MIZZOUEXPANSIONAPALOOZA 2010™: Where Does Mizzou End Up?

via Bill Carter

The chaos of realignment that has unfolded over the last few days is probably rather enjoyable and amazing to watch if you don't have a dog in the hunt.  But Missouri fans do, so enjoyment really isn't an option.  Mizzou is about to undergo its largest identity change since they helped to form what would eventually be known as the Missouri Valley over 100 years ago.  And with options seemingly breaking down to 1) Big Ten euphoria and 2) hell, it has set nerves justifiably on edge.

But what we've started to see over the last 24 hours or so is that things are not nearly that simple.  There are still many possibilities for where Mizzou ends up -- it's not simply the Big Ten or, as I've been saying recently, the Great Plains Division of the Mountain West.  Let's explore what appear to be all of the options, from the realistic ones to the ... not as realistic ones.  I was going to assign odds to each of these scenarios, but I'll let you do that.  I'm done making predictions.

Big Ten

Depending on who you talk to, Mizzou is either as much of a sure thing as Nebraska (it has just been played close to the vest), Mizzou is on the borderline and might make it in, or Mizzou has no chance on God's green earth.  We all know the draws of Big Ten membership to Mizzou -- no need to go into it again -- but what we still don't know is the draws of Mizzou to the Big Ten.  And it's sounding more and more like we won't know about that for a while.  For that reason alone, and the fact that so many other factors could come into play (Texas, Notre Dame, other conferences' moves, etc.), you simply cannot rate Mizzou's chances for getting into the Big Ten very high.

One of my goals here is to envision what a sample schedule would look like for each of these options, so even though I just played down the odds, let's go ahead and look at what sample schedules might look like in, say, 2012 and 2015 (spaced out so we get variety in the inter-division matchups), if Mizzou ends up in the Big Ten.  At this point, Nebraska is (presumably) in.  If Mizzou joins them, then Rutgers probably does too (right now, I have no reason to be supremely confident that Mizzou gets in over Rutgers).  That leaves two openings -- likely for either Texas and Texas A&M or for Notre Dame and ? (Maryland, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, etc., are all options).  Or, technically, for Texas and Notre Dame (if A&M goes to the SEC).

Just for brevity, we'll avoid the Texas-ND option below (just replace ATM with ND, and there you go) and focus on what 8-team divisions would look like in each of the two main scenarios.

With Texas & Texas A&M ...

West East
Illinois
Iowa
Minnesota
Missouri
Nebraska
Texas
Texas A&M
Wisconsin
Indiana
Michigan
Michigan State
Northwestern
Ohio State
Penn State
Purdue
Rutgers

So assuming nine-game conference schedules (which might not be an accurate assumption to make -- I've heard plenty about keeping it at eight even though that means you barely ever play inter-division rivals), that would mean that two example schedules in Mizzou's future might  look like this:

2012 2015
vs Kansas
Southern Illinois
Arizona State

Rutgers
at Minnesota
at Nebraska
Wisconsin
at Texas A&M
at Michigan
Texas
Iowa
at Illinois
vs Kansas
at Memphis
Random FCS

Minnesota
at Purdue
Nebraska
at Wisconsin
Texas A&M
at Texas
Penn State
at Iowa
Illinois

A Big Ten that includes Texas and Texas A&M would be absolutely insane from a money standpoint.  Which is good because ... look at that schedule.  Missouri now plays Texas every year, likely splits home/road with Nebraska and Iowa (meaning, they're playing one at home, one on the road each year), splits home/road with Wisconsin and Minnesota, etc.  Plus, they get either Ohio State or Penn State for four of every eight years.  You want big-time opponents?  This schedule's for you.  (You want conference title game appearances?  Not so much.)

With Notre Dame and, say, Maryland (just for grins) ...

For this one, we basically add Notre Dame to the West and flip Northwestern from East to West.

