Big 12 mailbag: Placing the expansion candidates into tiers

In this week's Big 12 Twitter mailbag, I place the expansion candidates into tiers, and weigh in on who brings the most to the table from a culinary perspective.

On to the 'bag:

Trotter: Out of the 20 schools, I feel like there are four tiers for the moment. Tier 1: BYU, Cincinnati, Houston; Tier 2: Connecticut, Central Florida, Colorado State; Tier 3: Memphis, South Florida, Boise State, Tulane. And then Tier 4 is for everybody else.

Trotter: Iowa State president Steven Leath said Thursday that he expects this to be done before Christmas. But I think the Big 12 is hoping to knock this out before its previously scheduled board meeting in October. That has always been the league's goal. As for when the programs could join the Big 12, 2017 would be optimal. That could prove tricky for AAC programs, given the $10 million exit fees and 27-month contractual notice. But there will be room for negotiation to get it done.

Trotter: We're about to find out. In Ohio State, Notre Dame, Iowa, Stanford, Arkansas, Arizona State, Cal, Pitt, Missouri, BYU, Memphis and Houston, this is the most difficult nonconference schedule the Big 12 collectively has ever faced. The Big 12 complains about a lack of a respect. This is a prime opportunity to earn some.

Trotter: This is an excellent point, and quite frankly, I'm disappointed the Big 12 didn't list "surrounding eateries" among its core criteria for expansion. We have several tantalizing options too. I love New Orleans fried shrimp po'-boys, so Tulane is an instant contender. I've never actually been to Storrs, but I know firsthand Hartford has tremendous lobster rolls. So UConn is in too. Memphis BBQ obviously is legit. I'm not sure about Colorado State's food, but they bring New Belgium to the equation, so they're a factor. And I know the haters are out there, but this blog has zero tolerance for anyone that disparages Cincinnati's Skyline Chili. The Big 12 already has several big-time BBQ options in the footprint, so I think Cincinnati and Tulane would be my picks for this category.

Trotter: LSU would be great for the Big 12. Logistically, the Tigers make sense, and Louisiana would become an ever greater recruiting hotbed for the Big 12. LSU also would bring tremendous value to the Big 12's television profile, even though New Orleans isn't a huge market. As Big 12 czar, if I could draft any two nonconference-flagship Power 5 programs (assuming, say, the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Florida, USC and Florida State were off limits), I'd snag LSU and Nebraska and call it a day. Of course, this will never happen. But you asked, Tyler.

Trotter: Colorado State's candidacy probably hinges on a four-team grab. If the Big 12 expands by just two, the Rams are a huge long shot. But if the Big 12 opted to go for four teams, Colorado State becomes really interesting. As a solid academic school, with a decent football program, a new stadium and room to grow on and off the field, the Rams have support in certain corners of the league. They're the second-biggest contender to the west of the Big 12 footprint, after BYU.

Trotter: It can't hurt.