College Confidential

As Big 12 expansion chances rise, we rank the top candidates

BYU would bring a lot to Big 12 football, as Texas discovered in this 2013 loss in Provo, Utah. The triumph was directed by Cougars’ quarterback Taysom Hill.
BYU would bring a lot to Big 12 football, as Texas discovered in this 2013 loss in Provo, Utah. The triumph was directed by Cougars’ quarterback Taysom Hill. AP

Another day, another round of empirical data showing how the Big 12 could benefit by adding two teams to its 10-member league to recapture its original configuration and enhance its pursuit of a regular spot in the College Football Playoff.

The latest information, per a report, indicates that the league’s CFP hopes would be boosted by 10 to 15 percent in a given year if the league had 12 members, played eight nonconference games and staged an annual championship game in football. That is up significantly from a Monday report of a 4 to 5 percent benefit. But the earlier data, per CBS, included only the impact of staging a conference title game in football.

League officials are slated to discuss the findings today at a meeting in Phoenix. The real headline, of course, is that a double-digit improvement in CFP potential should green-light action on the expansion front in a league that is home to TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Big 12 presidents will discuss that topic at the league’s spring meetings, May 31-June 3 in Irving.

Because we’re talking about decision-makers in a league that has lost four significant members since 2011 (Texas A&M, Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado), there should be no premature celebrations by expansion candidates until the invitations are extended. But here is one man’s pecking order, based solely on what each school brings to the mix from a CFP perspective (which is the only reason to expand at this juncture):

Brigham Young: Among the viable expansion candidates, only BYU can point to a semi-recent national championship in football (1984). The school also has the largest fan base in its state (Utah) and draws well in the primary revenue sports. The primary drawback is a historic unwillingness to play Sunday games, which could be a deal-killer.

Cincinnati: The schools has a huge enrollment, is located in a recruiting hotbed other than Texas (Ohio) and posted a 12-0 record in 2009 while narrowly missing a spot in the BCS national title game that season. The Bearcats, like BYU, have been nationally relevant in both football and men’s basketball in recent seasons.

Houston: The Cougars’ program is on an uptick after last year’s 13-1 finish under first-year coach Tom Herman. The same is true for the men’s basketball program under Kelvin Sampson. The primary question is whether Big 12 television partners view a need for another member in Texas with four other schools from the Lone Star State already in the fold.

Central Florida: An emerging force in college football circles despite last year’s disastrous 0-12 season. UCF defeated Baylor, the Big 12 champion, in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl behind NFL-bound quarterback Blake Bortles. The school has a huge enrollment and is located in Orlando, providing other members an “in” to Florida recruits.

Memphis: The football program is on the rise and the men’s basketball program has a long history of success. But the football program lacks top-notch facilities and has no recent history of sustained success.

SMU: The Mustangs, under second-year football coach Chad Morris, are making strides toward rebuilding a football program that cratered in 2014 under former coach June Jones. But there is a long way to go, the men’s basketball program spent last season on NCAA probation and Houston offers more as an expansion candidate if a Texas-based school is chosen. In addition to other factors, the Big 12 already has a member in the Dallas-Fort Worth television market (TCU). It does not have one in Houston.

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