You may have heard there’s been some movement across the college sports landscape recently, as the shifting winds of television broadcast funds have demolished a Power 5 league, scattering former Pac-12 members across the conference map. The Frogs O’ War staff got together to give thoughts on the new members of the Big 12 and what’s next:
What is your initial reaction to the announcement that Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah will be joining the Big 12 in 2024?
Anthony: It sure was nice to be on the other side of the realignment rat race. So often the Frogs have been staring at the possibility of being left behind in the ashes, so not needing to live every moment of the saga with desperate anxiety was a treat. The “four corners” contingent moving to the Big 12 always seemed the most logical next step for both sides once USC & UCLA stepped out. The Pac-12 was doomed and it was only a matter of time before someone realized it, even up to the eleventh hour trying to revive its corpse. The surprise was the speed this all came together at the end, that we’ll be seeing these squads in the Big 12 next season.
Austin: I was shocked. Of course USC and UCLA leaving for the Big 10 started a snowball effect, but I didn’t expect everything to happen so quickly. We have known for multiple years that UT and OU are leaving, so everything happening so fast increases the shock value. However, as disappointed as I was to see UT and OU leave, I’m overjoyed about what the Big 12 has done to add talent.
Russ: I had heard several reports over the last year or so that indicated the Pac-12 was in serious trouble due to its inability to secure a media rights deal. Brett Yormark has been dynamic since taking over as the Big 12 commissioner and it was clear that negotiating a media deal with ESPN and FOX before the Pac-12 was a strategic move to gain leverage in future expansion talks. I wish that Oregon and Washington would have made the move, but it’s understandable they would want the Big Ten to reunite with USC/UCLA and gain a larger revenue share. I was excited that TCU would reignite its rivalry flame with BYU, but having Utah come to the Big 12 will be even more exciting for that same reason. Arizona will make the Big 12 an even stronger basketball conference and Arizona State will be an intriguing team with multiple former TCU football staffers (Ra’Shaad Samples and Bryan Carrington).
Miles: Once upon a time the PAC-12 was going to poach programs from the Big 12. My how times change. I love the adds. Colorado never belonged out there, and I like Utah getting a conference matchup with BYU. The Arizona schools seem to grow every year. They’re going to have massive alumni bases in the long run.
Drew: I was initially relieved as a Frog fan to be on the beneficiary side of conference realignment as opposed to the worry that came with the announcement of Oklahoma and Texas leaving. The first group of additions (BYU, Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF) were a welcome addition, but adding four state schools from a Power 5 conference was a much bigger move from Yormark. With so many regional rivalries going away due to conference realignment, it was nice to see rivals BYU and Utah join the same conference, Arizona and ASU sticking together, and Colorado moving back to the Big 12 to meet old foes. While I am excited for the direction of the Big 12, I am sad to see the end of what was a very fun conference in the PAC-12. PAC-12 after dark produced consistently thrilling games and Oregon State/Oregon and Washington/Washington State were fun rivalries that appear doomed for the foreseeable future.
Which of the new members are you most excited to see do battle with the Horned Frogs?
Austin: My answer will be divided into three sections: Football, Basketball, and Baseball. For football, this season I am excited to watch TCU take on Deion Sanders’ Colorado Buffaloes, but they haven’t officially joined the Big 12. So, I’ll go with the Utah Utes. Utah hasn’t had a losing season since 2013. For basketball, the answer is easy. Arizona. The Wildcats are consistently powerhouses in hoops and always land top recruits. And finally, in baseball, probably the toughest answer here, but I’ll go with Arizona once again.
Russ: I’m most excited to see Utah on the football field. The Utes currently have the strongest of the four programs and bring a renewed rivalry factor from TCU and Utah’s days as members of the Mountain West Conference. Arizona will be the most exciting opponent in basketball and I think the Wildcats will be competitive in baseball as well. Colorado will be a great venue to catch any athletic activities. I’ve never been to Boulder and would love to have an excuse to visit some time in the future.
Miles: It has to be the PAC-12 champs - the Utah Utes. Whittingham is one of the best coaches in the business and I’m excited to see what he brings to the Big 12. A lot of people forget this, but Sonny Dykes and Cal beat Whittingham and the Utes in 2016.
