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Where College Football is Now and Where it Goes in the Future: Big XII

So, the Big XII used to be a big deal, now it’s a big mess. Since 2011 it’s lost a bunch of big programs, and now Texas and Oklahoma want out to the SEC. How is that going to look and what are they going to do? They desperately need an expanded playoff format, that’s for sure.

NCAA Football: Liberty Bowl-Texas Tech at Mississippi State
Texas Tech and West Virginia, headline teams? In 2023, yep.
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

If there is a mess to be had in the Power 5, the Big Twelve (Big XII) has been living one for the last decade. If you look at the projected 2022 season slate of teams, the conference has a serious math deficiency. There are only ten teams left in the conference.

That condition was not a very happy circumstance, either. Starting in 2011, the Offense oriented league began to hemorrhage big power programs to other P5 conferences. Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri jumped ship. Colorado went to the PAC 12, Nebraska trundled its big red tractor into the B1G, then both Texas A&M and Mizzou added to the SEC.

The net effect was a massive loss of revenues and attention. That drain began to tug at the two most viable A/A- graded teams; Oklahoma and Texas who signed a deal to bolt to the SEC no later than 2025 and sooner if they could pay the freight.

The Current Shaky Picture

That massive hole would leave a crippled eight team league that would have an incomplete sub-par schedule for presentation to the CFB graders. For this season, however, the situation looks like the following:

The Currently Listed Lineup for the Big XII for 2022

Team Grade Comment
Team Grade Comment
Baylor Bears B+ Small school with a wealthy alumni footprint and an up and down program back on the up side
Iowa State Cyclones C+ They try, but never are really above sometimes being above average
Kansas Jayhawks C Basketball school with an occasional decent football season
Kansas State Wildcats C See Kansas
Oklahoma Sooners A- Leaving for SEC 7/2025
Oklahoma State Cowboys B+ Will be the best team in a basically new conference
TCU Horned Frogs B B rarely better rarely worse - just B
Texas Longhorns B+ Leaving for SEC 7/2025
Texas Tech Red Raiders B Exciting and great when not defended
West Virginia Mountaineers C+ Dull and boring. Always look like they'll be good, then fall off.
It’s not 12, and 2 don’t want to be there. Gobbler Country

There isn’t really a whole lot there, now. The Big XII has never been particularly famous for stout defenses. Most of their football games are ridiculed as shootouts where the winner manages to get one defensive stop enough to shift the scoring flip-flop before the game runs out of time. That is not to say that there weren’t and aren’t some good programs or some innovative offensive thinkers in the league. The Air Raid offense has its origins with Texas Tech and TCU. This high powered mostly pass affair even attracted us to the potential of marrying it with actual defense to help the Hokies potentially dominate the ACC. Cough… cough… didn’t happen, but there is no doubt that Air Raid is a West Coast Spread innovation that makes college football exciting.

Of course, as was pointed out in the introduction the first major hole in the ship of the Big XIIs prestige was the loss of four major university programs to three other conferences. There was little glue holding the current big schools bound to the dwindling pile, and the current reduction by the two biggest football names in the group; Oklahoma Sooners, and Texas Longhorns is going to happen no later than 2025. The super conference of the SEC will dominate all of college football and probably basketball as well.

Where Does it End Up and When?

So, where does that leave the conference? Currently the listed ten teams make up the evaluation of the next iteration of the Plain States mess. The evaluations still contain Texas and Oklahoma which seems like a bit of fanciful thinking. Take a look at this Dennis Dodd piece from CBS Sports on Jan 18th of this year. Big 12 engaged in plans to split into two seven-team divisions beginning in 2023 amid realignment - The proposed grid of teams is listed in this article, and it’s been credited to them, here, but it is definitely worth discussing.

