Has the Atlantic Coast Conference gone too far? In the ACC’s zeal to attain a 12th team, a move required to stage a championship game, the conference went too far – literally. On Sunday, the ACC invited Boston College to leave the weakened Big East Conference and join their newly formed super-conference. Boston College, eager to join college football and basketball’s big time rescinded their pledge to stand by the Big East, and joined a conference which made no sense for it to join.
In most conferences, teams can drive to their closest competitor’s campus or they can take a short flight. Conferences are geographically aligned, which makes sense because natural rivalries are fostered and regional interests are served best that way. However, Boston College’s two closest ACC rivals are Virginia, 552 miles away, and Virginia Tech, 707 miles away. The University of Miami, on the other far end of the conference, is 1,508 miles from BC.
To put that into perspective, let’s imagine that Rochester was placed in a Division I conference where its closet rival was the University of Iowa, and it would also compete against teams like Lousiana State, Colorado, and Baylor. That makes no sense whatsoever. Boston College should have stayed in the Big East. Even joining the Big Ten would have been a better move.
Big Ten Marriage?
If the Big Ten were to expand, there’s one team that really makes sense to invite. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not Notre Dame. The conference could really do its fan a favor and add Pittsburgh. The Panthers, even after assembling a powerful football program, were left at the alter by Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. Although Pitt has pledged to stay in the Big East, it just as soon would have bolted to the ACC if invited, as would have Syracuse or West Virginia. In the aftermath of ACC expansion, the Big East is no longer a football powerhouse conference, but the Panthers are still a powerful team.
Although the Big Ten claims that it isn’t interested in expanding right now, you’d have to be gullible to believe that the conference isn’t interested in putting an extra $20 million dollars in its coffers each year. Hence, you have to look behind the conference’s rhetoric to hear what it is really saying. “Not interested in expanding right now” is merely a euphemism for “not interested in expanding – until Notre Dame is interested in joining.”
But of course, Notre Dame does not want to share its exclusive television contract with NBC, nor do the Irish like the idea of sharing their guaranteed BCS bowl slot with 11 other candidates. If the Big Ten does finally decide to expand, they should look to Pittsburgh – a natural fit and a pretty bride, unlike Notre Dame, which understandably has cold feet.
And now to football
This week, for example, features a staggering slate of games that will match six of the conference top seven teams against each other. Purdue travels to Wisconsin, who battered defending national champion Ohio State. Michigan State goes to Minnesota, who led Michigan big in the fourth quarter only to blow an almost certain victory. Iowa goes to Ohio State in an elimination game, which will kill the loser’s chance at the Sugar or Rose Bowl. With those six teams and Michigan playing well right now, the Big Ten is probably the best conference in the country right now.
Although the conference is without a clear leader, Purdue and Michigan State have looked sharp. Michigan State’s John Smith in his first season, looks like the early favorite for National Coach of the Year honors. Michigan State has totally transformed under his direction. Purdue has changed a little too. The Boilermakers used to fling the football across the field – basketball on grass they called it. This year their offense is very balanced – 206 yards per game passing, 191 yards per game rushing, 31 points per contest – which makes them difficult to defend against.
The defense is what’s telling about Purdue, though. The Boilers are giving up only 246 total yards per game – fifth nationally and a measly 13 points per game. Right now, I’ll take Purdue over the rest of the conference.
Texas Tech’s Symons Is Real
Even in their own state, Texas and Texas A&M share the prestige, while Texas Tech, who has beaten both teams often since joining the Big XII, has to continually fight an uphill battle for its perception. Last season, Texas Tech’s last game of the regular season at Oklahoma was the de facto Big XII South Championship game. But instead of sending a message to the rest of the country, Tech lost 60-15 and shared second place with the also-ran Longhorns.
This season is different. Everyone is noticing Tech these days, but they’re asking whether this team is for real. It’s hard to ignore a team that scores 59 against A&M and gets over 600 yards each contest. But the question tends to be – are Texas Tech and B.J. Symons for real? The answers to those questions are surprisingly simple – Tech is good on offense, though the young defense can’t hold anyone at bay, and B.J. Symons – despite the system – is as good a quarterback as any in the country right now.
None of Leach’s other quarterbacks were as productive as Symons, and the last three were all Heisman finalists now playing on Sundays – Tim Couch, Josh Heupel, Kliff Kingsbury. Symmons should pass for an ungodly 5,500 yards this season, and if Tech can get win two of three against Oklahoma State, Texas, and Oklahoma, they will be partying at the Cotton Bowl. If they can sweep, they will play for a Big XII Championship as well as a shot at the Fiesta Bowl. Gimmick offense or not, Texas Tech cannot be taken lightly.
Tipton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.