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2012 college football relegation in action: Your team is going up (or maybe down)!

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What if college football had a relegation and promotion system, à la world soccer? If we'd installed our system before the 2012 season began, here's how things would've shaped up based on real-world standings. Your team's going to the Pioneer League! I'm sorry!


Back in May, we got so bored of the offseason and so jacked up about some soccer thing that we decided to make over all of college football and install a national relegation system. We had nothing better to do than to try and outnerd each other for a week. May, man.

Catch up with us by reading Kevin McCauley on what relegation is and how it works, Spencer Hall's case for making college football even more awesome, a seven-tier relegation plan stretching essentially from the BCS to NAIA, and Bill Connelly's seven-year simulation of such a system in action. Appalachian State hangs in the SEC for like the whole thing!

We want to touch back on this again when the May doldrums take hold, but it's time to take a look at how the upper few tiers would've played out this year under the simplest relegation plan we have at the moment: five geographical columns (one for each BCS conference minus the Big East), seven tiers in each column spanning BCS to NAIA, the worst team from each conference goes down, and the champion from each conference goes up. Bolt a 16-team playoff on top of this while we're at it, if you like, since we're in charge here now.

Let's start with the simplest one. (Though we're only doing the top four tiers here, for sake of brevity.) Each conference also includes average Sagarin ratings, both before and after relegation. Sagarin, since it's the best system that grades FBS and FCS teams alongside each other.


Tier 1 Pac-12 Sagarin

Stanford 9

Oregon 3


Oregon State 12

USC 17

Washington 42

Arizona State 25

Arizona 36

Utah 51

California 68

Colorado 143

Boise State+ 33

AVG before 42.83

AVG after 38.25

Tier 2 Mountain West Sagarin

Washington State- 88

Fresno State 37

San Diego State 59

Air Force 106

Nevada 71

Wyoming 110

Colorado State 118

UNLV 148

New Mexico 132

Utah State+ 18

AVG before 96.7

AVG after 88.7

Tier 3 WAC Sagarin

Hawaii- 153

San Jose State 30

Louisiana Tech 45

UTSA 109

Texas State 119

Idaho 165

EWU+ 83

AVG before 94.29

AVG after 100.57

Tier 4 Big Sky Sagarin

New Mexico State- 174

Montana State 85

Cal Poly 86

Northern Arizona 114

Sacramento State 149

Northern Colorado 166

Southern Utah 134

Montana 151

North Dakota 145

UC Davis 157

Portland State 161

Weber State 171

CSU-Pueblo+ ?

Idaho State- 219

AVG before 147.08

AVG after ?

In our full system, we start putting multiple conferences into each column's tier (made-up jargon!) around the Tier 4 mark, but the Pac-12 column doesn't really have that going on, since west coast teams and conferences are more spread out.

Though Washington State finished with a better record than Colorado and was quite clearly the better team by the end of the year, the Buffaloes still beat Wazzu, and according to the Pac-12's tiebreakers, Mike Leach's Cougars get kicked down a level. Lucky for Colorado, which would've struggled in the Tier 3 WAC, let alone the Tier 2 Mountain West. Crashing the Pac-12 party is MWC champion Boise State -- as in, they're not going way out to the Big East next year. See how this makes so much more sense than realignment already?

Utah State earns its way into the MWC (which it's joining anyway in real life), while Hawaii earns its way back into the WAC (which it just left in real life). Also, our plan preserves the existence of WAC football. Another neat thing we've got going.

Dropping to Tier 5 here: 1-10 Idaho State. Rising is Colorado State-Pueblo, which went 12-0 before getting knocked out of the Division II quarterfinals.

