|Would the Big 12 look west for a new member?|
Turns out neither is going.
Look, when there is a four team playoff and five "big time" conferences, someone gets left out. The Big 12 feels that being to lone conference of those five that doesn't hold a championship game hurt them. They may be right. Not only was the declaration of a champion muddled a bit, but it cost the league a showcase for their best teams.
Alabama played Missouri, Florida State beat Georgia Tech, Ohio State stomped Wisconsin and Oregon blew out Arizona. Those losing teams were all ranked. Alabama, FSU, Ohio State and Oregon are in the playoff while TCU, who blew out lowly Iowa State, is not.
The Big 12 is licking its wounds and is looking to change this from happening again. Right at the very top of the list is expanding from 10 to 12 teams, which would enable them to have a championship game.
So who could they go after to get to those 12 teams? Let's take a look at the candidates:
1-BYU: BYU made the leap out of the Mountain West Conference to Independent status a few years back and they are sort of rethinking things. Being an Independent in football is tough in this day and age, plus their basketball program is mired in the WCC. I don't think the Cougars would jump to any conference, but they would for the Big 12. Adding BYU would add a big name school with a big following and put the geographic footprint (there's that term again) further west. They have BYUTV already, a big stadium and that big following. Sure, that would mean stretching the Big 12 from West Virginia to Utah, but we've seen some rough geography in this recent expansion. And, really, with a two division format, it wouldn't be that big a problem.
2-CINCINNATI: The second one is a bit harder for me (more on that in a moment). The Bearcats have been a pretty good program on the field. Not only have they had some really good coaches come through there (Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly, Butch Jones), but they've been in two BCS bowls in recent years. They'd be a great geographical bridge to West Virginia and an instant rival. It gets the conference into the Ohio area and while Cincy's facilities aren't the greatest right now, they are upgrading the football and basketball stadiums.
3-CENTRAL FLORIDA: I'm putting Cincinnati in there, but Central Florida could be a better fit. Mainly because ... it is in Florida. For the sake of this exercise, I'm ruling out the Big 12 prying Florida State or Clemson away since the ACC's grant of rights deal is pretty steep and, well, making that move would pretty much be a lateral one for either school. So Central Florida would be the best bet to get into that state. But would it be worth it? Maybe. UCF is the second largest university by enrollment in the country. They play in beautiful Orlando and they've had success placing guys in the NFL (Brandon Marshall, Asante Samuel, Daunte Culpepper). This could be an interesting choice for the Big 12.
4-BOISE STATE: Boise State would've been a popular choice a few years ago when they were BCS busters. They still are pretty darn good and would make for a nice addition.
5-MEMPHIS: Well, for all the reasons Cincinnati makes sense, Memphis does. Well, except that Memphis hasn't had the on-field success