January 12, 2011

Lookahead to 2011: Realignment at a glance

Only in college sports can 12 institutions of higher learning call themselves the Big Ten or 10 universities call themselves the Big 12.

Conference realignment was one of the major storylines of the offseason a year ago. Now that Auburn has beaten Oregon for the 2010 national title, it's time to take a look at next season.

All the changes in conference alignment can get confusing (for example, is Indiana a Big Ten Leader or a Big Ten Legend?). As you prepare for next season, here's a refresher of all the conference changes in college football:

Big Ten: Nebraska (from the Big 12) will join the conference in the Legends Division; they'll be in the division with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern. The Leaders Division will house Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin. The division winners will face each other in the first Big Ten championship game on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium. The game will be aired on Fox.

Pac-12: The former Pac-10 will change its name to reflect the actual number of teams in the conference. Colorado (from the Big 12) and Utah (from the Mountain West) join the league and will move into the Pac-12 South, along with Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and USC. The Pac-12 North will have California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington and Washington State. The Pac-12 championship game will not be a neutral-site game; instead, it will be at the stadium of the division winner with the best conference record. Like the Big Ten, the Pac-12 will air its title game on Fox on Dec. 3. As a 10-team league, the Pac-10 had a complete round-robin conference schedule. It will not have a round-robin anymore, but the league will retain its nine-game conference schedule.

Big 12: After losing Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 will be a 10-team league without a conference championship game. The Big 12 will move to a nine-game, round-robin conference schedule.

Mountain West: Boise State is leaving the WAC to join the Mountain West. Meanwhile, Utah leaves for the Pac-12 and BYU is becoming an independent in football. In 2012, TCU will leave the Mountain West to join the Big East. Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii will leave the WAC to join the Mountain West.

Western Athletic: The league is losing its premiere program, as Boise State is leaving for the Mountain West. In 2012, Texas State and UT-San Antonio will leave the FCS ranks and become members of the WAC, which is losing Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii after the 2011 season.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.


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