Big 12

Tier 1 Big 12 Sagarin

Notre Dame 2

Kansas State 5

Oklahoma 8

Texas 15

Oklahoma State 14

Baylor 19

TCU 26

BYU 24

Texas Tech 28

West Virginia 29

Iowa State 39

Tulsa+ 57

AVG before 24.67

AVG after 22.17

Tier 2 Conference USA Sagarin

Kansas- 87

UCF 48

ECU 89

SMU 75

Marshall 115

Houston 113

Rice 96

Memphis 131

UAB 147

UTEP 144

Tulane 160

Central Arkansas+ 90

AVG before 112

AVG after 107.92

Tier 3 Southland Sagarin

Southern Miss- 169

Sam Houston St. 53

SE Louisiana 167

McNeese State 108

S.F. Austin 150

N'western St. 177

Lamar 201

Ark-Pine Bluff 181

AVG before 144.5

AVG after 150.75

Tier 4 Pioneer Sagarin SWAC Sagarin

Butler 216 Nicholls State- 210

Drake 192 Alabama State 190

San Diego 189 Jackson State 196

Jacksonville 212 Alabama A&M 203

Dayton 213 Mississippi Valley 218

Marist 228 Alcorn State 237

Morehead State 230 Southern 220

Davidson 244 Prairie View A&M 226

Valparaiso 255 Texas Southern 240

Missouri Western+ ? Grambling State 241

Campbell- 246

AVG before 219.89 AVG before 215.2

AVG after ? AVG after 218.1

Oh, right. We put Notre Dame and BYU in the Big 12 back before the season began, since the Big 12 was the only top-level league without 12 or more teams and independence is forbidden in the new world. I think it worked out just fine, and considering how badly the Irish trashed Oklahoma, let's give them the Big 12 crown this year. Our Big 12 might also be the best and deepest conference ... ever?

Tulsa ends up swapping with Kansas, making a ridiculous conference even tougher (and possibly giving the Big 12 100 percent bowl participation, if that trade had happened before the season), while Central Arkansas' purple field moves one step closer to hosting Notre Dame. Sam Houston State, a FCS finalist, is another who could soon make C-USA much tougher. We've also saved C-USA from shipping all its teams to the Big East, by the way.

Also, by the numbers, Tulane would've been a threat to lose the Tier 3 Southland. In real life, they're going to play in a BCS league next year. We really should be in charge of this sport.

At the Tier 4 level, we have two conferences packed in. To determine who moves up and down from these, let's have promotion and relegation games during conference championship weekend, yes? I have Arkansas-Pine Bluff beating Butler, while Grambling State vs. Campbell is almost too grisly to pick.

Relegation in 2011 would've been very kind to Southern Miss, which would've played in the 2012 Big 12 thanks to their C-USA title -- and would've had a great excuse for going 0-12. You're now imagining Southern Miss' offense against Notre Dame's defense.

Big Ten

Tier 1 Big Ten Sagarin

Wisconsin 22

Ohio State 13

Nebraska 23

Michigan 21

Penn State 35

Northwestern 32

Michigan State 40

Purdue 64

Minnesota 72

Indiana 76

Iowa 69

NIU+ 41

AVG before 49.42

AVG after 42.33

Tier 2 MAC Sagarin

-Illinois 126

Kent State 58

Ball State 73

Toledo 70

Bowling Green 79

Ohio 101

Central Michigan 125

Buffalo 140

Miami 135

Western Michigan 121

Eastern Michigan 155

UMass 183

North Dakota St.+ 44

AVG before 111.77

AVG after 108.46

Tier 3 Missouri Valley Sagarin

Akron- 172

South Dakota St. 81

Illinois State 103

Indiana State 95

SIU 102

Youngstown St. 99

Northern Iowa 93

Missouri State 146

W. Illinois 191

Albany+ 164

AVG before 113.2

AVG after 124.6

Tier 4 Ohio Valley Sagarin Northeast Sagarin

South Dakota- 178 Wagner 176

Eastern Illinois 124 Monmouth 205

E. Kentucky 107 St. Francis 207

UT-Martin 111 Bryant 232

Jacksonville State 133 Duquesne 206

Tennessee State 138 Robert Morris 221

Murray State 141 Cent. Conn. St. 235

SE Missouri St. 179 New Haven+ ?

Tennessee Tech 180

Austin Peay 200

Sacred Heart- 234

AVG before 147.7 AVG before 208.89

AVG after 149.1 AVG after ?

The Big Ten finally establishes a football presence in Illinois, with IRL Orange-bound NIU replacing the Illini.

The numbers get pretty amusing here, with Tier 3 North Dakota State (another FCS finalist) showing up as middle-of-the-Big Ten quality. Their defense has been even more dominant at the FCS level than Alabama's has at the FBS, so there's little doubt here they'd hang tough, but still. I'd bet they could beat Illinois, though.

