News yesterday was that the Big 12 was “content” with 10 members, maintaining its current alignment, with no championship game and a nice sum of money for everybody involved. But of course, there are all of those pesky rumors that this could all change once the playoff landscape is decided upon by June 30 of this year. On top of that, some schools are coming out in favor of a playoff, while others are against.
We’ll be taking a look at each of the Big 12’s 10 schools below, and evaluating where they sit right now: either for or against expanding the league by at least two members. About a week and a half ago, there were five pushing for it in some way, four on the fence and one flat-out no. But now? Let’s dive in…
Baylor: After pushing to keep the Big 12 together, it appears that it’s “mission accomplished.” But after one of the program’s most successful seasons in recent (or distant) memory, does expansion suit them or not? In a north/south divisional split, they’re unlikely to contend with OU or Texas, but a 10-team setup gives them zero chance to win the league but be its top seed. They go with the odds. Pick: Pro-Expansion
Iowa State: Another team whose best interest is to see a healthy Big 12, with teams contending for the national title. Have the Cyclones ruled out any chance they’d be able to win the league, though? AD Jamie Pollard says he’d rather see a true league champion contend than a 7-5 team steal a title and a shot at the crystal football. Given that ISU’s best bet is being that 7-5 team, I think we know where they’re at. Pick: Anti-Expansion
Kansas: Some would claim KU’s also out of luck when it comes to contending, but they did go 12-1 just a few years back. And if not for divisional play, the Jayhawks could have not only won the Big 12, but also had a shot at a national title. By losing to Missouri in an epic Border War between two top-three teams, Kansas suffered its first loss and the North division. With 10 teams, however, they would’ve been crowned league champs even with the defeat. Pick: Anti-Expansion
Kansas State: Head coach Bill Snyder’s open to it, but he’s not the entire university. Given that the Wildcats have been a stronger program over the past two decades than their in-state brethren, they actually have a better shot at winning a league title in a given year. When considering 2011’s number-eight ranking, and the fact that they’ve actually won the Big 12 title on an upset bid, they’re much more likely to be in favor than not. Pick: Pro-Expansion
Oklahoma: Historically, OU has been one of the league’s best teams, and when you can lay claim to a title like that, you don’t want or need additional opportunities to slip up. While it only happened to the Sooners once (2003), that’s more than enough stolen title chances to make up their mind. If they win the Big 12 outright at 9-0, they’re a likely championship contender and/or playoff participant. Should they do the same and then lose in a conference championship, they’ll be playing in the new, glorified Cotton Bowl. Pick: Anti-Expansion
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were the first beneficiaries of a 10-team Big 12, winning the league last season with an 8-1 record. Grouped with Texas and OU in any potential division, they too stand a better shot at both a conference title and national title playing through the round-robin format. Why risk losing a tiebreaker like Texas Tech did back in 2008? And why, after a season like 2011, would the Cowboys want to add another hurdle to jeopardize their chances at a playoff berth/national championship game? Pick: Anti-Expansion
TCU: The Frogs seem awful excited about finally rejoining the “big boys,” as indicated by Chris Del Conte’s comments last week. So does that mean they’re pro-expansion? They’ve seen first-hand what failing to be proactive does to a conference (four times, in fact), so their push may be mostly out of concern for the unknown future. They’ve also done just fine appearing in BCS games after simply winning their league — the counter-argument. Still, I think they fall in the camp of being in favor of overall profitability. Pick: Pro-Expansion
Texas: This one’s the most obvious of the bunch. Deloss Dodds has come out and said he’s anti-expansion, and why should he feel otherwise? Like OU, they’ve spent a good portion of the past couple decades dominating the Big 12. So now that the added step of winning a conference title game has been removed, why bring it back? The Horns want the easiest route to a national championship, and this is it. Pick: Anti-Expansion
Texas Tech: The aforementioned tiebreaker that jobbed Tech should be enough to convince them to stay at 10. But it’s not entirely prevented in a round-robin format either. However, considering if the Red Raiders managed to get through a season in a reworked Big 12 South, they’d be unlikely to want to play yet another game, I think it’s safe to say they’re against the additional game and expansion. Pick: Anti-Expansion
West Virginia: Like TCU, West Virginia emerges from the smoke of instability to the safety of a stronghold league in the Big 12. Now how do they like their chances? Based on last year’s results, they may actually want to avoid the conference championship game as well. If forced to play another game last season in the Big East, they could’ve very well lost a “Big East Championship Game” and missed out on drubbing Clemson. It also would’ve robbed us of the “… And West Virginia Scored on Clemson Again” meme, something I’m unsure the internet would be happy about. Pick: Anti-Expansion
Totaling us up after looking at all 10 schools, we’ve got seven anti-expansion and just three pro-expansion — enough to probably kill it in the water, if put to the test. Some may be swing votes, sure, but overall, there’s actually a pretty nice contingent of schools whose interest are best served by a 10-member Big 12. Of course, the four-team playoff may actually end up being so off-the-wall that each league would be best served as 18-team entities, and then Florida State receives an express-mailed invite. But who really knows? We’ll keep an eye out, with fingers crossed the ACC can keep it together.
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