Room for out-of-conference rivalries in college football's new world order?
College football needs Michigan vs. Notre Dame. It needs Florida vs. Florida State. The sport needs traditional rivalries played every year. Don't ask me why, but there’s something great about knowing Iowa and Iowa State are going to square off every year in September.
Before any schedule is released, you already know Notre Dame vs. USC is going to be the last Saturday in November every other year when the game is played in L.A. It’s almost comforting when you know Georgia will meet Georgia Tech and Clemson will take on UGa. in the Palmetto Bowl.
These are all traditional non-conference matchups. They play for interesting trophies like when Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio) have met 118 times for the Victory Bell. And they have fun nicknames for the rivalry like when Utah and Utah State tangle each year in the Battle of the Brothers.
Games between non-conference rivals create intrigue even in years where the teams may not be as good as in years’ past. Take Iowa and Iowa State this Saturday. When the two meet for the Cy-Hawk Trophy, the game will be on ESPN despite some struggles from each squad.
While Oregon meeting Michigan State is nice, there’s still something about traditional rivalry games that lead to memories. My greatest two football memories as a student at Miami (Fla.) came against Florida State (at the time a non-conference opponent) and Florida. Great games, great memories.
Saturday’s impressive shutout of Michigan by Notre Dame is the last time we’ll see those teams play for some time, barring a bowl committee pitting the former rivals. The Irish get more ACC teams instead of the Wolverines – on a rotating schedule. It’d be one thing if Florida State or Miami were replacing Michigan on a permanent basis. Notre Dame will entertain Wake Forest, Syracuse and Duke before they play the Wolverines for the 43rd time.
Losing these games hurts as a college football fan. Sure, they may get some good games against an improving ACC, but just ask someone who played and now coaches in it.
"Being around it so long, watching these rivalry games as kids then growing up there was always that excitement for the big games," Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said. "As you know now, you've got football on all day in every market. When you lose some of these games; I don't know if it's best for college football."
Would a Baylor player remember his trip upcoming trip to Buffalo more than a game against Texas A&M in the now-ended Battle of the Brazos? Hard to imagine. The beauty in so many of these? The players love them. They sometimes played against their opponents in high school, or maybe even played with them in the matchups between in-state, non-conference rivals.
Miami and FIU reached an agreement for future games. It may not register now, but in 100 years? You never know.
-- Doug Kroll, NCAA.com
If you were in love and saw your significant other 42 times in 127 years, you’d probably think … well, this isn’t working out. And yet, that’s the “storied rivalry” between Michigan and Notre Dame? C’mon folks, that’s literally a once-in-a-blue-moon love affair. (Really, look it up.)
Conferences hold the power in college football. Aside from the occasional regular season out-of-region matchup, conference games will remain the bread-and-butter of teams’ schedules. Thanks to the College Football Playoff, there just isn’t an appetite for contenders to knock heads.
To expect out-of-conference regional or national rivalries to continue on an annual basis is ignoring the driving force behind every would-be College Football Playoff contender: money. Losing a game – even to another nationally ranked team – could be the death knell for the season.
After losing out-of-conference games on Saturday, it’s fair to say Michigan State, which dropped from No. 7 to 13th in the AP poll, and Ohio State, which plummeted to No. 22 from eighth, are hoping for miracles to get back into the CFP conversation.
No one is saying these rivalry games aren’t good for the fans – but fans’ jobs aren’t on the line. Athletics directors and coaches aren’t going to roll the dice on a 10-2 season – with both losses coming to a “traditional non-conference rival” – and lose a possible CFP berth just so Joe Fan can revel in beating Powerhouse U.
I get it; rivalries helped build the game – regionally and nationally. However, the halcyon days of Grantland Rice expounding the grandiose of Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden went to pasture with the fabled Four Horsemen. (And the Notre Dame-Army game from which the Four Horsemen were birthed, the series was the result of Notre Dame getting shunned by the now-Big Ten and forced to schedule games from coast to coast.)
In today's model, Mr. AD will schedule Directional School U., chalk up the W and focus on winning the conference. That is a more sure-fire way to be in the CFP conversation.
If fans want more regional and national matchups of powerhouses, that can come with a few changes to the CFP: Expand the field to 16, with the top 32 teams are paired off each season (with a nod to regional proximity in early round matchups) and change the bowl structure; 6-5 doesn’t cut it and not everyone deserves a trophy.
With regional matchups in the postseason, these “rivalry” games would have even more meaning. After all, we’re talking about the same top 35-40 teams year-in, year-out. A survive-and-advance win for Notre Dame would carry much more weight than a 31-0 pasting of Michigan in the regular season – especially if the Irish cannot crack the four-team College Football Playoff.
That said, the Four Horsemen will saddle up again before those things happen …
-- Duane Cross, NCAA.com