West East
Illinois
Iowa
Minnesota
Missouri
Nebraska
Northwestern
Notre Dame
Wisconsin
Indiana
Maryland
Michigan
Michigan State
Ohio State
Penn State
Purdue
Rutgers

Which makes the schedules look like this:

2012 2015
vs Kansas
Southern Illinois
Arizona State

Rutgers
at Minnesota
at Nebraska
Wisconsin
at Northwestern
at Michigan
Notre Dame
Iowa
at Illinois
vs Kansas
at Memphis
Random FCS

Minnesota
at Maryland
Nebraska
at Wisconsin
Northwestern
at Notre Dame
Penn State
at Iowa
Illinois

Depending on the relative power of Notre Dame and Nebraska, this is clearly a more winnable division for Mizzou without Texas around.  The money wouldn't be as great, but the matchups would still be extremely fun ... and exhausting.

I think it's safe to say that the Big Ten is still the preferred option for most Mizzou fans, but since we just have no idea what their odds of this really are (and the odds might not be good at all), we are forced to look at the alternatives.

Big 12

I think people are discounting the possibility of the Big 12 staying together.  I do not think it is extremely likely, but the odds are at least decent.  Why?  Because Texas could still decide that a Texas Network is their best option.  If they do, then the Big 12 South remains in place, and the conference goes about looking for replacements for Colorado and (presumably) Nebraska.

Option #1: Add TCU and Houston, move OU and OSU to the North.

North South
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Missouri
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Baylor
Houston
TCU
Texas
Texas A&M
Texas Tech

So basically OU replaces Nebraska in the current scheduling lineup, and OSU replaces Colorado. Meanwhile, the conference moves to a "permanent rival" scheduling system like the SEC's so they can keep the OU-Texas matchup going in Dallas every October (and again in December, ahem).  Without thinking about this for too long, my first stab at the permanent rivals is: OU-Texas, OSU-Tech, KSU-A&M ... and who the hell knows after that?  We'll say Missouri-Houston (the "Mizzou landed 'Spoon and Ebner, and UH is not happy!!" series), Kansas-TCU and Iowa State-Baylor.

Here's what you get.

2012 2015
Southern Illinois
Arizona State
Miami-OH
?

at Oklahoma
Houston
at Texas
Oklahoma State
at Baylor
Kansas State
at Iowa State
vs Kansas
at Memphis
Random FCS
?
?

at Oklahoma State
Texas A&M
at Houston
Oklahoma
Texas Tech
at Kansas State
Iowa State
vs Kansas

The Big 12 gets what they've wanted for the last decade -- potential OU-Texas championship games every year.  Texas likely gets their Texas Network, the TV deal is better (just because it can't be worse), but not amazing.  It's not a tremendously likely scenario, but it's more likely than some might realize.

Option #2: Add BYU and Air Force to the North roster.

This was trotted out as a possibility yesterday, but I just don't see it because of the overall weakness of the North.  Granted, Nebraska hasn't exactly been a dominant force in the North over the last decade, but still ... replacing them with BYU and Colorado with Air Force does not make the division stronger.  It might not make it that much weaker (let's face it: at this exact moment, Air Force is better than Colorado), but it doesn't make it stronger.

North East
Air Force
BYU
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Missouri
Baylor
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Texas
Texas A&M
Texas Tech

If it did go down this way, Missouri would have to consider themselves pretty lucky.  BYU is a strong program, and let's just say that the last time Missouri faced an offense like Air Force's, it didn't go so well.  Still, compared to the alternatives we've addressed so far, clearly this layout represents Missouri's best opportunity to reach regular conference title games.  Less money, more winning.  There's your trade-off.

With this layout, the "permanent rivals" thing isn't necessary, so we basically keep the schedules as they are currently drawn out, simply replacing Nebraska with BYU and Colorado with Air Force.