The MAC gives up its first-ever BCS bowl participant and takes on one of the worst Illinois teams ever, but barely budges in overall quality. That's how good NDSU is and how bad Akron is. The Zips might've struggled in Tier 4's Ohio Valley, let alone Tier 3.


Tier 1 ACC Sagarin

Florida State 16

Clemson 27

North Carolina 50

Miami 55

Georgia Tech 63

N.C. State 67

Virginia Tech 66

Duke 80

Wake Forest 117

Maryland 105

Virginia 97

Louisville+ 52

AVG before 72.08

AVG after 66.25

Tier 2 Big East Sagarin

Boston College- 122

Cincinnati 47

Rutgers 49

Syracuse 54

Navy 77

Pitt 61

UConn 100

Temple 104

Army 152

Old Dominion+ 120

AVG before 79

AVG after 86.57

Tier 3 CAA Sagarin

USF- 94

Richmond 139

New Hampshire 158

Villanova 137

Towson 129

James Madison 154

Maine 168

Delaware 185

William & Mary 186

Georgia State 225

Colgate+ 173

AVG before 167.28

AVG after 158.91

Tier 4 Ivy Sagarin Patriot Sagarin

Penn 195 Rhode Island- 239

Harvard 156 Lehigh 175

Brown 188 Georgetown 217

Dartmouth 197 Lafayette 211

Princeton 182 Holy Cross 214

Cornell 215 Fordham 194

Columbia 233 Bucknell 231


Yale- 236

AVG before 200.25 AVG before 202.14

AVG after ? AVG after 211.57

According to Sagarin (and the naked eye), the worst top-tier conference trades Boston College for Louisville, which is actually a pretty regular request on ACC Twitter. Maryland's stuck here, since we'd decided to lock in realignment back in May. There's nothing you can do about it.

The Big East tumbles from a BCS league to a Tier 2 conference, but it does manage to be the best at its level. Typical Big East luck strikes again, however, with the USF-for-Old Dominion trade actually making the conference worse. It's not easy to lose both coming and going, but the Big East does it.

Also, Division II runner-up Winston-Salem State is in the Ivy League now. They could've gone in the Patriot League instead, but then I wouldn't get to say, "Winston-Salem State is in the Ivy League now."


Tier 1 SEC Sagarin

Alabama 1

Georgia 7

Florida 4

LSU 11

Texas A&M 6

South Carolina 10

Vanderbilt 31

Mississippi State 38

Ole Miss 34

Missouri 43

Arkansas 65

Tennessee 56

Auburn 82

Arkansas State+ 46

AVG before 34.29

AVG after 31

Tier 2 Sun Belt Sagarin

Kentucky- 92

Louisiana 60

ULM 62


WKU 78

Troy 91

North Texas 112

FIU 123

FAU 128

Georgia Southern+ 74

AVG before 94.7

AVG after 90.4

Tier 3 SoCon Sagarin

South Alabama- 163

Wofford 98

Appalachian State 116

Chattanooga 127

Samford 136

Citadel 142

Furman 170

Elon 184

Stony Brook+ 130

AVG before 138.44

AVG after 140.66

Tier 4 Big South Sagarin MEAC Sagarin

Western Carolina- 199 Bethune-Cookman 162

Coastal Carolina 159 Howard 208

Liberty 187 North Carolina A&T 193

Charleston South. 227 Delaware State 198

Gardner-Webb 222 N.C. Central 202

VMI 238 S.C. State 204

Presbyterian 242 Florida A&M 209

Hampton 224

Norfolk State 223

Morgan State 229

Valdosta State+ ?

Savannah State- 243

AVG before 200.71 AVG before 208.64

AVG after 210.57 AVG after ?

So close to Arkansas State flipping with Auburn, which would've meant Gus Malzahn ditching a SEC job for a Sun Belt job.

Georgia Southern arrives as an immediate Sun Belt contender, according to Sagarin, while South Alabama heads back down after a lone year at its current level.

Also, New York's Stony Brook is now in the Southern Conference, with a shot at the Sun Belt soon. The Seawolves are headed to the much more geographically appropriate CAA in real life, and we might ought to let that one happen. NAHHHHHH.

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