NCAAF
July 27, 2021

Predicting What CFB Super Conferences Will Look Like When Big 12 Disappears

The winds of conference realignment are once again blowing, threatening to permanently change the college sports landscape.

While we've seen this movie before, things are really starting to heat up now that Texas and Oklahoma formally notified the SEC that they've requested membership by 2025. That means a major shakeup is on the horizon. 

The expected departure of the Longhorns and Sooners could spell doom for the Big 12, which could cease to exist in a few years with the way things are going. In a few short years, we could be living in a world where there are four, 16-team super conferences. If that happens (and it probably will), what will it look like?

SEC

East Division: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

West Division: Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Missouri, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas 

We’ll start with the SEC, which is the league that appears to be jumpstarting the latest reshuffling of conferences.

Texas and Oklahoma appear to be set on joining the SEC, essentially destroying the Big 12 in the process. The money that the SEC collects for football is already insane, and it’ll be off the charts when you factor in the Texas and Oklahoma fanbases. Don't forget that Texas already has its own TV network.

The additions of Texas and Oklahoma will also allow the SEC to restructure some things. The West Division will look a lot like the old Big 12 with Missouri able to move to the West and join Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M. Arkansas also has ties to a few of those schools, so they’ll remain in the West with LSU and the two Mississippi schools. 

Meanwhile, Alabama and Auburn make the move to the East Division, which makes the most sense geographically and from a rivalry standpoint. Alabama has a long-running rivalry with Tennessee while Auburn has rivalries with Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Unlike the current setup where the West Division is almost always the better division, it could be a toss-up from one year to the next which SEC division will be better on the gridiron. 

Big Ten Plus Six

East Division: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland

West Division: Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern

Surely, the Big Ten can’t keep being called the Big Ten when they reach 16 teams, but that’s something to be figured out later. For now, what’s important is that the league will add Oklahoma State and Iowa State. There are plenty of options when it comes to adding two more programs to the Big Ten. The league could make a move to poach schools from the ACC or even entertain Cincinnati as a possibility. But given the circumstances, it’ll be easier to give a home to two orphans from the Big 12.

Of course, there’s only room for two schools to get to 16, so the Big Ten ultimately decides to add Oklahoma State and Iowa State. Geographically, Iowa State makes sense and already has a natural in-state rival in the conference. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State expands the league’s footprint into a football-rich area. Kansas will get some consideration, but the football program has fallen so far in recent years and the Big Ten doesn’t need another Rutgers.

Unless the Big Ten wants to take a bold step and invite one of the Big 12’s abandoned Texas schools like Texas Tech or Baylor, adding Oklahoma State and Iowa State makes the most sense.

ACC

North Division: Notre Dame, Boston College, Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Virginia, Virginia Tech

South Division: Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Miami

The highlight here is that Notre Dame finally joins the ACC as a full-time member. The Fighting Irish played a full ACC season in 2020 because of the pandemic and the city of South Bend didn’t fall into a sinkhole, so it is possible for Notre Dame to be part of a conference. While the Irish have enjoyed a long history of being an independent football program, the writing is on the wall and becoming impossible to ignore. At some point, Notre Dame will have to fold and agree to become a full-time member of the ACC.

The expansion will allow the ACC to restructure into a North and South Division. The North Division will be primarily teams that used to play in the Big East, including West Virginia, who gets plucked up by the ACC once the Big 12 goes down in flames.

Outside of Virginia and Notre Dame, every team in the North Division played Big East football at some point. Meanwhile, Miami, another former Big East program, joins all of the old-school ACC programs in the South Division in a setup that will help traditional rivalries and perhaps create some animosity between the two divisions. 

Pac-16 

North Division: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Boise State, Colorado, Utah, BYU

South Division: USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Arizona, Arizona State, San Diego State, Fresno State

At the moment, the Pac-12 is saying publicly that it isn’t that interested in expanding. But if everyone else is doing it, peer pressure will eventually get to the league, forcing them to make the transition to the Pac-16.

Conventional wisdom says that the Pac-12 should try to expand its footprint and pick off the teams abandoned by the Big 12. The likes of Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Kansas, and Kansas State could all be potential candidates.

However, we see the Pac-12 going in another direction. Boise State has developed such a strong following that the Broncos would be a great addition to the league. The same can be said of BYU, which is essentially a poor-man’s Notre Dame in terms of its fanbase. Plus, the Pac-12 will enjoy playing host to the hostile Utah-BYU rivalry. 

In a surprise twist, Utah and Colorado will move to the North Division to join BYU and Boise State. Meanwhile, the Pac-12 doubles down on its presence in the state of California, First, Stanford and Cal move to the South Division while San Diego State and Fresno State are added, putting six schools from the Golden State together with the two Arizona schools.

It’s not an ambitious move by the Pac-12, but the league chooses to incorporate as many West Coast programs as possible rather than adding schools from Texas. Unfortunately, it leaves many of the Big 12’s former members without a home in a power conference.

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