After months of speculation that the conference would expand, the Big 12 made an announcement in June that expansion was a “dead issue”. In July they did an about face and announced expansion was not only on the table, but they would like to announce the expansion teams before September 1. At this point I’m inclined to say I’ll believe it when I see it. But, if the Big 12 conference does follow through with expansion plans, they have an opportunity in front of them to take a leadership role and in the process, make a huge splash in college football. Originally talk of expansion included only 2 teams, simply the number needed to split into divisions, which is a model more suitable for their already approved conference championship game. But recently talk has surfaced about the possibility of 4 teams. If the Big 12 is truly thinking along those lines, why stop at 4? I believe the Big 12 should be thinking bigger, be innovative and more progressive. For years we have been told that the future of the sport lies in 16 team “super conferences”. If there is any truth in that statement then I propose the Big 12 be bold and create the FIRST 16 team Super Conference. Think about it. Add these 6 teams: Brigham Young, Boise State, Colorado State, Cincinnati, Memphis and Houston. Talk about a knockout blow to the rest of the Power 5 Conferences. Lock up the best available teams now and watch the dominoes fall in the other conferences over the next few years trying to play catch up. BYU, Boise State and Colorado State are already natural rivals for TCU because of the Horned Frog’s days in the WAC and MWC. Texas Tech has a natural geographical fit with those same teams. Cincinnati and Memphis fit well with West Virginia who, in my opinion, desperately needs teams in the conference closer to Morgantown in order to make the Mountaineers “more inclusive” in the Big 12. Houston is a natural fit, just as TCU was in earlier conference expansion.
Take a look at this proposed division alignment:
Big 12 West: Brigham Young, Boise State, Colorado State, Texas Tech, TCU, Texas, Houston, Baylor
Big 12 East: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, Cincinnati, West Virginia.
Looks like a knockout conference to me. Just a thought.
But, for the moment at hand in 2016, the Big 12 has high hopes for another run at the College Football Playoff. My top pick for the conference title is Oklahoma. The Sooners are loaded with play makers on both sides of the ball and QB Baker Mayfield is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. It won’t be easy, the Sooners have one of, if not THE toughest non-conference schedules in the nation, opening at Houston and hosting Ohio State two weeks later, and the road game at TCU the week before Texas is very worrisome. Looking ahead to Texas and not focusing on the Froggies would be a huge mistake. The Horned Frog defense will be the best in the Big 12 and if Kenny Hill comes through at QB, TCU will be a legitimate conference title contender. Oklahoma State, however, is the team I expect to be the surprise team, not only in the Big 12, but nationally. With 16 starters returning, 9 on offense and 7 on defense, including an outstanding QB and team leader in Mason Rudolph, the Cowboys will give the Sooners and the rest of the Big 12 all they can handle and more. Don’t be surprised if Oklahoma State goes into the TCU game on November 19th undefeated. The Cowboy’s last two games are probably their toughest, at TCU and at Oklahoma.
One of the biggest story lines this season will be Texas and whether or not the Longhorns can win enough games to save Charlie Strong’s job…..and what that magic number might be. My guess is that it will take 7 wins minimum and probably 8, but from looking at the schedule I think 6-6 might be a realistic record for Texas in 2016. More than likely the Longhorns are looking at losses to Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and TCU. Road wins at California, Kansas State and Texas Tech are possible, but not guaranteed by any means. Wins against UTEP, Iowa State and Kansas seem pretty safe but that means home wins against Baylor and West Virginia are an absolute must in order for the Horns to have what most would consider a successful season, and even then, the win total would only reach 8.
This is the way I see the Big 12 finishing for 2016: