Remember the good ol’ days when the Big 12 was the original Big 12 and actually had 12 teams in the conference? Seems almost like a distant memory, especially considering how well Missouri and Texas A&M seem to be fitting in within the SEC.
However, there was a time long when people called it the “PAC 10” and the Big 10 did in fact have TEN members, and when the Big 12 conference did hold twelve members,not just ten, and life just seemed to make sense. Classic late November evening match ups between the Aggies and Longhorns were a must watch each year along with your Thanksgiving meal. And even the thought back in 1971 that the Oklahoma and Nebraska rivalry would become dormant 40 years following The Game of the Century would be enough to drive you crazy.
It’s been a tough go for the conference that claims “One True Champion”. Constant ridicule from fans inside and outside the conference for not having a championship game, piled onto the fact that Texas A&M is now running things in The Lone Star state and Mizzou has immediately stole the show in the SEC East.
But, there’s hope inside the minds of some the conferences biggest advocates.
Oklahoma’s president David Boren has been nothing short of vocal in his support of Big 12 expansion. And that’s even coming off a year where his Sooner football team made the College Football Playoff, his basketball team reached the Final Four and his Sooner gymnastics squad took home another NCAA crown.
I hope everyone joins in on the Boren Train and is in favor of the move for expansion in the Big 12. Which got me thinking: which current teams from the Group of 5 could fill the void in the conference that Texas A&M and Mizzou left in 2013? Here are five that I think could, forgive me, Make The Big 12 Great Again.
After struggling for the better half of the 2000’s, the Rams are heading in the right direction under head coach Mike Bobo. Before last season, Bobo was the offensive coordinator at Georgia for seven seasons, and wrongly inherited a reputation of a poor play caller, even when the Dawgs were leading the SEC in yards per game. The Rams did not quite put up the same numbers that they did in 2013 under Jim McElwain, but the Rams did look more balanced last season as they averaged 228 pass yards a game and 197 rush yards. Perhaps more importantly, CSU has split the last four meetings with in-state rival Colorado and have won 18 more games than the Buffs since 2010. With a few more years of success, the Rams would be a good fit inside the Big 12 confines.
In just four short years Justin Fuente took this Memphis team, who had seem more one and two win seasons than bowl games, and quickly turned into a team that proved last year can compete with some of the elites in the SEC. All that being said, Fuente has left for Blacksburg to replace Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, and it’s elite gunslinger Paxton Lynch is now competing for the starting job for the Denver Broncos. The Tigers will have to prove their recent run of success wasn’t a fluke with new head coach Mike Norvell. After putting up 10 wins in 2014, and nine in 2015, the Tigers would be a good fit to compete against the high-powered offenses in the Big 12.
The staple team for the Group of 5, or rather BCS non-automatic qualifiers, has yet to find a home within a Power 5 conference, yet the Broncos are continuing to prove that they just don’t need to leave. You wouldn’t classify yourself as a college football fan if you are not aware of the success this program has had since 2000, and it’s almost absurd to say that this team, who has won at least 10 games in eight of the last ten seasons, would not compete for a championship no matter what conference they are placed within. Brian Harsin proved the Broncos would not fall from the league of elites after Chris Petersen left for Washington, and would not slow down if admitted into the Big 12.
For all the deserving talk the Boise State squanders up, the Cougars from Provo are just as worthy. The Cougars have put up at least eight wins every year since 2011, and have taken Texas to the woodshed in the teams last two meetings. This year the Cougs will have to prove they are Big 12 worthy without their head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who spent the last 10 years in Provo and brought home two Mountain West championships. BYU heads into 2016 with one of the toughest schedules in the country, and even if they do not live up to the billing that Mendenhall generated, they still are worthy of Big 12 consideration.
If 2015 wasn’t enough to convince you the Cougars have what it takes to compete in the Big 12, take a look at 2014. If that doesn’t convince you, check out 2013. The Cougars are for real. And after beating Florida State by two touchdowns in last season’s Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, it’s hard to believe that this team led by Tom Herman isn’t set up for an even better 2016. Along with the success the team has on the gridiron, they are placed right in the heart of Big 12 country which is a major ingredient for a possible rivalry between in-state opponents Baylor, TCU and Texas.
Follow @ACAllAmericans for quality, up-to-date sports reporting.