Radical Realignment 2007: M.A.C.

Daylight savings time has begun and the additional hour of sunshine has afforded me extra time within which to realign radically the college football conferences, lumping the weak sisters of Division I-A into Conference U.S.A., confining the Pac-10 to the coastal states, creating a contiguous W.A.C. that truly is Western, and reviving the Big West's dormant football tradition.

My realignment proposal has wisdom and justice, but it's a bit lacking in moderation.

As we work our way across the continent, establishing geographically unified league affiliations as we go, we now find ourselves in a position to cobble together an unusual yet intriguing combination of teams to form the new and rather distinctly improved Mid-American Conference:

Arkansas
Arkansas State
Iowa
Iowa State
Louisiana State
Louisiana Tech
Minnesota
Missouri
Nebraska
Wyoming

The Equality State, being the last Western enclave not yet incorporated into a conference, had to go here, alongside the Cornhusker State, which it borders. The remaining five states incorporated into this league (Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Missouri) are stacked one atop the other, as the eastern borders of the Hawkeye, Natural, North Star, Pelican, and Show Me States all are defined by the Mississippi River. This conference truly qualifies as "Mid-American."

Yes, that's right; Minnesota's state nickname is the same as the name of the first alternative-lifestyle superhero. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. . . .)

The oftentimes exciting Arkansas-L.S.U., Iowa-Iowa State, and Nebraska-Missouri rivalries are preserved, with the annual battle between the Cyclones and the Hawkeyes taking on added significance as a conference clash. If the thrilling Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day 2005 is any indication, a regular matchup between the Bayou Bengals and the Hawkeyes would be well worth watching. A series between the Cornhuskers and the Razorbacks likewise is apt to be spirited, even without factoring in the Big Red Machine's attempt to hire Houston Nutt away from the Hogs.

Arkansas State and Wyoming, located in remote outposts in sparsely populated areas, likely would benefit from the upgrade in attention, but, until then, the Cowboys and the Indians can face off on the frontier. Louisiana Tech, which makes its home in a fertile field for producing future N.F.L. talent, has shown some spunk over the years (losing to Auburn by two in 1990 and by seven in 2001, falling to Arkansas by four in 1997, beating Alabama in 1997 and in 1999, defeating Oklahoma State in 2002, and edging Michigan State in 2003) and could be poised to take advantage of an upgrade in its league affiliation.

Among the fringe benefits of the Bulldogs' inclusion in the league would be the increased likelihood that Louisiana Tech alumnus Terry Bradshaw could be persuaded to accept the post of M.A.C. commissioner. I mean, as conference commissioners go, Bradshaw would be zany like Jim Delany, wouldn't he? (Photograph from Louisiana Tech.)

Minnesota and Missouri, while not historic rivals, appear to be programs operating on about the same level, scoring occasional upsets and regularly competing for second-tier bowl berths. The similarly situated Golden Gophers and Tigers likely would enjoy a competitive series with one another. Beyond that, there's just something to be said for a league round-robin that annually includes Arkansas, Iowa, L.S.U., and Nebraska in the mix.

Coming soon . . . the revived Southwest Conference.

Go 'Dawgs!

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