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Virginia Football: What Would It Be Like In A Brave New World?

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In a world where only distance matters, can Virginia come out on top?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It's officially July. That means any number of things. Hot dogs on the grill(e). American flags slapped haphazardly on beach-going attire. For a few of us around these parts, crunch time for the bar exam.

But as sports fans, we know July mostly as one thing: the Dark Ages.

The NBA Finals and draft are things of the past. Football is still a distant speck on the horizon. All that's left is free agency and {shudder} mid-season baseball.

And yet lo! Through the murky dark comes light from a beacon. College and Magnolia, SB Nation's Auburn blog, drew up new college football conferences without the "gerrymandering" of conference alignment.

Gerrymandered football

Now that's one funky map. Out of it comes the new Mid-Atlantic conference for our Virginia Cavaliers.

Mid-Atlantic Conference
Akron Kent State Maryland Navy
Penn State Pittsburgh Virginia West Virginia

At first glance, doesn't look like a power conference. But according to Bill Connelly's S&P+ projections, the Mid-Atlantic would be in the solid second tier of non-gerrymandered conferences for 2015. By those same projections, though, Virginia goes from being a favorite in only one annual conference matchup (the Coastal plus Louisville) to being favored in four: Akron, Kent State, Maryland, and Navy.

Beyond 2015, the football side of things becomes a crapshoot. Who knows how the CFP would restructure, or how recruits would look at the various realignments? What we CAN look at is what these changes would mean for fans like us.

  • The thing that jumps out immediately is Maryland. The team that won't go away is back to haunt our attic in perpetuity. As if there wasn't already enough reason to compete for recruits from the DMV, this doubles things down between the Hoos and Twerps.
  • The other immediately noticeable difference is the disappearance of traditional U.Va. rivalries, though that's a given in this experiment. No VPISU. No UNCCH. No more of the bitter, mean-spirited, long-standing rivalry series with Louisville. HOWEVAH, the aforementioned Maryland return will make up for anything we lose from our neighbors to the south. Penn State and Virginia was a solid series with some quality bad blood through the 1990s. And taunting West Virginia was what got the Pep Band the final heave-ho. I'm confident we'd find a way to let familiarity breed contempt.
  • In terms of football ambiance, this new conference is a step up from our current placement. Penn State has the second largest stadium in North America,** with a capacity almost twice of Scott Stadium (and four times Scott's average attendance). West Virginia is a den of crazy people, at altitude, with moonshine. Navy's Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium has the names of famous naval battles emblazoned around the upper deck. As a college football junkie, any of those three makes up for having to go to College Park once every two years. (** - I'm dating a Michigan alum, which makes me here contractually obligated to mention that the Big House is THE largest stadium in North America. Go Blue.)
  • What about road trips? Losing Chapel Hill and Atlanta hurts. But Annapolis has all of Chapel Hill's beauty, plus crabs. None of the replacement cities compares easily to Atlanta, but let's be real: if you're going to a Maryland game, you're staying in D.C. Nothing has the beach-y destination vibe of Coral Gables, but I'm sure Akron and Kent can't be much worse than Durham. Right?

So is any of this ever going to happen? Of course not. There's WAY too much money invested in the status quo to ever blow things up and start anew. But it's July, so enjoy having something tangentially related to college football to think and talk about.