Predicting the 2012 Record of College Football Teams That Changed Conferences
Every spring, programs look ahead to the upcoming season in an attempt to prepare for the coming year's opponents.
In 2012, a number of programs—12 to be exact—will see an approaching landscape that looks very different from 2011. This select dozen will be competing in a new conference home this season, and many will be meeting new opponents for the first time in program history.
Predicting records is difficult enough, but when we're looking at new conference affiliations, the task is even harder.
Not like it's ever stopped us before!
We'll take a look at these 12 programs, and give our prediction for the record of each program in their new conference home.
Note: We're only considering scheduled games, so predicted win-loss records don't include potential bowl games or conference championship games.
Fresno State Bulldogs
This season, the Fresno State Bulldogs will follow rival Boise State from the WAC to the Mountain West.
The Mountain West is a tougher conference than the WAC by any relevant standard, so it's difficult to see how the Bulldogs can improve on their 4-9 mark from last season.
Fresno State also has a couple of non-conference games lined up against Colorado and Oregon from the Pac-12, so it's shaping up to be another long season in Fresno.
2012 Prediction: 5-7
Also moving from the WAC to the MWC is Hawai'i.
Despite winning 10 games in 2010, the Warriors haven't turned a winning performance in the postseason since the 2006 Hawai'i Bowl. The Warriors also took a massive step backwards last season, finishing with a regular season record of 6-7, and missing a bowl trip for the second time in three seasons.
The Warriors will open the season with a game visiting what will undoubtedly be a Top Five team to start the season—USC.
Hawai'i will be taking a step up in class for 2012 by joining the MWC and that likely means yet another season without a bowl trip.
2012 Prediction: 5-7
Our first of four new FBS programs is the Massachusetts Minutemen.
UMass is making the move from an FCS Independent to an FBS program participating (in football) in the MAC, replacing Temple in the East Division.
While no one would accuse the MAC of being a particularly difficult conference, it's worth mentioning that UMass wasn't particularly good as an FCS program over the past several seasons. While the MAC certainly has its troubles, most of the teams should be able to beat a mediocre FCS program in its first FBS season.
UMass was 5-6 last season, and was just 3-5 against fellow Colonial Athletic Association teams.
But you have to give Massachusetts some credit when it comes to scheduling opponents. For 2012, the Minutemen will visit Vanderbilt, UConn and Michigan while receiving a visit from Indiana. Unfortunately, all of those strength of schedule points will be for naught, as UMass is likely to lose each of those contests.
2012 Prediction: 2-10
One of the biggest conference moves of the 2012 season was Missouri to the SEC.
Whether or not you agree with this particular move, it's a done deal, and Missouri is in for one heckuva transition season.
Even if Mizzou had opted to stay put in the Big 12, the Tigers would have been in for a difficult season. Head coach Gary Pinkel has just 11 combined starters returning from last season's 8-5 squad. And while Pinkel made a bit of a splash this off-season, landing five-star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, the Tigers still ranked 11th in the SEC's 2012 recruiting classes.
And there's no guarantee Green-Beckham will be an immediate impact player in 2012.
But the Tigers will have one thing going for them this season: a lucky break in scheduling. With the SEC now boasting 14 teams, that means there will be just two cross-divisional games per season. Missouri drew Texas A&M and Alabama, meaning the Tigers will be able to bypass LSU, Arkansas and Auburn.
The addition of non-conference games against FCS Southeastern Louisiana, Arizona State, Central Florida and Syracuse should mean that the Tigers won't have much difficulty in earning a bowl berth this season.
2012 Prediction: 7-5
Nevada Wolf Pack
Our third and final team making the move from the WAC to the MWC is the Nevada Wolf Pack.
You really can't blame Nevada for making this move, given the fact that the bulk of the quality of the conference had already moved to the Mountain West. It wouldn't have made much sense for the Wolf Pack to stay put, watching everyone else pass them by.
Nevada will be looking to build on last season's 7-6 season, which included a trip to the Hawai'i Bowl.
Nevada is also the only one of the three new MWC members that should still have a decent chance in the new conference. Nevada has shown some ability to win against current MWC members, including Boise State, in-state rival UNLV, New Mexico and Colorado State.
2012 Prediction: 7-5
South Alabama Jaguars
The South Alabama Jaguars aren't just a new FBS program, they're a new football program. The Jaguars first official season of NCAA football occurred just two years ago in 2010.
After going 10-0 against a mix of bad Division II teams and really bad FCS teams, South Alabama played a more traditional FCS schedule in 2011 as an FCS Independent. The Jaguars' record was a little more realistic at 6-4.
The Jaguars are in for another reality check this season, even considering their new membership in the Sun Belt. With 13 games on the schedule, the Jaguars will have plenty of opportunity for “growth,” especially against teams such as NC State and Mississippi State.
While South Alabama may be the new FBS program that accomplishes success quicker than the rest (remember Western Kentucky didn't win a game against an FBS opponent until 2010 after making the switch in 2008), it would be a good idea for Jaguars fans to keep their expectations low in year one.
2012 Prediction: 4-9
TCU Horned Frogs
The old saw about “if you can't beat 'em, join 'em” doesn't exactly hold true here.
After all, TCU beat 'em, topping Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl Game.
But TCU decided to join the ranks of the automatic qualifiers anyway. After initially deciding to join the Big East, TCU wisely abandoned those plans in favor of the more geographically-friendly Big 12.
