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How would a college football Super League look? Let’s imagine a 48-team version

Andy Staples head shotby:Andy Staples03/04/24


Cole Cubelic, Andy Staples Construct What Teams Get Added To Potential Super League Starting With Big Ten, Sec | 03.04.24

Since I’m now accepting the likelihood that there will be some sort of college football Super League sooner rather than later, we may as well imagine how that might look. History tells us that this process is never clean, so this probably won’t nail the format. But I’m going to try to think like a television executive, since those probably are the people whose opinions would carry the most weight.

First, let’s assume the Big Ten and SEC continue to work together but don’t actually merge. It would be cleaner if they did, but we’re now dealing with dueling TV networks. Let’s also assume this is just for football. The other sports remain governed by the NCAA as we know it, and their championship formats remain the same even if some schools change conferences.

Let’s also be realistic and assume the Big Ten and SEC won’t be kicking out anyone currently residing in the league. That’s going to frustrate fans who think their team deserves a spot over, say, Indiana or Vanderbilt. Leagues kicking out teams is probably less likely than the biggest brands leaving to form their own league. (But that’s another hypothetical column entirely.) 

My guess is that a TV executive would set the ideal number of teams for the Big Ten and SEC — which you can feel free to compare to the NFC and AFC — between 40 and 50. I’m going to set the number at 48 (24 per conference) because it’s divisible by six, eight, 12 and 16. Meanwhile, 24 is divisible by six, eight and 12. That offers the most flexibility for divisions and for postseason formatting. Plus, I’d like to include more teams rather than fewer. But I don’t know that the TV folks would be willing to go to 56 or 64. 

I also have zero confidence in the leagues in the real world agreeing on having the same number of teams. But this is a pie-in-the-sky exercise.

Here’s how the conferences might look:

Big Ten

Penn State
Florida State
North Carolina

East(ish) Midwest
Michigan State
Notre Dame

West(ish) Midwest
Ohio State



NC State
South Carolina

West Virginia
Virginia Tech

Ole Miss
Mississippi State

Texas A&M 
Texas Tech
Oklahoma State
Kansas State

As for who made the cut and who didn’t, I sincerely apologize if your team isn’t listed. I can’t imagine major college football without N.C. State, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Kansas State and Utah. So I found places for those teams. But in the real world one or two of those might get bumped for Arizona, Arizona State or both. I also went with public school politics winning the day in Texas and added Texas Tech to the SEC, but history tells us that Baylor and TCU (and SMU) have a lot of friends in the state house in Austin. Perhaps one of those might find their way in. Also, a more forward-looking TV exec might look at the enrollment and alumni profile of UCF and decide it belongs in the Super League based on potential fan base size.

Meanwhile, I put Notre Dame in the Big Ten because it seemed the more natural fit. As precious as football independence is to the Fighting Irish, something like this would push Notre Dame into a conference. I also added Florida State to the Big Ten because that league simply needs some better programs if it wants to compete with the week-to-week bangers the SEC would be putting out with this alignment.

I’m assuming the leagues could make rules ensuring rivalry games get played. I kept Michigan and Ohio State in separate divisions to balance them out, but with only five division games, there’s plenty of room for a rivalry game that isn’t a division game.

How would the postseason work? They probably could ditch the idea of a selection committee and go with objective criteria. As SEC commissioner Greg Sankey once mused during a particularly contentious period in the creation of the 12-team College Football Playoff (RIP in advance), the leagues could stage their own tournaments and keep all the TV money for themselves. 

A three-round, eight-team tournament in each league would feature the four division winners and the four teams with the next-best records. The SEC could play the first two rounds on campus and crown its champion in Atlanta (or New Orleans, or Houston, or wherever). The Big Ten could play its first two rounds at home and crown its champion in Indianapolis (or Los Angeles or wherever). Then the champions of each league would meet at a neutral site and play for the national title.

The only question is what we’d call a neutral-site game pitting the champs of two conferences in a winner-take-all showdown…