Big 12 Conference Realignment: Why This Version May Be Better Than Before
Obviously, everyone knows by now that Texas has agreed to stay in the Big XII, and by now, you know it was all about the money thrown their way.
What's debatable is the impact that this will have on the conference itself. Oh sure, the Big XII lost a traditional juggernaut in Nebraska and a once in a generation winner in Colorado, but what the Big XII gained was far greater...the chance to play a round-robin type conference schedule.
One of the things that, to me at least, made the Pac-10 special was the nine-game conference schedule that gave each team a chance to play everyone in the conference. With ten teams, the Big XII opens itself to that opportunity.
Now, instead of Texas and Oklahoma deciding who wins the Big XII South for a meaningless conference title game that they have dominated for the past six years, they could decide just who is in the driver's seat for the conference title.
Remember how the Civil War rivalry decided the Pac-10 title in 2009? The Nielsen rating for that game was a 4.2, trailing only the Texas-Texas A&M game, which came in at 4.3, for the highest rated Thursday night game of the 2009 season.
Considering the #2 team in the country was in the UT-TAMU game, I'd take that as a win for the Ducks and Beavers.
In Portland, the market rating was a whopping 26.49, which came in third for the highest rated telecast of the year only behind the Super Bowl and Super Bowl Kick Off, both on NBC, making it the highest rated ESPN telecast in Portland.
Imagine the numbers that would come in on Thanksgiving night, when the Longhorns and Aggies are playing for the top spot in the Big XII, perhaps even the national title game. Anyone thinking back to the 2006 Michigan-Ohio State game (13.4 Nielsen rating)?
I'm sure I'm not alone, but there are some conferences that don't need or shouldn't even think of having a conference title game, and one of those is the Big XII.
The Pac-10 is starting to become more balanced, and the ACC's game is young and the series is 3-2 in favor of the Coastal Division.
The Big Ten, if they do things right, will have Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska in the Big Ten West and Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State in the Big Ten East. That's a balanced match-up in my opinion.
As for the SEC, the series is 11-7 in favor of the East and the West is starting to look stronger and stronger each year.
As for the Big XII, the series started off going back and forth each year, with each division literally trading the title between each other for eight years. Then, since 2004, the Big XII South has won the last six games.
Granted, I will give the North credit that with Nebraska, they looked to be on the way back to competing with the South champion. Unfortunately, in years before that, Missouri and Colorado really gave the conference terrible outings in four of the last six title games by a combined score of 212-44. Nebraska lost the other two by a combined 15 points.
There was a time where the Big XII title game was exciting. 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2003 gave us some great games and/or upsets. But since then, there's only been one game to put us on the edge of our seats, and that was this past year's 13-12 classic.
The SEC Title Game has never had an unranked participant in 18 games, even when the West has had three years (1993, 1995, and 2002) with the first place team banned from the post-season. The Big XII Title Game, in 14 contests, has had three.
Out of the 28 total Big XII Title Game participants, 12 of them have been ranked in the Top 5, 18 in the Top 10. Out of the 36 total participants in the SEC Title Game, 19 have been ranked in the Top 5, 24 in the Top 10.
Comparatively, there will never be a more prestigious conference title game than the SEC, but I will give the Big XII credit for trying. It just wasn't meant to be in the end.
There's still a way for them to have a new 12-team Big XII, and that's add TCU and either Houston or Arkansas (yes, it could be done), then make North and South divisions with Texas and Oklahoma in different divisions.
The divisions would stand as, in the South: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, and Houston/Arkansas, and in the North: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State.
Really, whether it's the 10-team Big XII or my suggested 12-team Big XII, I honestly believe they'd be better off year in and year out in the long run than the way they looked these past 14 years.
Either the conference will have a round-robin champion, TCU and/or Houston might get a chance to prove themselves, or Arkansas will get to renew some old rivalries. To me, all three are winners. Only time, money...and Dan Beebe's patience will tell in the end.
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