Drew: Since Utah has been a very popular answer, I’ll go a different direction and say the Arizona State Sun Devils. On the football field there should be plenty of familiarity between the coaching staffs, as Russ mentioned earlier, along with the Sun Devils having Jaden Rashada in their quarterback room. Rashada was a target for Dykes and company coming out of high school and is very talented as a five star recruit who should be fun to watch but not as fun to play against in the years to come. The basketball matchup against the Sun Devils will also be fun as the game between TCU and ASU in March Madness this past season was an absolute thriller.
Which new non-TCU Big 12 contest are you most looking forward to watching?
Anthony: Kansas vs. Arizona basketball, playing for the FBI Wiretap trophy. The first time the Wildcats go into Allen Fieldhouse, it will be absolutely electric and a true must-see event you don’t often get in regular season college basketball. On the gridiron, it’s the Holy War; that deep-seated forever beef that college football is built upon, where the on-field result can influence the relationship with your neighbors all year round.
Austin: I’m excited about an age-old rivalry coming to the Big 12. The Arizona vs. Arizona State rivalry, also called the Duel in the Desert. This rivalry has been going on for more than 100 years. Watching these two teams compete in football and basketball will be intriguing. However, another age-old rivalry between BYU and Utah will be reignited. Both the Cougars and the Utes will finally be in the same conference again.
Russ: BYU vs. Utah seems like a matchup that could get pretty vicious. I don’t know as much about the Arizona vs. Arizona State rivalry, but I’d be interested in learning more about it.
Miles: Utah vs UCF. High-flying offense vs hard-nosed defense. Who gets the best of who on any given year? Plus they’re a casual 2,300 miles apart, and given the landscape we are headed to in college football I think that means they should become rivals. Someone make a trophy.
Drew: BYU vs. Utah fills a need for more heated rivalries in the Big 12 with the departure of Texas and Oklahoma. Historic rivalries drive fan interest, better atmospheres, bigger moments, and all around better college football. The Holy War, along with ASU vs. Arizona, gives the Big 12 more of what makes college football great.
If each team will only be assigned two permanent annual opponents for future scheduling, and assuming one is Baylor, who should be the second for TCU?
Anthony: While I’d love a trip to Boulder every-other year, if you’re offering the opportunity to beat both Baylor & Utah every season, sign me up. The last time the Frogs defeated both the Bears & the Utes in the same season, TCU would go on to win the Rose Bowl. I expect they’ll attempt to keep it local, sending the Frogs to Stillwater or Lubbock or Houston, but a rekindling of the Mountain West rivalry with either BYU or Utah would be terrific.
Austin: Let’s keep it in Texas. Texas Tech should be TCU’s permanent annual opponent. The two teams first squared off in 1926, and have been playing each other annually since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012. Additionally, the Frogs currently have a losing record in the all-time series against the Red Raiders. I’d like to see the Horned Frogs extend their current win streak to overtake the Red Raiders.
Russ: Texas Tech would be a great annual opponent for the Horned Frogs. Interesting things always seem to happen in Lubbock when TCU and the Red Raiders match up. On a side note, with more teams coming to the Big 12 conference, maybe TCU can finally remove SMU from the schedule when the current contract expires? Having at least one FCS or weak FBS opponent on the schedule seems inevitable, but I’d love to replace the SMU game with a Big 12 crossover game (assuming two divisions are adopted) or another nonconference game that would do more for the TCU strength of schedule moving forward.
Miles: At this very moment I have to go with Houston because Dykes vs Holgorsen is going to be great. But long term, I’d like for it to be UCF. Let’s get TCU down to Florida on a regular basis and see if we can start recruiting in the talent rich state.
Drew: From a pure program building perspective, an annual matchup with Houston would give TCU a chance to expand its recruiting reach deeper into a very talented area around UH. It would also give the Frogs another in state opponent to develop a rivalry with which I think fans will be looking for with the departure of Texas to the SEC. Having another in-state rival would also make it easier to drop SMU from the annual schedule in the future if TCU wants to do so. Playing Tech every year would also work for those same reasons (recruiting from west Texas isn’t as fertile as from Houston but a victory over a Texas opponent would still help recruiting).
Which team from this round of realignment will have the most success in its new home?
Anthony: I’ll take Oregon in the Big Ten. The talent at the top of that conference falls off of a cliff so fast and the Ducks will always have the resources to swoosh any recruit off his feet to Eugene so that the Ducks will keep pace to at least compete with Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and USC. By playing a B1G schedule Oregon is guaranteed 6-7 conference wins a year and will only need to win 1-2 of those marquee matchups to reach the conference title. The Autzen home field advantage is going to be an even stronger force as teams will be traveling thousands of miles to reach the Pacific Northwest.
