THE EXPANSION DOMINO GAME
So here's what I think happens during the next few months and subsequent years with the conference shakeup. Let's face it, as soon as one team goes to a 16 team megaconference, you know that others will react to not fall behind.
And in the current situation, the dominoes are in place for two 16 team conferences to emerge right off of the bat: The Big Ten and soon to be Pac 16.
Here is what I think happens.
1) Nebraska and Missouri aren't going to commit to the Big XII, this ultimatum is a bunch of bunk, especially considering that the Big XII has no recourse if they don't contractually commit.
2) That means Texas is ready to jump ship to the waiting arms of the Pac Ten. They're not going to hang around if the Big XII is going to fall apart anyways.
3) Texas will lead the Big XII South (minus Baylor), along with Colorado out West. There will be considerable guffawing about the Bears being left out but the school doesn't have enough influence in the legislature to get the Pac Ten to just skip the Denver TV market for a private religious school. Baylor wouldn't have even been in the Big XII originally were it not for a Baylor alumnus sitting in the governor's mansion when the Big XII was formed.
4) That leaves us with a 16 team Pac Ten that will begin play in 2012 and 6 Big XII teams left behind: Nebraska, Mizzou, Kansas, KSU, Baylor and ISU.
5) The Big Ten continues with their plan and officially offers Nebraska, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Missouri to the conference. Mizzou, Nebraska and Rutgers immediately accept. All three schools will begin play in the Big Ten in 2012
6) Notre Dame dallies, because they're babies, before the Big Ten threatens to move on without them and they commit to joining at a later date, probably in 2013 or 2014 in tandem with a yet-to-be named 5th team.
7) Once the Irish are on board, the Big Ten makes their strike for their chosen 16th member: Maryland, who brings the DC and Baltimore markets, a decent football program and a great basketball and academic reputation to seal up our 16 spots. Maryland will leave the ACC as they're concerned about the SEC's expansion thoughts and want the Big Ten's money and prestige.
8) Speaking of the SEC, they're not going to sit still on this one. They'll carefully observe the scene and make two smart early invites: Florida State and Clemson, the two most SEC-like schools in the ACC. Both will join immediately.
9) The SEC isn't finished yet, but the next domino to fall will be the scramble of the Mountain West to grab some of the leftovers from the Big XII. Expect the two Kansas schools and probably Iowa State to have a standing invite, while Kansas desperately chases the SEC.
10) However, the SEC won't take them since they're in tandem with worthless KSU and they'll look elsewhere in making their decisions. The SEC badly wanted Texas to open up their recruiting and they'll still get it: Expect the SEC to go for the Dallas/Fort Worth market and take TCU to move to 15. This is a big deal because it expands their reach and opens the entire state of Texas to the conference.
11) The Mountain West, having lost a top member, will extend an invitation to Boise State to get to 12 at this point. Boise will accept quicker than Antonio Underwood when presented with a scholarship offer from Ohio State.
12) Meanwhile, the ACC will initiate discussions with the Big East for a full-on merger to protect both conference's interests and move towards a 16 team league. With 9 ACC members and seven Big East teams still in play, that will make a lot of sense.
13) However, the SEC has one spot left to fill. Florida will fight tooth and nail against Miami or South Florida since they don't want to compete in state with either school any more than neccesary. Plus neither really fits the billing for an SEC institution anyways. That leaves the SEC with a few choices: Baylor, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech.
Now, let's be honest: V-Tech makes the most sense here because football is king. However, the SEC won't get them because of the state legislature and a loyalty to UVA, who was responsible for the entry of the Hokies into the ACC. While this will be discussed, it won't happen.
Georgia won't want Tech in conference and the SEC doesn't gain a lot by adding the Techies other than an easy fit. While possible, I don't think it is likely.
The SEC will chose Louisville as their final school, owing partly to heavy lobbying from Kentucky and partly to the allure of their basketball program and their proximity to Big Ten territory. That will bring the SEC to 16 schools and seal things up.
14) The ACC will absorb the remainder of the Big East and move to 15 teams. In a small upset, the final school to join will be Central Florida, giving the ACC a good hold on the talent-rich state of Florida.
15) That leaves the Mountain West to continue their attempt to be one of the big boys by accepting SMU and Baylor into the fold. They'll also bring in the two biggest WAC teams remaining in Fresno State and Nevada to attempt to boost their football profile as the 5th 16 team league and earn a BCS spot.
16) While other small changes might happen, here is the final results:
Two possibilities: Pod System
Pod 1: Notre Dame, Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers
Pod 2: Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, UM
Pod 3: Purdue, Missouri, Illinois, Northwestern
Pod 4: Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin
East: OSU, PSU, Maryland, Michigan, MSU, Rutgers, Illinois, Northwestern
West: Nebraska, Notre Dame, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri
Pac 8 Division: UCLA, USC, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, OSU, WSU, Washington
Southwest Division: Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Okie State, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State
West: TCU, Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi St, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Alabama
East: Florida, FSU, Georgia, Tennessee, Clemson, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville
South: Miami, USF, UCF, G-Tech, UNC, NC State, Duke, Wake Forest
North: Pitt, WVU, V-Tech, UVA, Cincinnati, UConn, Boston College, Syracuse
West: Fresno State, San Diego State, UNLV, Nevada, Utah, BYU, Boise State, Wyoming
East: Kansas, KSU, Iowa State, Baylor, SMU, Colorado State, New Mexico, Air Force
This results in every league playing 9 conference games, the creation of a Pac 16 network. But the BCS is going to be in place until they decide to bring in a plus one system to decide the National Title.
I would guess this is what the 2014 season will represent when the year kicks off.
CollegeSports-fans.com Staff Writer
Matt Baxendell is collegesports-fans.com’s college football guru. He has an opinion on every team, even lowly Eastern Michigan, so feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk football, comment on an article, get added to his mailing list or just feel like telling him how foolish he is for thinking that Eastern Michigan is in for another terrible season.