2012 2015
Southern Illinois
Arizona State
Miami-OH
?

at BYU
Oklahoma State
at Texas
Air Force
at Baylor
Kansas State
at Iowa State
vs Kansas
at Memphis
Random FCS
?
?

at Air Force
Texas A&M
at Oklahoma
Nebraska
Texas Tech
at Kansas State
Iowa State
vs Kansas

That 2012 slate is sneaky tough.  BYU will never be an easy road trip, and a pretty good Missouri team could still start out 1-2 or 0-3 in conference.

Anyway, these iterations of the Big 12 are not as strong overall as the one we've seen for the last 15 years, but it could still be a solid, viable conference.  And like I said, TV revenue will likely go up just because of the deals everybody else is getting right now.

An EXPANDED Big 12

One of yesterday's articles (no idea which one -- I've read too many at this point) talked about how the Big 12 higher-ups would be meeting this weekend to discuss how to get back to 12 teams ... or how to expand.  It was just a throw-away sentence in the article, but if conversations go well (and let's be honest, there's almost no way they will given the cast of characters), then technically expansion is still an option.  It is far from likely, but let's explore how the Big 12 could become the Big 16 (since a 16-team Big Ten is still probably the Big Ten).

The South adds TCU and Houston.  That part is rather obvious.  What's curious is what would become the priority list in the North.

Option #1: The Big East falls apart, and the Big 12 grabs Louisville and Cincinnati.  If the Big Ten goes ahead and pursues the "Let's blow up the Big East so Notre Dame has to join" option, then you could say they steal Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Syracuse to get to 16 teams.  If this happens, Big East teams are all free agents.  Some probably go to a revamped ACC (after, presumably, the SEC steals 2-4 teams from them), but the westernmost teams potentially fall into the Big 12's lap.  (Technically the Big 12 could go after West Virginia too in this scenario, but we'll stop at Cincy and Louisville.)  Add BYU and Air Force again, and voila! Big 16!

North South
Air Force
BYU
Cincinnati
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Louisville
Missouri
Baylor
Houston
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
TCU
Texas
Texas A&M
Texas Tech

You've got to admit: this has some potential.  The Big 12 South is as strong as it's ever been, and ... well, the Big 12 North is really good at basketball.  (Seriously, home-and-homes with KU, KSU and Louisville every year?)  Assuming once again a nine-game conference schedule, here's what we're looking at.

2012 2015
Southern Illinois
Arizona State
at Miami-OH

at BYU
Cincinnati
Texas
at Baylor
Kansas State
Air Force
at Louisville
at Iowa State
vs Kansas
at Memphis
Random FCS
?

at Air Force
BYU
Texas A&M
at Cincinnati
Louisville
at Oklahoma
at Kansas State
Iowa State
vs Kansas

This is an unlikely but appealing scenario.  The conference adds some decent markets (Cincy, Louisville, SLC), Missouri has a good chance of winning the North in a given season, and again ... the basketball is insanely good.

Option #2: The Big East teams aren't available, so ...now's your chance, Boise. Let's go ahead and assume the Big East doesn't completely fall apart, and the Big 12 isn't able to pull Louisville and Cincy into the fray.  Assuming again that BYU and Air Force are aboard ... who are the other teams?  I think the priority list goes like this: 1) Boise State, 2) Memphis, 3) ...no idea.  Tulsa?  Colorado State?  Boise would add absolutely nothing but football to the equation, but football is all that matters.  Meanwhile, Memphis adds a decent market (a bit bigger than Boise...I think) and once again creates a wonderful North lineup for basketball.

North South
Air Force
Boise State
BYU
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Memphis
Missouri
Baylor
Houston
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
TCU
Texas
Texas A&M
Texas Tech
2012 2015
Southern Illinois
Arizona State
at Miami-OH

at BYU
Boise State
Texas
at Baylor
Kansas State
Air Force
at Memphis
at Iowa State
vs Kansas
vs Kansas
at Memphis
Random FCS

at Air Force
BYU
Texas A&M
at Boise State
Memphis
at Oklahoma
at Kansas State
Iowa State
vs Kansas

Again, this is unlikely, and it doesn't do much for TV contracts, but Boise does brighten things up here.  And who doesn't like a good underdog tale? The underdog conference everybody thought would die, adding the country's underdog team?

