College football is the gift that keeps on giving. July is supposed to be the most boring month of the CFB calendar, but not this year. Yesterday, a report came out in the Houston Chronicle that Texas and Oklahoma are in talks to leave the Big 12 and join the SEC, according to an anonymous source from an unknown school *cough* A&M *cough*. Some minor chaos ensued at SEC media days, with Texas A&M athletic director and master of uncomfortable press conferences Ross Bjork admitting that he would do everything in his power to stop Texas from joining. However, commissioner Greg Sankey and spokespersons from Texas and OU all offered clear non-denials, meaning that there’s smoke to this fire. We’ve officially entered the only time better than college football season: conference realignment season. Even though nothing concrete can happen until the Big 12 TV deal is up in 2025, let’s take a look at a couple of hypothetical routes this round of expansion might take.
Scenario 1: Stayin’ Alive
This is the most obvious and likeliest way things would go. The Big 12 would stick around and poach a few of the more prominent Group of 5 schools. Cincinnati would be a no-brainer, while Texas and Texas A&M both being out of the picture should finally open the door for Houston. I also think they’ll try to replace quality with quantity and go straight to twelve teams. BYU makes a lot of sense once they realize they’re never getting into the PAC 12, leaving one last spot. SMU, UCF, and Memphis are the three main candidates here, and I’ll totally let my bias get in the way and pick Memphis. UCF is just too far out of the way, even for the Big 12. SMU takes the place of Houston and gets shut out because TCU doesn’t want to share the Dallas/Fort Worth market. Memphis has been brought up in previous Big 12 expansion debates, and FedEx money is hard to turn down. This leaves the AAC as the real losers, having to replace three of its best teams. I think the conference would struggle to pull in any more G5 schools in its weakened state, so they’ll look to the FCS for help. Lucky for them, the last three FCS champs all make a lot of sense. Sam Houston State, James Madison, and North Dakota State would be good additions to the new look AAC. The first two are great geographic fits, and I don’t even have to explain why they’d want NDSU. Overall this scenario is pragmatic, reasonable, and honestly kinda boring.
Scenario 2: The New Power 5
Now we’re turning up the spice a little. What if, instead of the Big 12 stealing from the AAC, it was the other way around? This time the AAC poaches Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU, and Baylor. With only four schools left, the Big 12 is forced to dissolve. West Virginia finally joins their Backyard Brawl brethren in the ACC, who also finally convinces Notre Dame to join full time. Not wanting to get left out, the Big 10 brings in Iowa State to be with their rivals and Kansas solely because of their basketball pedigree. Kansas State is left in the lurch, with no natural place to go. This leaves us with a new Power 5, with the new AAC replacing the Big 12. The real winners of this would be the PAC 12, who wouldn’t be the clear weak link in the P5 anymore.
If we know anything about college football, it’s to expect the unexpected. More often than not schools will go with the most ludicrous option as long as they’ll get a few extra dollars out of it, so we might as well have some fun with it. Because nothing says talking season like speculating recklessly about things that won’t happen for at least five years.