We are closing in on the conclusion of my attempt to reshuffle the conferences in college football. The Sun Belt, Conference U.S.A., the M.A.C., and the Mountain West have been retooled. The Central Conference and the Eastern Conference have been created. The Pacific Coast Conference and the Southwest Conference have been resurrected.
Kristin Davis gazes wistfully into the distance, awestruck by the power and elegance of the Dawg Sports proposal for radical conference realignment.
To what presently is Big Ten country we now turn, with an eye toward tweaking the major conference that exists in that part of the country. This latest effort at regional realignment will take the form of what I call the Midwestern Conference, the composition of which is as follows:
Eight of the 11 teams currently calling the Big Ten home have been incorporated into the newly-forged Midwestern Conference, but a few teams that inexplicably were excluded from the regional mix have been absorbed into the new league, as well.
I.S.U. always has been the odd man out in the Big 12. (The next time you're trading bar bets with your buddies, ask them if they can name all the members of the Big 12 off the top of their heads. Unless they're Dawg Sports readers or Iowa State alumni, I'd be willing to bet that they'll come up with 11 teams . . . and the Cyclones will be the team they forget. Whether you should be hanging out with guys who don't read Dawg Sports is a separate conversation.) It's high time Iowa State was paired with its in-state rival.
Missouri likewise deserves to be treated as a Midwestern school and, regardless of whatever water may have flowed under whichever bridges in the past, this fact remains a fact: Notre Dame belongs in the same league as Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue. Period, paragraph, end of discussion. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something; every college football fan without a dog in that fight knows that's the truth. Finally, Miami (Ohio) has earned the promotion to senior status in a big-time football conference.
Naturally, the Wolverines and the Buckeyes each will serve as the other's permanent opponent from the opposite division, thus preserving the annual rivalry between the two. This means that the Maize and Blue will play the Fighting Irish on a rotating basis, which frees Michigan to schedule major non-conference competition in years in which the Golden Domers have rotated off of their slate. If, say, the Wolverines wanted to schedule . . . oh, I don't know . . . Georgia, they could do it.
You knew it was just a matter of time before The Movement was brought back into the discussion. (Cool helmet graphic courtesy The M Zone.)
Notre Dame's perennial competitor from the Northern Division would be the Spartans, with whom the Irish have much history, including commemorating the 900th anniversary of the Norman Conquest by playing for the tie and losing five straight series meetings in South Bend.
Because Iowa State and Missouri have history together---both were in the Big Eight from 1928 to 1995; both have been in the Big 12 since 1996---the Cyclones and the Tigers would play each other every year in the Midwestern Conference, as well.
The Golden Gophers, whose longstanding rivalries with Iowa and Wisconsin now will be Northern Division contests, will always take on the Fighting Illini from the Southern Division. The Hawkeyes did a three-game set with the RedHawks from 2001 to 2003, so we'll make Iowa-Miami (Ohio) an annual showdown, as well. That leaves Wisconsin and Purdue as the last of the yearly interdivision games.
When it comes time to play the Midwestern Conference championship game, you'll want to reserve seats for the SuperFans, because the only place such a contest can be held is right here:
Soldier Field. (Admit it . . . when you read those two words, you heard that "N.F.L. Films" guy's voice in your head, didn't you? If you let him go on for another minute or two, he'll say something about "tundra" and maybe quote a little Grantland Rice.)
I proudly present the Midwestern Conference.
Coming up next . . . last but by no means least, the refurbished Southeastern Conference and the last of the Division I-A independents.