up to FBS status) and any other schools that stick around, their status as a BCS conference would probably be over. They'd have to raid Conference USA, MAC and/or the Sun Belt to even form a league. And adding East Carolina, Memphis and Marshall just doesn't bring sexy back to the conference. The reality could be that ECU, Memphis and Marshall wouldn't be that interested in moving to a broken Big East even for the basketball prestige. You may just see Cincinnati and South Florida join the MAC or C-USA in football and stay in the Big East for basketball.

The fact that TCU bailed on the Big East without ever playing a game as a member of that conference says it all.