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College football: Schools that step up a class are in for rugged times.

COMMENTARY — The lack of success in their new conferences by the likes of TCU, Utah and West Virginia has to have subliminal effects on the committee that will choose the four-team field for the College Football Playoff.
by Berry Tramel Published: August 6, 2014
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Conference realignment news has settled down. Conference realignment has not. Which means conference realignment effects haven’t, either.

No school has jumped ship in, what, 16 months? The ACC voted to add Louisville in November 2012. The Cardinals officially joined the ACC this summer, as did Rutgers and Maryland in the Big Ten. And we have a good idea how the newcomers will do.

The schools that come from a fellow power conference largely keep their identity and success rate. The schools that step up a class are in for rugged times. Which is bad news for the mid-majors that would like to crack the new College Football Playoff.

The new format leaves one automatic spot for a mid-major in either the Cotton, Fiesta or Peach bowls. Which is nice for the little guys. Boise State, TCU and Utah have proven that mid-majors can play big against the big boys. But even though the playoff format has expanded from two teams to four, don’t look for a mid-major to crack the code anytime soon.

The lack of success in their new conferences by the likes of TCU, Utah and West Virginia has to have subliminal effects on the committee that will choose the four-team field.

Truth is, the Frogs, Utes and Mountaineers have struggled to be reasonably competitive in their cushy new digs.

TCU went 12-1, 13-0 and 11-2 in its final three seasons as a Mountain West Conference member. The Frogs have gone 7-6 and 4-8 in two Big 12 seasons.

Utah went 13-0, 10-3 and 10-3 in its final three Mountain West seasons. The Utes have gone 8-5, 5-7 and 5-7 in the Pac-12.

West Virginia went 9-4, 9-4 and 10-3 in its final three Big East seasons. The Mountaineers have gone 7-6 and 4-8 in the Big 12.

“One of the challenges that we knew going into Big 12 play several years ago is you better have depth, depth that can compete at a high level,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who coached the Mountaineers to an Orange Bowl victory in his first season, 2011, but has struggled since. That’s “probably the biggest difference in the conference that we used to be in and the conference that we're in now. That needs to happen if you want to win.”

The schools that jumped from a fellow major conference have performed at roughly the same level they had established as their norm.

Nebraska went 9-4, 10-4 and 10-4 its final three Big 12 seasons. In the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers have been 9-4, 10-4 and 9-4. The Huskers are nothing if not consistent.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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