I know there has been a lot of fear-mongering when it comes to conference realignment in the last 2 years. Much of that has originated with our neighbors to the West in Morgantown. I also realize that the authors of this blog have been proponents of VT to the SEC. I'm a long-time Hokies fan myself, and I certainly want what's best for my team, but I don't want fear or peer pressure determining the future of Virginia Tech athletics...
Who are the Hokies Natural Rivals?
I think that's the first question that needs to be asked when determining conference fit. In my mind there are 2 things which determine rivalry: geography and history. So let's look at those 2 factors one at a time.
Here is a map of the schools closest to Blacksburg, VA.
The inner circle is roughly 200 miles (3.5 hour drive) and the outer circle is roughly 300 miles (5 hour drive).
Schools in the inner circle are: Pittsburgh, WVU, UVa, Duke, UNC, NC State, Wake Forest, S Carolina, Clemson, Tennessee and Kentucky. That's 7 ACC, 3 SEC and 1 Big 12.
Schools in the 200-300 mile ring: Louisville, Cincinnati, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, E Carolina (not shown), Georgia and Ga Tech. As-of 2014 that's 2 more ACC, 3 Big Ten, 1 SEC and 2 Big East.
Grand total within 300 miles (or so): 9 ACC, 4 SEC, 3 Big Ten, 1 Big 12, 2 Big East. Geographically, there's no question the ACC is the best conference for VT in terms of rivalry.
Here are the most commonly played opponents for the past 20 years (the entire lifetime of most students in college now):
|North Carolina State||4||2010|
Breakdown by 2014 conference:
Big Ten 2
Big XII 1
Big East 3
Interesting - if SEC schools present such rivalries, why hasn't Tech played a single SEC school at least 4 times in the past 20 years? In fact, the most-played SEC school since 1993 would be LSU (2 games - a home/away series). The Hokies have played Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee once each.
Common Realignment Scenarios:
Most rumors floating around have Va Tech and NC State going to the SEC as a pair, with no other ACC teams moving to that conference. That would give the Hokies potentially 5 geographic rivals, but only 1 with recent history - NC State.
Some rumors have the Big Ten expanding (though Tech is rarely rumored with that league). If VT went to the B1G along with 1 other ACC school, you'd have potentially 4 geographic rivals, 3 with recent history.
Finally, some have VT to the Big XII. If this happened with only 1 other ACC team going along, that only gives 2 geographic rivals. However, some see as many as 6 ACC teams (VT + 5 more) moving the the Big XII. This is the only scenario with a reasonable number of rivals (up to 6, counting WVU) in the same conference with Tech.
CONCLUSION: I realize money matters, and I know you have to have a reasonably good strength of schedule to win a national championship, too. But the thing that makes college football better than the NFL (for those who agree with that assumption) is rivalry. Tech's rivals, by any measure, are mostly in the ACC - IMO, that's where we belong.