MIZZOUEXPANSIONAPALOOZA 2010™: The Big 12 Inches Closer to Death

First things first: no, Kansas and Missouri have not been offered by the Mountain West.  No, tonight's curators meeting isn't about considering a Mountain West offer.  Reading comprehension is a good thing.  Yes, Mizzou and Kansas could end up in the Mountain West, but we are weeks or months away from that scenario coming to fruition.

Really, not a ton went on yesterday in the world of conference realignment -- just some commissioner visits and rumors. But I think we can say that the odds seemed to shift for at least a couple of the conferences on Mizzou's list of possibilities.

Big 12

Reading Material:
-- Tulsa World: Pac-10 commissioner visiting OU, OSU, Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M this weekend
-- SI.com (Andy Staples): Reading into Oklahoma's meeting with Pac-10
-- Burnt Orange Nation: What Is Texas A&M Thinking?
-- Team Speed Kills: Texas A&M to the SEC Goes Mainstream
-- Dr. Saturday: SEC bid divides A&M, heightens prospects of Aggie-Longhorn split
-- College Football Talk: SEC realizes 'Horns, Sooners likely a pipedream
-- Daily Oklahoman: Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott meets with OU, OSU officials
-- Daily Oklahoman (That Fruity Guy): There's no saving the Big 12
-- Daily Oklahoman: Expenses and revenues for potential Pac-10/Big 12 merged superconference
-- Mountain West Connection: Utah to Pac-10 Monday?
-- KC Star: Officials from five Big 12 schools confer by phone on conference's future

Yes, the Big 12 could still survive.  Technically A&M's AD said that he would still like to keep the conference together, and we've read that sentiment being expressed by most of the conference's teams at some point in the last couple of days.  But ... pretend you are Texas A&M for a second.  Right now you are being wooed by the Pac-10 (soon to be Pac-16) and potentially the SEC.  If saving the Big 12 came down to your vote, do you honestly think you would choose to stay in the Big 12 or go off to the land of either the country's first mega-conference (maintaining your true, long-term rivalries) ... or heading to the strongest conference in college football?  You're probably going to leave.  And while everybody is saying the right things (sometimes), with each day that passes, the Big 12's hopes of survival dim.  Until it dies, it is still a possibility for Mizzou's future ... but it might not be a possibility for more than another day or two.

(And if you really want to know why the Big 12 can't survive, the esteemed Senator Blutarsky has the answer.)

Big Ten

Reading Material:
-- Chicago Tribune: Maryland athletic director says no contact with Big Ten
-- Post-Dispatch (Bernie Miklasz): MU could appeal to super conferences

I think it's safe to say that there will not be much going on with the Big Ten until the Pac-10 makes its move.  At that point, you might see acceleration from the Big Ten, but it wouldn't surprise me if the SEC actually started to make its move before Jim Delany and crew at this point.  Other than the simple fact that the Big Ten is probably going to want its roster in place for the 2011-12 academic year (so it would be a good idea if everything were in place by the fall of 2010), there is not much need for Delany to rush things.  There is the potential risk that waiting would allow the Big East to become aggressive and not only save itself but improve its standing -- if the Big Ten wants any teams associated with the Big East or Big 12 leftovers that could end up in the Big East, then they can't wait forever.

Big East

Reading Material:
-- Bring On The Cats: Why Go West When You Can Go East?
-- Washington Examiner: The Big East will listen to all schools who want membership

I love the headline of that second article, by the way.  Fordham?  Missouri State?  UW-Eau Claire?  Now's your chance!  The Big East is listening!!

Right now, the "Big 12 leftovers to Big East?" movement has not picked up steam.  But in a world where ESPN will write a 'duh' article like "Mountain West interested in Kansas and Missouri," it's only a matter of time.  As I said yesterday, this is more realistic than some people might think, simply because the Big East wants to survive.  And if Dan Beebe and Larry Scott have proven anything over the last month or two (or decade), it's that you have to be aggressive if you want to guarantee survival.  Beebe was not, and he's just about out of a job.  Scott has been more aggressive than anybody expected, and it could work out wonderfully for him.

By the way, do click on the BOTC link above.  It's a logical look at the benefits of the Big East making this move ... and it's also hilarious to see that more readers chose the Mountain West as the preference instead of the Big 12.  Sad and funny, all at the same time.

SEC

Reading Material:
-- Roll 'Bama Roll: SEC Says No to Expansion?
-- GatorBait.net: Breaking down the expansion possibilities

No possibility seemed more absurd to me three days ago, and yet it continues to pick up steam.  Rumor has it that if the SEC is going to expand, they want to do it outside of their current footprint.  When all is said and done, I'm not sure this will be the case.  But if it is, then their options are not tremendously widespread.

Let's think about the states that are both a) below the Mason-Dixon line and b) not currently occupied by an SEC team.  Basically, you've got Kansas, Texas, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.  Feasible FBS teams from those states: Texas A&M (assuming Texas is off the list), Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.  Not exactly a murderer's row in terms of home runs, but if you're legitimately thinking about choosing four of these for expansion, then suddenly, and strangely, Mizzou becomes a reasonably viable option.

A&M is probably at the top of that list just because of their fanbase and potential, and Virginia Tech has the best football program (though evidently the concern is that if VT comes, UVa has to come, which apparently doesn't appeal to them much).  The addition of Duke and North Carolina would be wonderfully creative -- suddenly the SEC would have three of the nation's premier basketball schools -- but there's nothing saying those schools are even remotely interested.  It's pretty clear that the ACC fits their culture to a T, and if Maryland really is rolling their eyes at the thought of a Big Ten invite because they love the ACC, then it's safe to say that Duke and UNC are probably very happy with their conference as well.