Big East

Now to a slightly more realistic possibility.  We're beginning to hear rumblings that the Big East might not sit quietly and allow itself to be picked apart by the ACC and Big Ten.  They might attempt a first strike of sorts.  Early word was that Cincinnati and Louisville would like nothing more than to supplement the western side of the conference a bit by potentially adding Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State if the Big 12 falls apart (or hell, even if it hasn't yet) or Missouri and Kansas don't get Big Ten nods.  You want to talk about intriguing?  This is intriguing.

If Missouri doesn't end up in the Big Ten, I still think it's safe to say that Rutgers is gone.  Without the threat of the Big East falling apart, we'll say that Notre Dame stays independent in football and in the Big East in basketball.  The Big Ten goes with ... whoever.  Let's say Rutgers, Texas, Texas A&M and ... Maryland.  That leaves the Big East reasonably untouched, losing only Rutgers.  That leaves the roster like this:

Football and Basketball (7): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Syracuse, West Virginia.

Basketball Only (8): DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Villanova.

If the conference were to add, say, five teams, that would put them at 12 for football and an epic 20 for basketball.  Honestly?  I think that could work. A 20-team basketball conference would make for complete insanity from a scheduling standpoint (to say nothing of the Big East Tournament), but I really think it might be within the realm of realistic possibilities.

So the Big East adds Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and a mystery fifth team, be it likely Memphis, East Carolina, or Central Florida.  Or Baylor, actually.  But my mind can't grasp a team from Waco being rivals with a team from Storrs, CT, so I'm leaving that one off the table right now.  Manhattan-to-Storrs is all I can take right now, and I can barely grasp that.

(There are, of course, two other options: convincing Villanova to move up to FBS level for football ... or convincing Boston College to come back home, since it's ridiculous they're in the ACC, and the ACC could get picked apart by the SEC in this scenario.)

For the below exercise, we'll somewhat randomly select East Carolina.  Feel free to replace ECU with your team of choice.

(And we have to put aside one obvious problem here -- what exactly is a Big East that includes MU/KU/KSU east of?  The Rockies, I guess.)

FOOTBALL
West East
Cincinnati
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Louisville
Missouri
Connecticut
East Carolina
Pittsburgh
South Florida
Syracuse
West Virginia

Depending on who gets taken from the ACC, this is a conference that a) is absolutely not as strong as a Pac-16, Big Ten, SEC, or whatever other options unfold, and b) is potentially as strong as or stronger than the ACC, depending on who the SEC pilfers.  It is a bottom-of-the-BCS-pecking-order conference ... but it is a BCS conference.

2012 2015
Southern Illinois
Arizona State
at Miami-OH
?

Cincinnati
at South Florida
Louisville
Pittsburgh
at Syracuse
Kansas State
at Iowa State
vs Kansas
at Memphis
Random FCS
?
?

at Cincinnati
West Virginia
at Louisville
Connecticut
at East Carolina
at Kansas State
Iowa State
vs Kansas

This scenario is intriguing for a couple of reasons.

1) If Missouri is good, this is a winnable conference.  It is a solid conference, but this Big East could unfold like the current Big East has -- with a solid roster of improving programs and a rotating balance of power.  There is no Oklahoma or Texas here.  Of course, this likely also means a large set of games on ESPNU or ESPN3.com.  There is no getting around that.