TCU is certainly a program that is capable of holding its own in the Big 12 and it won't be too long before the Horned Frogs are competing for a conference title on a semi-regular basis.
But with some off-field problems plaguing a team that was already facing a depleted roster for 2012, it's doubtful how much noise TCU can make right away in their new conference.
The good news is that TCU's early schedule shapes up nicely, with the first seven games all being winnable. If (and it's a big if) the Frogs can add in an upset or two in 2012, it's not completely out of the question to see TCU back in the BCS this year—this time as a card-carrying member.
2012 Prediction: 9-3
Temple was a respectable 9-4 team last season and the Owls hope to keep their winning ways intact with their new status as a BCS AQ program.
The Owls will move from the MAC to the Big East this season, and will be more geographically at home with their new conference.
But as much as we all mock the Big East, it's still leaps and bounds more competitive than the lowly MAC. Temple will quickly discover that nine wins in the Big East requires a completely different level of football—a level at which Temple currently isn't capable of producing.
2012 Prediction: 4-7
Texas A&M Aggies
Another headline-creating conference defection for 2012 is the move from the Big 12 to the SEC for Texas A&M.
After living in the shadow of Texas for so many years, the Aggies have decided to split from their traditional rivals and walk a different path. The path chosen is a treacherous one, fraught with landmines and snares which the Aggies will be taking on right from the beginning.
The SEC is difficult enough, but the West Division has been the dominant side for the past few years. The Aggies will thus be forced to face some of the nation's top programs in divisional play: Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and Auburn.
But don't think that means the Aggies won't be able to have a potentially major impact on the SEC in 2012.
In addition to a new head coach in Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies will be boasting a roster that includes 17 returning starters.
Expectations may be tempered, given last season's surprising lack of production. But the bigger the opponent, the bigger the potential reward. And A&M will face a ton of big opponents this season.
With the wealth of experience Texas A&M brings to the table this season, no one should be surprised to find the Aggies fighting for a major January bowl berth in the SEC this season.
2012 Prediction: 9-3
Texas State Bobcats
With so many teams bolting the conference, the WAC needed to find fresh blood.
New FBS program Texas State will provide some of that fresh youth, as the Bobcats join the conference in 2012.
Coming from the ranks of FCS football independents, the Bobcats dipped their toes in the FBS waters last year, only to recoil instantly. In the two games against FBS teams, Texas State was beaten by a combined score of 95-20.
Even with the relative success TSU had against FCS opponents (beating then-No. 22 Stephen F. Austin and then-No. 15 McNeese State while losing to then-No. 19 Central Arkansas, 23-22), the Bobcats dismal performance against Texas Tech and Wyoming last season provides a preview of things to come.
Texas State will begin the season against Houston before hosting Texas Tech in a rematch of last season's blowout loss.
The Bobcats will have opportunities for wins this season in the depleted WAC, but it may be quite some time before we see Texas State put together anything we'd consider a string of “quality” victories.
2012 Prediction: 4-8
Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners
Our final FCS to FBS team is also from the state of Texas. The University of Texas at San Antonio will also be joining Texas State in the WAC. But unlike Texas State with its century-plus of football history, UTSA has just one season under its belt.
The Roadrunners were 4-6 in 2011, which included a win over Division II Northeastern State and a win over NAIA Bacone College.
Unfortunately, 2011 also incuded a loss to Division III McMurry University. Just so we're all clear, that's a non-scholarship Division III team. Not exactly the type of schedule that instills confidence in the future prospects for success in the FBS.
It seems even the UTSA powers that be are aware of this face, as the Roadrunners have scheduled a game against Division II Texas A&M-Commerce on September 8—the first of four games against non-FBS opponents this season.
Those four games may be all the wins UTSA accumulates in 2012, and even that's no guarantee.
2012 Prediction: 4-8
West Virginia Mountaineers
Finally, the long, sad divorce between West Virginia and the Big East has come to an end.
The Mountaineers will be playing in the Big 12 this season, after it became clear that WVU was willing to pay alimony in order to be allowed to leave. Now, head coach Dana Holgorsen will be able to resume his tear through Big 12 defenses (Holgorsen was the former offensive coordinator for Oklahoma State), and with the offensive firepower returning to Morgantown, don't be surprised if points come in bunches for West Virginia.
West Virginia is a lock for a preseason Top 25 position, and the 15 returning starters—including stud quarterback Geno Smith—will likely keep WVU on everyone's radar screen this fall.
But winning the Big 12 is a taller task than winning the Big East. No more Cincinnati, no more Rutgers, no more South Florida. Instead, West Virginia will be facing the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. The road to the BCS is much, much rockier this time around.
In addition to all of the benefits of moving to the Big 12 (money, recruiting, television exposure, et cetera), Mountaineer fans should be filled with hope for one very important reason: Dana Holgorsen's offense.
If there's one guy who knows how to shred Big 12 defenses, it's Holgorsen. His “Air Raid” offense is gelling at WVU and this could be the year when all of the pieces fall into place.
In his final season at Oklahoma State, Holgorsen led a Cowboys attack that was third in the FBS in total offense and scoring offense.
Given all that, and the Big 12's complete lack of defense (no teams in the top ten of total defense, and only one in the top 50), there's more than enough reason to believe West Virginia has as much of a shot as anyone in the Big 12 in 2012.
2012 Prediction: 10-2