The unthinkable happened over this past week, as the two faces of the Big 12 — Texas and Oklahoma — are now expected to leave the conference for greener pastures.
Realignment was bound to happen again, but no one was expecting it to happen this soon.
Not to mention, many assumed that the Big 12 would try to add two more teams to fill up the conference. There were some very impressive candidates available that would have made sense to join the Big 12, but now that Texas and Oklahoma are leaving, there is a firm belief by experts everywhere that this is it for the Big 12.
Now, it has left the other eight schools in a dilemma. Do they wait to see if the Big 12 can wrangle up four more teams, or do they be proactive in an attempt to join another conference? I personally think they should just begin their searches for a new conference before they’re left behind.
With that being said, I’ll take my best shot at predicting where each of the remaining teams in the Big 12 could end up.
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There have been reports that Kansas reached out to the Big Ten to inquire about a potential agreement, but it seems like the Big Ten is attempting to poach more prestigious schools on the gridiron. The men’s basketball team is what will make Kansas getting into any other major conference possible being the blue blood they are, but as of now, their football program offers no value. The AAC, who currently is at 11 schools, has the opportunity to be a big player in realignment if they are able to steal a couple schools. Kansas very well could compete more in the AAC in football, while continuing to be a basketball powerhouse. I do not see the value in Kansas or the Big Ten being a thing in regards to football.
West Virginia: ACC
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Although it came unannounced there is likely not a team in the conference that this benefits the most. The Mountaineers make negative geographical sense being in the Big 12, and have always felt like the odd man out. It was reported by the Athletic that West Virginia would prefer the ACC, should they leave, and I think that’s the perfect landing spot for them. Not only will it make geographical sense, but they will be able to rekindle what is one of the most heated and underrated rivalries in The Backyard Brawl with Pittsburgh. It will also reunite them with former Big East foes, and their basketball program is ACC caliber when at its best. It will just come down to if the ACC wants them as bad they want to join.
Kansas State: AAC
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Kansas State is likely one of the tougher predictions simply because they are not an attractive school in any aspect. Although their state counterpart Kansas is horrendous at football, they have an elite basketball team that will likely have them sought after. Kansas State on the other hand has been average at football, and struggled in basketball. There is also speculation that they head west to join the MWC, but unless the MWC adds other bigger fish, Kansas State might view that as a downgrade. It is also possible the MWC will have some of their teams poached by the Pac-12.
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Baylor will likely be overlooked by the ACC and Big Ten, so I could see them joining the AAC and re-establishing their football program while also making the conference as a whole that much more reputable. They obviously just won a championship in basketball, and would add a juggernaut to the conference’s lineup. They would join in-state SMU and Houston, while also helping the conference get to 16 teams, as they currently sit at 11. It would also allow their football program to establish a winning culture, long after the Art Briles disaster of a tenure. The AAC really wants to establish itself as one of the power conferences and securing Baylor would be a huge get for them.
Texas Tech: AAC
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The AAC again would be taking another program that has success on the basketball court, and is looking to relive the Mike Leach glory days. Texas Tech might get a look by the Pac-12, but again the Boise State’s and BYU’s might be seen as more attractive. This would give the AAC half of what is left of the Big 12, which honestly would be a great boost for everyone involved, except for the Big 12 of course. A dream scenario for the conference would be if majority of the remaining eight Big 12 teams all stuck together and joined, not only would it make them the second super conference, but they would have some major schools in the mix to add to an already solid bunch.
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The Horned Frogs have experience being apart of west coast conferences, as prior to their Big 12 admittance they were members of the MWC/WAC. TCU has the namesake that could get them a serious offer to join the Pac-12, and help them form their 16 team conference. They have experienced moderate success in football, and would likely fit better in the Pac-12 playstyle wise than they do in the Big 12. It would also allow Texas to avoid a loss every season.
Oklahoma State: AAC
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Oklahoma State is very much a Pac-12 possibility, but them joining the AAC will easily make them the face of the conference, something they have never been. They have long been treated as the little brother to Oklahoma, and them having the chance to make their own identity would be great for the program. The Pac-12 is USC and Oregon’s conference, and for a school that seems to want more national recognition, going to the west coast equivalent of the Big 12 in the sense that the top two schools are valued more than everyone else, why not go to a conference where one of those schools can be you? Them joining the AAC would give the conference the team it needs to truly gain national respect.
Iowa State: Big Ten
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Their recent success could not have uncoincidentally come at a better time. The Cyclones very well might earn themselves a Big Ten spot because of the great success had by Matt Campbell in recent years. It would put them in the same conference as their in-state rival Iowa, and has proven to be a worthy program. The Big Ten makes perfect sense, but I do think the AAC will try to lure them into their conference. However, I think the Big Ten money, and the established conference prestige would be too much to overcome for the AAC. Iowa State could also very well go in and compete with Ohio State immediately.