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In the last few months, the Big 12 announced some massive changes. A little less than two months ago, founding members Oklahoma and Texas both announced they would be leaving the Big 12 and would be making the move to the SEC by 2025. Most recently the Big 12 has announced they would be adding Houston, UCF, BYU, and Cincinnati when Oklahoma and Texas leave.
The loss of Oklahoma is huge for the Big 12. Winners of 6 of the last 7 conference championships, while also having 4 appearances in the College Football Playoff. Texas is arguably one of the most recognizable programs in all of college football. Even though their performance in most recent years is not a good indication of the success of the program, Texas still has 5 national championships and 32 conference championships in their trophy case.
Even though losing Oklahoma and Texas is big, the addition of Houston, Cincinnati, UCF, and BYU is also big. There are about 6-7 G5 programs that are consistently top-tier G5 programs. Houston, Cincinnati, UCF, and BYU are all considered that. UCF most infamously crowned themselves 2017 National Champs after a 13-0 year and not being selected for the college football playoff. Cincinnati has been knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff for the last couple of years. Houston has been making consistent trips to the AAC Championship game. BYU has made a name for itself by being a consistent top 25 program. Even though nothing can compare to the money loss of Oklahoma and Texas, these four new programs are the best of a bad scenario for the Big 12.
This is going to have huge effects on the Big 12 and the SEC, but this is going to have giant effects on all of college football. Let's take a look at how this affects college football.
New Look Big 12: What Happens Next?
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There is no conference that is going to be affected more. The one big positive in the subtraction and additions is the Big 12 will finally have 12 schools in it. Made no sense to me that the Big 12 had 10 schools and the Big 10 had 12, but this is no longer an issue for the Big 12!
The Big 12: Now What?
The incumbent Big 12 schools will have a huge decision to make. Remain in the Big 12, form a super-conference with the SEC, or find a new conference. Losing Oklahoma and Texas is a tough loss. Those are 2 big games that can bring in a lot of money for a school. If the incumbent remains with the Big 12, they will need to bring in another big program to help match the excitement of what they just lost. The idea of forming a super conference is a very popular idea right now. The Big 12 will not be able to compete with the SEC. Even though Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State are big-name programs, none of them would be top-tier teams in the SEC. Have you ever heard the statement "if you can't beat them join them?". If these programs want to be considered top-tier programs it will be tough to do so in the Big 12. For the bottom tier Big 12 schools or even the top tier, maybe their best move is to find a new conference. Give them a better chance to either win some games or get more national attention. Could we see Texas Tech move to the Big 10 or Pac 12? How about Kansas State moving to the American Athletic? The current changes for the Big 12 are just the beginning.
The SEC: The Top Tier
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With Texas and Oklahoma set to join the SEC, the top-tier programs are all thrilled. The amount of big-time games that are set for the future is amazing. The TV deals, sponsorships, and better atmosphere for college football. With the number of great games, teams will have, one loss can still keep you in the playoff hunt. Team's like Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida, LSU, and Georgia will love the extra big-time games against Oklahoma and Texas. These games will have playoff implications consistently and can help the SEC take over the College Football Playoff. I can not see many negatives for the top-tier programs. It will make it a lot harder to win a conference championship or make the playoffs, but this can help with their resumes and bring in a lot more money for their schools.
The SEC: The Armpits
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Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas all hate the addition of Oklahoma and Texas. Those 3 schools have always been bottom-tier programs of the SEC. They have all tried to make some noise with an occasional upset over one of the dominant programs in the conference, but can never get the attention as the top tier programs. Adding two historical programs makes the climb to the top even harder. Yes, they will get more big-time games and the TV deals will be a nice paycheck. Even if the SEC wants to create a super-conference, is it even worth it for Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas to stay? Could these schools look to make the move to the ACC, Big 12, or even a G5 conference? It is all about money, and I am sure the paychecks they will get with Oklahoma and Texas joining, will cause them to stay. I just hope they do not plan on winning a conference championship for a long time.
The AAC: Back To Being A Regular G5 Conference
The AAC has the nickname of being a "Power 6" conference. In the last five years either Houston, UCF, or Cincinnati has finished in the top 25 in the final rankings of the season. Since 2014, at least one AAC team has finished in the top 25 in the final rankings, and every year but one has at least two teams finished inside the top 25. Since the start of the conference championship game in 2015, either Houston, UCF, or Cincinnati has participated in every conference championship game except 2016.
