The Misfits of College Football

These four are actually in a better situation than most of the Sun Belt.

These four are actually in better situations than most of the Sun Belt.

With teams changing conferences for better TV contracts at the expense of geography, there has become a high number of teams that are on Exile Island. These are schools that are in a conference that may not be a suitable fit for them.

10. Vanderbilt: SEC

The Commodores have revitalized their football program in the last decade winning three bowl games but are still far from winning a SEC title. Vanderbilt is the only school in the conference with an academic focus while the other 13 programs have boosters making deals with recruits off the books.

But the real issue is not that the SEC is wrong for Vandy as much as the ACC might be better. Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Duke and Boston College share Vanderbilt’s academic interests and could form some nice rivalries. Heck, the Demon Deacons and the Commodores have met the past four seasons so might as well play in the same league. Duke even won their division last year; something Vanderbilt has no chance of doing in the SEC East. That’s partly why James Franklin bolted for Penn State. Vandy should do the same with the SEC.

9. West Virginia: Big 12

The Big 12 was in need of reinforcements after being raided by practically everyone three years ago. West Virginia was in desperate need of a home as the Big East was imploding. The result was the strange union of a program in the Appalachian Mountains joining a conference with a Great Plains identity.

The Mountaineers have gone 6-12 in Big 12 play since joining in 2012. Pittsburgh and the “Backyard Brawl” was an exciting rivalry but now the closest thing to a rivalry WVU has left is … Iowa State. You can’t blame West Virginia though as it is making the best out of a tough situation. WVU’s men’s soccer team has joined the Mid-American Conference if that tells you how unusual things are. Note the MAC logos in the bottom right.

8. East Carolina: AAC

East Carolina is joining the American Athletic Conference this year. Too bad no one from the American Athletic Conference is near them. Conference USA was a melting pot of schools too but the Pirates could point to a history of rivalries in that conference. I liked Marshall, Southern Mississippi, and UAB for them. Plus, the American is a lateral move for the Pirates.

That’s a great looking court but will there be any rivalry games there?

7. San Diego: Pioneer

The only FCS school on the list is in a league that does not offer athletic scholarships for football. The Pioneer Football League is great for schools that are doing to the minimum of having a team on the FCS level so the other sports can remain Division I. San Diego though is the only conference member out West. The closest rival is all the way over in Iowa in Drake.

It’s not a disaster for the Toreros as they have won five PFL titles. Last year, however, San Diego disqualified themselves because they awarded improper financial aid to players.

Might be time to switch to a conference where that’s legal USD.

6. Rutgers: Big Ten

Getting use to seeing Rutgers in the Big Ten seems impossible. The Scarlet Knights better understand that folks in Big Ten country don’t want to see their team.

At all.

The Midwest has to hear New Yorkers hurl “Fly-Over Country” insults at them all the time and now you have a program from the New York area entering their conference? Good luck to any Big 10 team selling tickets when Rutgers comes to town.

5. Maryland: Big Ten

That's not going to match Penn State's helmet very well is it.

That’s not going to match Penn State’s helmet very well is it.

If Rutgers is a bad fit, than Maryland is even worse. The Terrapins with their rotation of crazy uniforms clashes with the traditional mindset the Big Ten has. Maryland has thrown away all the rivalries it made in the ACC to play… Rutgers?

What remains to be seen is how will this move impact recruiting. Maryland had access to the high school football strongholds of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina through its ACC rivals. Will those recruits want to play for a Big Ten school now? Will recruits in Michigan and Ohio want to play in Maryland? The Terrapins better pray the answer is yes to both questions or this move will backfire badly.

The Terps are happy today, we’ll see how long that holds up.

4. Connecticut: American

While Maryland left the ACC, Connecticut would probably trade anything to be in it. The American is mostly made up of former Conference USA programs in the South. Only Temple, a program that’s been passed between conferences like a hobo between train stations, is nearby. The Huskies will have to cultivate new rivalries and find a way to tap into the Texas and Florida recruiting markets to make this work. Or UConn can just bite the bullet in football every year and focus on its basketball teams. That will work too.

3. Massachusetts: Mid-American

UMass turned down an invitation from the MAC to become a member in all sports earlier this year. The move makes sense for the Minutemen as the Atlantic-10 is better for basketball but the football program is stranded. UMass will have to find a home in the next two years and the American is not buying for right now.

And nor should they. The Minutemen have been cannon fodder since joining FBS in 2012 going 1-11 both seasons. UMass must audition well or it will be Sun Belt or Independent for the Minutemen. Neither are good options.

2. New Mexico State: Sun-Belt

Speaking of Sun Belt, that leads us to New Mexico State, who will joined the conference this year after spending time as an independent. The Aggies were a loser in the dissolving of the WAC as the Mountain West didn’t want them. Problem is that is the only league that makes since for NMSU.

In the Sun Belt, New Mexico State will be spending most of its time playing against teams in Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. That will be tough recruiting players from that far away but to be fair, New Mexico State has never been able to recruit anyway. The Aggies have not played in a bowl game since, gulp… 1960.

Well look at the bright side NMSU, you have a live cam of them installing the new field at your stadium. If that cheers you up I don’t see how.

1. Idaho: Sun Belt

Come get your summer tan at Moscow, Idaho.

Come get your summer tan at Moscow, Idaho.

That’s right folks, because when you think Sun Belt you should think … Idaho? It was the only choice the Vandals had in terms of staying in the FBS. Idaho will blow their travel budget flying out to the opposite, diagonal corner of the country for away games. The school has returned to the Big Sky Conference in the other sports.

Like New Mexico State, Idaho is doing the best it can do by playing in the Sun Belt. Unlike New Mexico State, Idaho has had some recent success, going 8-5 and winning a bowl game in 2009. Just don’t mention the 4-32 record the past three seasons.

Both the Aggies and the Vandals need to have some success in their new league soon, as justifying the costs of FBS football in a conference you clearly don’t belong in is difficult.

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