By BOB PARASILITI
11:33 PM EST, November 25, 2012
There is always something comfortable about this time of year.
There is a secure feeling when it comes to Thanksgiving.
It’s all about traditions and homecoming and places we are comfortable being around.
We don’t need to go over the reasons why that happens. We’ve all seen the Norman Rockwell paintings of families sitting around turkeys and enjoying each other’s company.
An adopted tradition has spilled over into football. The Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions cashed in on that a long time ago, making sure that they and the NFL have a captive, nationwide audience.
When it comes to football, this part of the calendar has always been one of the most anticipated times on the college front.
The three weekends wrapped around Thanksgiving have always been rivalry weeks — those in-state battles and longtime struggles that make the turkey taste a lot better if you win and tough to swallow if you lose.
This past weekend it was Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Virginia-Virginia Tech, Florida-Florida State to name a few. Army-Navy is just ahead.
But for every one we have, there is one we have lost, starting with West Virginia-Pitt.
It might be time to get used to that as too many of those great traditions are going the way of pet rocks, Bananarama and I-formations.
The games people play — and watch — changed a little bit last Monday and Tuesday when Maryland and then Rutgers announced they were leaving their respective leagues for the Big Ten.
For the Big Ten, it started moving the hat around the board in a game of Monopoly. The conference has designs on a massive viewing audience in the top television markets in the country to obtain a mega television deal.
And it started getting there by playing dominos with Maryland.
Hypothetically, it will be a move that could change college football forever.
It’s obvious that the Terps made the move for monetary reasons. Maryland had become a school that had lost its lunch money. It amputated seven programs to keep the others alive.
And before anyone starts whining here about the lost rivalries, name one that involves the Terps playing for a bucket, an axe or any color jug. There are none.
But Maryland’s — and then Rutgers’ — move to the Big Ten may have huge implications to the landscape of college football as we know it. It may change it forever.
Think about this — hypothetically — just because reality is on holiday right now.
Maryland’s move — the latest of many and probably the first of many more — could be the push to send college football to a true playoff system that would excite every corner of the country.
That’s because every corner would be involved.
With the growth of leagues and the movement of teams, it isn’t much of a reach to consider that college sports will be controlled by four conferences soon, dividing the country into four geographic regions.
The United States pie could be quartered with the Big Ten controlling the Northeast, the Southeastern Conference owning the Southeast, the Big 12 ruling the Southwest and the Pac-whatever running a Northwest roundup.
These conferences already control the focus of college football and this might be the way to work it to an advantage.
First off, sectioning schools off by geographic boundaries promotes new rivalries. Maryland, for example, gets Penn State and West Virginia along with, say Pitt, Ohio State and Michigan to face every year.
But then, instead of relying on subjective polls and computer readouts that can be manipulated by one keystroke of data, a four-team playoff would be decided on the field. The champion of each of the four regions — a Final Four, per se — would play for two weekends to decide who wins the crystal football everyone is afraid to drop.
Granted, a series of tiebreakers would need to be in place to help break ties.
There would be a little more intrigue for the bowl system, too, because the matchups wouldn’t be controlled by all the different conferences sending an eighth-place team through a preconceived agreement.
Now, the bowl schedule would be filled and varied by the regions — a schedule that would rotate from year to year. For example, three of the five major bowls would host the playoffs.
The rest of the bowls could be filled by say third-place Northeast faces third-place Southwest, giving each game a diverse pool of possibilities.
Another alternative would be for the college game to steal a format that is used in high schools.
Every couple of years, schools would be reclassified — by size or success — and separated into divisions, say like Classes 1A-4A in Maryland.
What that could do is allow some of the smaller schools in the Land of the Giants to get a chance to play for a national title. The other major bowls would host those championship games.
How much exposure and interest — and possible revenue— if schools like Kent State, Northern Illinois, both on the low end, of the Top 25 and say local schools like Towson and James Madison would play for a second-, third- or fourth-tier Final Four to crown a champion.
OK, maybe that’s a little far-fetched, but no more than the Big East adding San Diego State. East of what … Hawaii?
Besides, like records, traditions are made to be broken.
It all came to mind while I was feasting on a slice of Turducken.
Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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