Austin: I gotta go with Utah here. Coming from the Pac-12, they competed against perennial powerhouses USC and Oregon, with UCLA putting up a fight as well. Now, with Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12, the field feels as open as ever. Utah has the opportunity to succeed in football and basketball.
Russ: Utah seems like the clear choice here, but if the Buffaloes and Deion Sanders continue to make noise in the transfer portal and on the recruiting trail, I could see Colorado slowly move up the ladder. As of right now, however, Utah seems best positioned to have immediate success in the new Big 12. The Utes were ranked No. 15 in the USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll, while the Horned Frogs were placed one spot behind at No. 16.
Miles: UCF has the highest ceiling, in my opinion. Huge alumni base, warm weather, plenty of in-state talent to recruit with. Football has been made a priority at the school and they’ve seen success with it already. It’s also worth noting that UCF has only been a FBS program since 1996.
Drew: I think Utah is poised to have the most success, but I think Houston has the opportunity to make the biggest improvement as a program. Moving from group of 5 to a Power 5 (or 4 now with the dissolution of the PAC-12) brings in an influx of funding for new facilities or a bigger recruiting budget. Dana Holgorsen has experience coaching in the Big 12 and had success at West Virginia. Houston is an excellent area for recruiting and is a big city that could provide ample NIL contributions if UH markets itself well. Houston has a chance to catapult forward as an athletics program if the football team makes a jump as the basketball team is already there. The Cougars are perennially towards the top of the nation in hoops and should only get more national recognition as they join the best basketball conference in America.
With the conference now at 16 teams, should the Big 12 bring in any more programs? If so, which schools would you prefer?
Anthony: Once the ACC inevitably collapses whenever Florida State & Clemson officially find greener grass in the SEC or B1G, it’s time for Brett Yormark to go shopping out east and bring in Louisville and Pitt. This delivers instant rivalry and travel partners for Cincinnati and West Virginia, Maybe you could pull in Virginia Tech or Miami or UNC to pair with another western program like Oregon State or San Diego State and truly spread coast-to coast in a 20-team league
Austin: No. First and foremost, the Big 12 should rebrand as the “Big 16” if they feel these new additions are solidified. Second, as of now, 16 teams is a lot. The Big 10 will soon have 18, the SEC has 16, and the ACC has 14/15 due to Notre Dame competing in all sports but Hockey and Football. If the NCAA wants to continue with conferences, then the standard should be between 10 and 16 schools. However, if things continue to change, there are a few worthy contenders to join the conference. San Diego State, Oregon State, Stanford, and even SMU.
Russ: I would like to see the Big 12 add two more schools and reach 18, but I don’t have much interest in the remaining Pac-12 programs (California, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State). I’d much rather bolster an already absurd basketball conference by inviting Gonzaga and UCONN. With Houston in the fold and Arizona on the way, Gonzaga and UCONN would undoubtedly make the Big 12 college basketball’s strongest conference.
Miles: At this very moment, no. However, the Big 12 has no choice but to expand long-term. The future of college football, as I see it, is with 3 super conferences. It’s been inevitable for a while now, but I think everyone thought it would be the PAC-12 joining the SEC and Big 10. The collapse of the ACC is imminent, and once it happens the Big 12 needs to act. I’d like to see the Big 12 add Virginia Tech, UNC, Duke, and Miami to get to 20. If conferences decide to go to 24 teams (which I think will happen) then I think you also look to add Louisville, Pitt, Virginia Tech, and Oregon State. I’d like us to get this over with and stop the off-season “realignment” nonsense from happening every year. Three major super conferences with a European soccer style promotion/relegation system would be my favorite option moving forward.
Drew: In what is now an environment of eat or be eaten, completely ruling out further expansion feels like an archaic way of thinking. That being said, I think the Big 12 is in a solid spot and should not look to add schools just for the sake of adding schools. As much as it is sad for the remaining PAC-12 schools to get left behind, none of them make much sense to add for the Big 12. No one outside of the Power 5 currently moves the needle for me unless Gonzaga and/or UConn would be interested in a basketball only deal. If the rumors about turmoil in the ACC are true, the Big 12 should try to make additions. As Anthony mentioned, Pitt and Louisville would be great adds for regional rivalries with Cincinnati and West Virginia. Miami would be a (very unlikely) dream add as a national brand and an opportunity to build off of UCF and dive further into the Florida TV market and recruiting grounds.