So here's my question for today: how do you think Mizzou fans would handle SEC membership? It would be a massive celebration at first, and justifiably so -- they wanted the Big Ten, and instead got the #1 football conference in the country.  The road trips would be ehhhhhhpic.  The number of big-time opponents coming to Faurot Field would lead to wonderful attendance and a big-time atmosphere.  Of course.  But ... it would also mean that some really good Mizzou teams would have a ceiling of about 8-4 or 9-3.  And how do you think Mizzou fans would handle that?  How many "Screw you, Pinkel!!!" shouts do you think we'd be hearing from the crowd in that scenario?

How much of a difference would an SEC schedule make in Mizzou's record?  Let's imagine how the last few years might have played out in the SEC.  Let's say Missouri was in the SEC West with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.  We'll say that the SEC added VT and WVU to the east, just for fun.  Here are some example schedules and, using my F/+ tool for games that didn't actually take place, some example results.

2005
Opponent Result

at Kansas
Arkansas State
Troy

Alabama
at Arkansas
Auburn
at LSU
Ole Miss
at Mississippi St.
Texas A&M
Florida
at Vanderbilt

L, -10
W, +27
W, +31

L, -18
L, -5
L, -16
L, -27
W, +17
W, +18
W, +4
L, -20
W, +1

6-6 (4-5)

The SEC was in a bit of flux at this point in the decade (it hasn't always been as good as it has the last couple of seasons), and the level of quality wasn't nearly what it is now.  That being the case, Mizzou could have gone ahead and sneaked out a minor bowl bid ... though obviously they wouldn't have been playing South Carolina in said bowl.  Still, they get to a bowl, so Gary Pinkel probably doesn't get fired.

2006
Opponent Result

Kansas
Murray State
Ohio

at Alabama
Arkansas
at Auburn
LSU
at Ole Miss
Mississippi St.
at Texas A&M
at Florida
Vanderbilt

W, +25
W, +40
W, +25

L, -10
L, -17
L, -17
W, +5
W, +20
W, +18
L, -5
L, -38
W, +8

7-5 (4-5)

Another reasonably similar record (Mizzou went 8-4 that season in the Big 12) ... and the win over LSU sure would be fun.

2007
Opponent Result

vs Kansas
W. Michigan
Illinois State

Alabama
at Arkansas
Auburn
at LSU
Ole Miss
at Mississippi St.
Texas A&M
at Tennessee
Virginia Tech

W, +8
W, +28
W, +21

W, +20
W, +28
W, +8
L, -14
W, +20
W, +16
W, +14
W, +2
W, +1

11-1 (8-1)

Obviously I was most curious about this season.  Turns out, if Mizzou was able to function in tight games (they really didn't face many that season), they could have ended up in roughly the same situation.  This would have been an interesting year, as the title game would have possibly been Missouri vs West Virginia (assuming LSU still lost twice ... which isn't a guaranteed assumption, obviously).  In the SEC.

2008
Opponent Result

vs Kansas
SEMO
Buffalo

at Alabama
Arkansas
at Auburn
LSU
at Ole Miss
Mississippi St.
at Texas A&M
Tennessee
at Virginia Tech

L, -3
W, +49
W, +21

L, -12
W, +19
W, +13
W, +8
L, -7
W, +29
W, +26
W, +15
L, -1

8-4 (6-3)

Because of brutal trips to Tuscaloosa, Blacksburg, and Oxford (to face a suddenly resurgent Ole Miss squad), this year just would not have gone as well.  Here's where the SEC's depth really started to kick in.

2009
Opponent Result

vs Kansas
Bowling Green
Furman

Alabama
at Arkansas
Auburn
at LSU
Ole Miss
at Mississippi St.
Texas A&M
at West Virginia
Kentucky

W, +2
W, +7
W, +40

L, -33
L, -18
L, -7
L, -20
L, -7
L, -9
W, +2
L, -13
W, +3

5-7 (2-7)

The rebuilding year that everybody expected for 2009 would have actually come to fruition against this wretched slate.  You can make the case that Auburn and Ole Miss weren't good enough to win at Faurot this year, I guess, but the numbers disagree.

Basically, the good years could still be really good, but the leaner years would almost certainly be worse.  And if the ridiculous screaming for the heads of Pinkel and (moreso) Yost/Steckel were bad in the real 2009, it's hard to even imagine what would have happened at 5-7.

In other words, the SEC could be the greatest and worst thing to happen to Mizzou football.

Mountain West

Reading Material:
-- ESPN.com: Mountain West Eyes KU, Mizzou

The Mountain West is doing a good job of lining itself up to benefit as significantly as possible from realignment, and I can't blame them for that.  But they're going to have to wait a while.

Conference USA

No.

---

So basically the main thing that happened yesterday was the Big 12's death becoming slightly more imminent and the prospects of the SEC somehow becoming slightly more likely.  If I were to place odds on any of these conferences, I think the most likely scenario would still only have about a 30% chance of happening.  There really isn't a leader right now ... which is just amazing.  Aside from shifts in the late-1920s and mid-1990s, Missouri has been in roughly the same conference for more than a century ... and now we have absolutely no idea where they could be as soon as 2011.

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