With these 3 schools prepared to leave, the AAC is losing their 3 most dominant programs. The chances of a G5 program making the College Football Playoff just got much smaller. The top programs of the conference are out, and schools like Memphis, Navy, or Temple are not strong enough to continue to push the conference. The AAC was always the best chance to have a representative from the G5 in the College Football Playoff, but with their 3 best programs set to leave, the program is sadly returning to just another G5 conference, and is no longer considered a "Power 6" conference.
The AAC will have to look to add new schools with hopes to regain some dominance over the other G5. Some schools that could make the jump are UAB and Marshall from Conference-USA. Could Boise State make the switch to bring in better quality teams? Could App State continue their quick climb up the ranks of college football? If UAB, Marshall, Boise State, and App State all join the AAC, it can help reclaim some dominance for the AAC, but it will still be extremely challenging to replace Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati.
The Triple Alliance: ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12
Within days of Oklahoma and Texas' announcement that they would be leaving the Big 12, an alliance between the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac 12 was formed. Even though the details of the alliance still remain unknown, we can still think about the details of it and what it means for college football.
The immediate idea for the alliance is to schedule big-time games amongst each other. The big worry is that schools like Ohio State, Clemson, and USC will see the SEC getting consistent big-time games, and they are only getting one maybe two per season. With this alliance could we see Clemson vs Ohio State or USC vs. Penn State each year? The goal for better scheduling is to help these programs build their resumes to make the College Football Playoff. This alliance can also help Notre Dame. Each of these conferences created a rule that at least one non-conference game each season must be to another power 5 team, but Notre Dame would also count. Even though they are independent, they are still a top-tier college program, adding Notre Dame into the mix will help the alliance as well as Notre Dame. I am sure seeing Ohio State vs Notre Dame or Clemson vs. Notre Dame is very appealing.
The alliance is trying to keep their conferences in tack. If this alliance was not created, then Ohio State and Clemson would be on their way to the SEC as well. This is their initial attempt at retaining the bigger programs and with hopes of an SEC dynasty not starting.
When a high school student is being recruited to play football in college, one thing you always hear "I picked this school to play in big games." If athletes want to play in constant big games, where do you think they will be able to accomplish that? The Triple Alliance is trying to get to that level, but in reality, the only answer is going to be at an SEC school. Schools like Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and Texas will have a big game every week. Why would a recruit not want to play in that atmosphere?
Recruiting will look differently in two ways. You will see a lot of the higher-rated recruits picking SEC schools. If they want to play inconsistent big-time games and get the national attention, why not choose an SEC school? Ohio State and Clemson can not guarantee they will have a consistent tough schedule each year, but a conference schedule in the SEC can guarantee that.
The other aspect of recruiting that will look different is you will see more spread-out recruiting rankings for the SEC. Even though I expect Alabama and Oklahoma to still have top recruiting classes, but the difference from the top from the middle will be much closer. They are going to get the big games and the national attention, but they can now do that at multiple schools. Even though SEC schools will see an increase in recruit talent, the conference will improve but not necessarily the top programs.
Even with players signing endorsement deals, where are the big sponsorships going to put their attention. The big teams and players will be in the SEC. All these football players want to make money. It does not matter if you are a 5 star or a walk-on, everyone wants to make money. The bigger deals will be made in the SEC. Why not pick a school that will give you the chance to make the most money?
The College Football Playoff Expansion???
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Even before the Big 12 shake-up, the biggest debate each year is the expansion to the College Football Playoff. With the SEC turning more into a power conference, how can the playoffs stay at 4? The playoff committee has always been the most controversial thing in this entire country. Is a 2 loss Alabama better than an undefeated Ohio State or Clemson? Well, Alabama's two losses were quality losses and Ohio State did not play anyone. If the playoff remains at 4 teams, this will be a consistent dialogue. The only way to eliminate this annoying dialogue is to expand the playoff.
To make sure the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac 12 do not crumble like the Big 12, the playoff needs to be expanded and conference champions need to get automatic bids. If we continue with a controversial committee deciding who makes it and who does not, then you will see dominance from the SEC. You will be able to clearly see which teams from the SEC are the top programs that year from all their consistent tough games. However, it will be difficult to do the same for schools like Ohio State, Clemson, or USC.
Adam's proposed solution
16 team playoff
10 Conference Champions
Gives every conference at least one representative and allows conferences with multiple playoff-caliber teams to still make a championship run. This also allows the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 to still make the playoff and contend, as well as the G5 and give them a fighting chance.
With the new look Big 12 set to take a sail in 2025, college football is going to look a lot different. We will see a lot more schools making conference changes and maybe even a new conference alignment. Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC are affecting all of college football. In some ways, it is good to see a super-conference. As a fan, we will get so many more amazing games, but it will be weird to see what happens to these other conferences.