What if the Big 12 were to expand? There are currently no concrete plans for a Big 12 expansion. However, the idea of the Big 12 grabbing teams from the PAC 12 is not as far fetch’ed as you might think.
With COVID-19 threatening seasons of schools around the country, the upcoming season could be unlike any other. For the most part, Power Five conferences are projected to have most of their schools open for the fall. The PAC 12 is the most troublesome, with California schools up in the air with being open in the fall or not. Many other schools within their conference are following suit.
The PAC 12 has also been the lone Power Five conference on the outside looking in when the CFP rolls around. The SEC and BIG 10 lead the charge, with the ACC and Big 12 also finding constant representation. Not to say that any school that would transfer would have a better chance at winning, but it’s worth thinking about.
Related Article: Big 12 and PAC-12 Merger: Could it Save Them?
So should a Big 12 expansion/ Pac 12 merger happen, here’s how I think the new Big 12 would look.
Teams Joining the Big 12
The Wildcats have had their fair chances at contending for the PAC 12 South recently, but haven’t gotten it done. USC has been the top nemesis and Stanford has wavered some. Last season, the Wildcats had an abysmal season, winning four of the first five then losing out.
This would be the payoff program for the Big 12. USC has been all over the map the last two seasons, partly due to injury and partly due to coaching. Regardless of their recent past, the Trojans are a storied program. They would join the lore of the Sooners and Longhorns in college football. USC may be losing out on recruits in-state, but they still have elite talent on the field led by Kedon Slovis. The Trojans ended with an 8-5 record last season, including 7-2 in conference play. I think this move would be the least likely, but it would be huge for the Big 12 to add them in.
It would only make sense to bring back a team that had been part of the conference early on. The Buffs have struggled, and they just had their QB and top WR go pro after last season. They ended 2019 with a 5-6 record, winning three conference games. I’d bring them back purely to bring back rivalries within the Big 12 from years past.
The Utes could stay or they could go. Utah has made leaps and bounds with their program, which culminated recently with them winning the PAC 12 South. Leading into the 2019 season, there were some experts projecting them at making it into the Playoff. They had one of the best defenses in the nation, a solid QB, and a running back poised to break school records. They didn’t make it, but the Utes were ranked fifth before losing to Oregon in the Conference Championship.
While the Tigers aren’t in the PAC 12, it would make just as much sense for them to rejoin the Big 12. Missouri gets thrashed in the SEC and doesn’t stand a chance against half their schools. They were part of the Big 12 until 2012 when they and Texas A&M bolted for the SEC. Missouri would fare better in the Big 12, plus it makes sense geographically. They would bring back rivalries with Kansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa State.
The Tigers recently announced they’d have Kansas back on their schedule in 2025. Why not rejoin the conference and play them every season?
Team Leaving the Big 12
With the addition of teams further west, it would be more of a burden to travel from one coast to the other. While I do agree that West Virginia fits the style of play within the Big 12, geographically it doesn’t make as much sense. I’m not sure what conference they would end up joining, as they’d have to bring on another team with them. My first guess would be the ACC to join the likes of Florida State, Miami, Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, etc.
How the New Big 12 Would Shape Up
Up until 2011, the Big 12 had a different conference format. Like the other Power Five conferences, they had two subdivisions (Northern and Southern). After Colorado and Nebraska left the conference, there were only 10 teams left, and everyone was compiled into one large grouping. With the proposed expansion, they would bring back the two subdivisions, allowing the winner from each to play for the title.
Possible new subdivisions would be as follows:
Northern: Iowa State, Colorado, Utah, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Missouri
Southern: Oklahoma, Arizona, TCU, Texas, USC, Texas Tech, Baylor
You could argue purely on geography that Oklahoma would fit in the Northern subdivision, and you’d be right. I placed them in the Southern subdivision though because then the two would have a chance to play each other in the conference championship game, which they do sometimes already. This alignment would also spark the Texas/USC rivalry back up, and keep the Colorado/Utah rivalry alive in the north.
Teams like Utah, USC, and to an extent, Arizona State, would also bring up the conference strength of schedule. The same goes for the incoming teams with Oregon, Washington, and USC being the predominant leaders in the PAC 12, with Utah throwing their program in the mix as well.
PAC 12 Additions
The PAC 12 has been a struggling conference, but they won’t dissolve, even if these moves were to take place. While it cuts their conference nearly in half, it would also give the opportunity for other teams to step in. Here’s a look at who would fit in well.
The Broncos have owned the Mountain West Conference. Add in the fact they have the most iconic field in college sports and they’ve definitely made a name for themselves. While they jack up the RPI for their conference, they could easily slide up to a bigger and better conference. The only other annual contenders to win the conference besides Boise State are Hawaii, Utah State, and Air Force as of recent.
Several teams showed out in the MWC last season with the Broncos leading them all with a 12-2 record, going undefeated in conference play. Right behind them was Air Force (11-2, 7-1), followed by Utah State (7-6, 6-2), and then Hawaii and San Diego State who had 10 wins each and 5-3 records in the conference.
I would’ve slotted the Cougars to join the Big 12, but they’ve shown interest but were denied by Bob Bowlsby (Big 12 Commissioner). Currently, BYU is listed in the “Independent” conference along with Notre Dame, Liberty, New Mexico State, UMass, and Army. The Cougars have been a team to watch, especially with their difficult schedules each season.
Last year they finished 7-6 but had notable wins over USC (ranked 24) and Boise State (ranked 14). They also played Utah close to open the season and blew out a strong Utah State squad 42-14. BYU has the heart and drive to contend with anyone and could easily contend with Washington, Washington State, and Oregon State. With the upsets they pull each season, they deserve to be in a legit conference.
Will a Big 12 realignment happen? No one knows for certain but these moves makes sense. Everyone benefits with stronger strength of schedules and old rivalries are reignited. Plus, there’s not a lot more travel involved. If any teams are looking to leave the PAC 12 for any reason, the Big 12 should be their first application.
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