In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we discuss -- what else? -- Big 12 expansion:
Should the Big 12 expand this summer?
Max Olson: No, but expansion does seem somewhat inevitable at this point. I'm still skeptical that the potential expansion targets will actually strengthen the league. I liked the Big 12's unusual format -- round-robin schedule, no divisions, no title game -- but clearly Bob Bowlsby and others are starting to believe that's a disadvantage. Ultimately, it comes down to the money, and money is usually going to win these debates.
Brandon Chatmon: It feels like expansion is coming but I'm still struggling to see the reason for it. There aren't a long list of top-notch candidates available -- if there was I'd be for it -- and I'm not convinced expansion would secure a more lucrative future for the schools already in the conference. Most of all, I don't see the urgency to expand. The realistic options aren't going anywhere anytime soon so why not make a patient, measured decision?
Jake Trotter: The Big 12 has to expand at some point. But does it have to be now? By voting to expand this summer the Big 12 would be closing off future home-run options, should acrimony fester in the Pac-12 or return to the ACC. Then again, if the Big 12 doesn't expand soon, it might not last long enough to go for a game-changer.
Would expansion help get the Big 12 into the College Football Playoff?
Olson: Sort of. In a 12-team league with divisions, the Big 12's best team will no longer have to go through everybody. Going undefeated will be slightly less difficult, even with the return of a title game. But that's the funny thing about this expansion talk: Is the Big 12 really trying to add two programs that can win the CFP? Or are they just trying to make it easier for their current members? If Bowlsby is so concerned about access to the CFP, I have to wonder why the league isn't advocating for an eight-team playoff that gives them a 100 percent chance of making it every year.
Chatmon: The data says yes. I ask "How?" Let's ignore the small, two-year sample size, which is an issue in itself. How could the data possibly predict what the College Football Playoff committee is going to do considering the baseline traits of the teams it has placed in the top four has been a moving target for the past two years? Not to mention how many times the Big 12 has knocked itself out of national title contention with a championship game that saw a title contender lose in the conference championship game. There are all kinds of questions that need to be asked and answered before moving forward and making decisions based on the data provided by Navigate Research.
Trotter: The research says it would, and actually, it's really not even that close. The 12-team, eight-conference game, league championship game model is the way to go. The Big 12 is not maximizing its CFP opportunities by sticking with the current format.
If the Big 12 does decide to expand, who would you recommend?
Olson: I suppose I would recommend focusing their efforts in the East, since the league already has West Virginia, and would probably narrow down that search to Cincinnati, UConn and Memphis. Just my opinion. I think it's safe at this point to guess that this thing is going to come down to markets and TV money, and those three schools seem well-positioned to enhance the Big 12's reach.
Chatmon: It's a tough decision because there aren't any “no-brainers” available but I'd probably lean toward BYU and Cincinnati. Obviously there are a ton of potholes standing between the Big 12 and BYU as a member of the conference but if both parties really want it to happen and are willing to work together to make it happen, then BYU would be a solid addition thanks to its national appeal in comparison to the other candidates. Cincinnati would be another solid option as a university in a good TV market with solid athletic programs and a desire to join the Big 12.
Trotter: I think there are two scenarios to consider. One is the BYU/Cincinnati option, which would strengthen the football of the league. The other is buying low on upside. Keep an eye of Central Florida/South Florida. They have almost no football tradition to speak of but sit in two of the top 20 TV markets in the country and feature massive enrollments. High risk, yes. But potentially high reward.