Another day, another opinion on realignment.
Okay, not really. Close though…let’s take a look at this newly formed alliance of football programs and forecast the short-term future of each program.
How strong is this alliance? That is up for debate, but for purposes of this article I will call it the Big 12. No, I will not use a cutesy nickname and it does not matter how clever you think the "Mack-10" is.
There has been much discussion on whether or not the new Big 12 is strong enough to send its champion to the BCS Championship game. I will stand on history’s side and profess that an undefeated Big 12 champion will not get shut out from selection.
For this discussion, let me establish criteria for being a “worthy” selection. In any one season, to qualify for the BCS Championship, here is the recipe…
Combine the following in a bowl, then beat mixture until smooth:
1 Great team – This is a team that finishes in the Top 10 with a record of 10-2
1 Good team – This is team that finishes 9-3 and nationally ranked between 10 – 20
2 Strong teams – This is a team that ends the season at 8-4, having beaten at least one Good and one Capable team
2 Capable teams – This is a team that finishes 7-5 or 6-6, is bowl eligible and wins at least one game in which they were an underdog
6 Preservatives – This is “everybody else”. While fans and the media purportedly prefer to see a half dozen 5-7 or 4-8 foes on their team’s slate, realistically this can be filled with winless teams as long as they aren’t D-II
Preservative? Why is everybody looking at me?
Now that the recipe has been established, let’s take a look at the short-term forecast for each Big 12 school. In order to best assess each program, I will include a word on their recent history as well.
Recent history: Art Briles and Robert Griffin III looked poised to move the Bears out of Preservative status, but a torn MCL suspended those plans.
8-Ball says: Reply hazy, try again
Projection: Baylor may jump up and be Capable for a couple of years, but that probably guarantees a new job for Briles. For the next five years, BU is a solid Preservative with a few Capable seasons.
Recent history: Preservative since Ock was drawing on a cave wall.
8-Ball says: It is decidedly so
Projection: Remember when the Cyclones went 7-6 last year? Me neither. Preservative, holla!
Recent history: The Jayhawks have jumped from Preservative to Great to Capable all in the span of a few years.
8-Ball says: Outlook not so good
Projection: The BMOC, Mark Mangino resigned (cough, cough). KU is mired in a ticket scandal. Footballers and hoopsters are rewriting the definition of “young and stupid”. The Jayhawks have a coach ticket back to Preservative-ville.
Recent history: Bill Snyder emerged from carbonite freezing and led the Wildcats to a 2nd place divisional finish in 2009.
8-Ball says: You may rely on it
Projection: Longhorn kryptonite. Especially with KU trending down, I think KSU is a legitimate candidate to range from Strong to Good.
Recent history: The Tigers are not as good as MU fans believe. The Tigers are better than the average football fan believes.
8-Ball says: Signs point to yes
Projection: Gary Pinkel has brought some consistency and respectability to MU football performance. The conference needs the Tigers to be Strong, not Capable.
Recent history: Cheat. Go 10-2. Lose bowl game. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
8-Ball says: Without a doubt
Projection: Bob Stoops and your Sooner acquaintances will deny it, but the national perception of OU is trending down. The Big 12 doesn’t need the Sooners to be Good, they need the Sooners to be Great.
Recent history: The Pokes are everything the Aggies should have been, but weren’t. A collection of second-tier athletes with a scattering of top-shelf guys. OSU is the team that is good enough to beat everybody, except for Great teams.
8-Ball says: Don’t count on it
Projection: Unless Mike Gundy is hiding another Woods brother in that glorious 'do, I am bearish on the Cowboys. I see this as a pivotal year in Stillwater. This is a Good team headed for Capable.
Recent history: The Horns have turned into a juggernaut. The situation in Austin is the exact opposite of the one in Norman – the national perception of the program is trending into a stratosphere only inhibited by drinkers of orange Kool-Aid.
8-Ball says: Outlook good
Projection: Get ready to be judged on two games per season. This is a Great team that will need to beat every other Great team they play, else all other wins will be marginalized.
Recent history: With the ill-conceived, singular goal of beating Texas, A&M has wandered the wilderness for long enough to get lost.
8-Ball says: Cannot predict now
Projection: This is a pivotal year in Stillwater. That makes it pivotal x 10 in College Station. The Farmers are going to be a trendy preseason media pick. If they win, it’s one step forward. If they lose, get’cha popcorn ready.
Recent history: Tech has been Good lately. Add in an offensive-football mastermind and Tech was trying to elbow it’s way to the big boy table.
8-Ball says: Signs point to yes
Projection: The mastermind is gone and the Tubs era is underway. Things are going to be decidedly different in Lubbock. Whether this Capable team becomes Good under these coaches is a major Big 12 storyline.
Now that I’m 1,000 words in, I suppose it’s time to make a point? Y’all are pushier than Baylor looking for a Pac-10 invite.
According to the above “analysis”, this is where the Big 12 stands:
Great teams – Oklahoma & Texas
Good teams –
Strong teams – Kansas State & Missouri
Capable teams – Oklahoma State, Texas Tech & Texas A&M
Preservatives – Baylor, Iowa State & Kansas
In other words, the Big 12, in it’s current state, is sorely lacking in Good teams. Stick your chest out and tell me the third-best team in the conference.
To compensate for this dearth, either teams projected as Strong or Capable need to upgrade their status, or athletic directors will need to schedule a quality non-conference opponent. Given that schedules are typically done several years in advance, placing that level of importance on a non-con is a risky proposition.