All it will take is one domino to fall for the rest to follow suit. The age of the superconference in college football is almost at hand.
Nebraska, currently affiliated with the Big XII Conference, is that domino. With eyes on supposedly greener pastures with what is currently the Big Ten, NU is expected to make a decision as early as Friday on whether or not they will stay or leave.
All signs are pointing to Nebraska heading to the Big Ten, although only if they are assured an invite. The moment they sever ties with the Big XII, with whom the university has been affiliated with since the conference began athletic competition in 1996, all hell will break loose.
Once Nebraska leaves, Missouri, another school who has been informally invited to the Big Ten, will follow them, leaving the Big XII shorthanded by two teams.
Here is where the Pac-10 will make their move, snatching up six more teams from the doomed conference to form their own 16 school juggernaut. The new Pac-16, with perennial powerhouses USC, Texas, and Oklahoma, and tradition-rich programs like UCLA and Texas A&M, would finally have a conference that was comparable top to bottom with the SEC.
Of course, the SEC, not to be outdone by anything anyone else does, will in turn snatch up two to four teams from the likes of the ACC and Big East to form their own superconference. The ACC and Big East, having been picked apart by the Big Ten and SEC, would merge to form a conference under one banner.
And that’s where the Mountain West will enter to pick up the pieces. With the Big XII dismantled, the MWC can pick up North stragglers Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State. Suddenly, the Mountain West would be home to the 2008 Orange Bowl Champions.
They’d also be in a perfect position to bring in a fourth team from the old Big XII, but who exactly that will be gets complicated. The Pac-10’s “unofficial” offers were extended to South teams Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, as well as Colorado. Baylor would be left behind as the old south headed west.
As would be expected, Baylor officials aren’t too happy about that. Texas legislature is demanding that Baylor, not Colorado, is included in the former Big XII South’s mass exodus to the west coast.
This essentially ties the Pac-10’s hands. They want the three Texas schools badly. With the state demanding that Baylor is included in the deal, they will have no choice but to take them for the sake of losing Colorado. It’s all business and politics.
For Colorado, it will be a major blow to be left out of a major conference for the time being. For the Mountain West Conference, it will be a gift from the heavens.
With old conference rivals Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State having been recently added, and state rival Colorado State having been an established member since 1999, Colorado would be at home in the Mountain West with all the existing rivalries in place. It would be a no-brainer for CU to join up.
Now, with 13 schools in place, the Mountain West would be in position to add one more university and create a superconference of their own.
Enter Boise State.
Boise State, currently a member of the WAC, has appeared in two BCS bowl games in four years, despite being in a non-BCS affiliated conference. Also, Boise has played Mountain West staple TCU in bowl games the last two years, forming a legitimate rivalry between the two schools.
The MWC would want BSU. BSU should be wanting out of the WAC, where a chance at a national championship is all but nonexistent. With the Pac-10 filling up, the Mountain West would be the best remaining option.
So now with 14 teams in their lineup, the MWC would be as close to becoming a national powerhouse as ever. Suddenly, it would be home to five BCS bowl game winners from the past six years. Also, while football is driving the train, it shouldn’t go unmentioned that the MWC would be home to basketball juggernaut Kansas.
That’s the kind of prestige the Mountain West has needed these past few years. With only four of the six BCS conferences remaining (the Big XII having folded and the ACC and Big East having merged), and five BCS bowls to send teams to, NCAA officials will need to consider expanding the BCS system.
Who would be the obvious choice, with multiple teams that have left a footprint on the BCS landscape?
That’s right, the Mountain West would finally get what it’s been begging for these past few years: a guaranteed seat at the big boy table. The MWC would be the obvious choice to receive an automatic bid into a revamped BCS.
Now, this is all pure speculation. If Nebraska says no to the Big Ten, none of this happens. And even if the university says yes, there are still a million ways the dominoes could fall, this article being one of them.
Either way, the Mountain West has plenty to gain from conference expansion. It certainly has nothing to lose.