The 2023+ Big XII - At least until the Longhorns and Sooners leave

Team Grade Comment
Team Grade Comment
Cincinnati B+ AAC transfer in starts off as a B+ for now. Good Head Coach sound program.
BYU B Independent transfer in starts off with a B though shading to B+. Sound program and good coaching.
Iowa State C+ Even with good coaching still just flying around par.
Kansas C Basketball school with an occasional decent football season
Kansas State C Another basektball school with an occasional above average football season
Oklahoma A- Heading out for the SEC big bucks as soon as possible
Oklahoma State B+ They will end up being one of the better teams in the conference by default
Baylor B+ Can be good, can be average, and struggles with all kinds of behavior issues from every direction.
Houston C+ New to the league, and only an above average mid-major, not expecting much.
TCU B Sometimes good, but rarely better than above average.
Texas B Struggles since Mack Brown departure continue and will follow to the SEC.
Texas Tech B Red Raiders and Air Raid can be serious wow factors or big nothing burgers. If the opposition D is good - nope.
UCF C+ Another newbie to the conference from Mid-Majors (AAC again)
West Virginia B- Can be as good as a B+ or as bad as a C, it depends on the year, coaching, and schedule.
This actually looks like a good league if the two SEC bound programs stuck Dennis Dodd piece from CBS Sports/Gobbler Country Comments and Grades

The Longhorns and Sooners are still listed, but in reality, they aren’t really going to figure into the long-term plans for the conference beyond the 2024 season. (Or is that 2025? Or 2023? The whims of legal maneuvering and contract disputes will determine the content, because if Texas and OU could leave tomorrow morning, they’d be gone.)

What you do notice is that the Big XII is padding out its replacement ranks by attracting BYU Major level Independent, and some of the better Mid-Major teams; Cincinnati, Houston, and University of Central Florida into the mix. If you didn’t notice, both Cincinnati and UCF had several bouts of respectable rankings over the last decade. Their move to some willing “Power 5” conference gives them better looky-loos from the playoff pickers. At least that’s what they think. Houston seems to just be looking to be more than known for an Option offense type. The risk, here is that the rump BIG XII grades out to be more of a mid-major conference than a Power conference.

So Maybe We Need to Figure Out Something

Maybe a definition would be in order, (I wish I really had one that was “official”) but the programs in the Power 5 generate more revenues from Football and Basketball allowing the programs to sustain themselves without losing money. They have live fan bases large enough to have regional appeal and football crowd gates above 40,000 fans. In lieu of major sized fan gates and bases they have “prestige” points as in being old established programs that are attached to major state and land grant universities. Like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State or Alabama and Auburn. It’s the elite “University” against the Agricultural and Mechanical College. Sprinkled in there are just big money old prestige private schools like Notre Dame, USC, Stanford and the like. The reality is that the definition is really nebulous and there are many programs in the “Power 5” that truly don’t belong there by any of those factors. There are a pile of them in the ACC, but the B1G, SEC, and PAC-12 aren’t immune. We’ll talk more about that reality in the concluding article(s).

Done Before It’s Relevant - Changes are Guaranteed and More Needed

The truth is that the chart, above will be obsolete before any fans can ever get used to it. The reality is that few teams left in the Big XII after 2024 will reflect a true threat to take a slot in the CFB National Championship “Fakeoffs”. The expansion of the College Football Playoffs to, at least 12 teams, is a critical part of the Big XII’s ability to recover some of their former prestige and be relevant, again.

Unfortunately, at the moment, the prestige death spiral will be locked in, and even the two or three remaining programs of any potential will be saddled with sub-par opposition ratings. In these playoff conditions the death spiral won’t be broken easily, if at all.

The Big XII will continue to exist, but calling it a “Power” conference is, now, and will be a stretch. They still need to replace departing Texas and Oklahoma, and will that be from Power Programs or more Mid-Majors? We’ll see but, for now, the Big XII is a Power 5 conference in wishes and hopes, only.

Next up, we look at the very stable and very overrated (for football) ACC.