2) OH MY GOD HOW AMAZING WOULD THIS CONFERENCE BE FOR BASKETBALL??  Clearly basketball doesn't really matter in terms of how these conferences are coming together, but basically you'd be looking at a Western Division of Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville and Missouri, plus Marquette, Notre Dame, DePaul, and a tenth team (either a basketball-only school like Villanova or St. John's gets misplaced in the west, or a team like WVU or Syracuse comes to the West for basketball and stays in the East for football ... or Memphis is the fifth addition instead of ECU, and that's perfect).  Kansas...Kansas State...Louisville...Marquette (ANNUAL BATTLES WITH BUZZ PETERSON WILLIAMS!!!)...plus a rotation of Syracuse...Georgetown...West Virginia...Pittsburgh...UConn...maybe Memphis.  Wow.  So brutal, so ridiculously intense, and so fun.

Honestly, it appears that the Big East might try to be aggressive here, and that's good for Mizzou.  If they get away with not only not getting picked apart, but adding to their roster, then that puts Mizzou in an intriguing conference and keeps them away from...

Whatever the Mountain West Ends Up Being Named

Missouri fans have been treating this as the worst-case scenario, and certainly it is.  It's probably not as bad as some of us fear, but there's no question that the TV revenue would be atrocious compared to other conferences.  That said, if they can get a seat at the BCS table (and with no Big 12, there might be an opening), there would at least be some interesting matchups in which Mizzou would be partaking, once they get past the trauma of being left behind.

Right now, the Mountain West has nine programs: Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV, Utah and Wyoming.  If the Big 12 falls apart and the Big East doesn't collect the remains, then there is almost no doubt that the Mountain West will jump at all five remaining teams -- Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.  That puts them at 14.  Technically, they could then add Boise and another team to make an even 16.  Who would the 16th team be?  Honestly, I could see anyone from SMU to UTEP to Memphis to Fresno State.  For fun, we'll say SMU.  And of course, if Utah still ended up in the Pac-12, then two teams would be chosen from this list.

(There is a case to make for the MWC stopping at 14 or even scaling back to 12 because of the problems a 16-team WAC had in the 1990s.  I don't think the same problems would apply here, however -- the geographic spread of this conference does not include Hawaii and really only includes two teams west of Utah.  Plus, there's not as much of an overall cultural problem -- it was said that the WAC colleges were just too different ... Rice and Fresno State just didn't mix.  Not as much of an issue here.)

Here's what a 16-team Mountain West might look like:

West
East
Boise State
BYU
Colorado State
New Mexico
San Diego State
UNLV
Utah
Wyoming
Air Force
Baylor
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Missouri
SMU
TCU

The break is pretty clean, except either Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming or New Mexico ends up in the East.  I chose Air Force.  For the most part, the original MWC teams are in the West, and an almost entirely new roster of teams (except TCU and the AFA/CSU/Wyoming/UNM selection) populate the East.  There is a very strong chance the name of the conference would be changed at this point, but I'm not going to dive into that.

2012 2015
Southern Illinois
Arizona State
at Miami-OH

Air Force
at TCU
at Colorado State
Baylor
at SMU
Utah
at Kansas State
Iowa State
vs Kansas
vs Kansas
at Memphis
Random FCS

at Air Force
at Boise State
SMU
at Baylor
San Diego St.
TCU
Kansas State
at Iowa State
vs Kansas

Clearly there would be a lot of non-televised road games and bleh matchups, but Missouri would still have a chance to win a BCS-level conference every year.  If they could get past TCU, anyway.

SEC

I've seen this mentioned, so I'm including it here, but ... come on.  Not happening.  It's not even worth drawing out the possible divisions.  I assume the scenario people are envisioning when they waste their time wondering if we could maybe sneak in the SEC's door would basically be something to the effect of Mizzou and Kansas going to the SEC West, with two of Florida State/Miami/Georgia Tech/Clemson going to the East?  No idea ... and it's not going to happen, so it doesn't matter.

Independent

Just kidding ... unless you like playing untelevised games and making no money.

Summary

This post was a lot longer than I expected it to be when I started, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible.  The bottom line is that while the Big Ten is still the best-case scenario, there are still some intriguing options on the table if it doesn't work out.

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