In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we debate how expansion candidates BYU and Houston would finish playing in the Big 12 this season:
Where would Houston finish in the Big 12 standings?
Max Olson: I reached out to ESPN Stats & Info to see if they could estimate how Houston would do in the Big 12 this season using FPI data. The FPI numbers aren't as in love with Houston as the rest of the country is. UH is No. 47 in the initial FPI standings. Thus, when we experimented by simulating a season of UH playing a Big 12 team's conference schedule (we picked West Virginia), the result was a projected conference record of 4-5. So, essentially, FPI metrics suggest UH would have a 6-7 win season this year as a member of the Big 12. I personally don't believe that. I think Houston could do as well as 9-3 in the Big 12 with this team they're bringing back.
Mitch Sherman: Houston possesses its share of Big 12-caliber players, from quarterback Greg Ward Jr. to defensive end Cameron Malveaux and others. BYU and Boise State fall into this category, too. They are Power 5 worthy, but I can't envision any of these teams finishing higher this year than sixth in the Big 12. And from my perspective, it's not a talent issue -- it's an adjustment issue. If Houston, for example, had been a member of the Big 12 since 2012, its current team could likely win nine or 10 games and finish as high as third in the conference standings. But to drop the Cougars into the league this season -- any season, for that matter -- and expect immediate success is misguided.
Jake Trotter: For any program joining a Power 5 conference for the first time, dealing with the rigor of having to play quality teams week in and week out is a considerable adjustment. Houston might have the frontline talent to defeat almost any opponent on a given Saturday. But having the depth to get through a season in a Power 5 conference is another matter. Just ask West Virginia and TCU, who both endured growing pains their first couple of years in the Big 12. With that in mind, despite how talented the Cougars are, I'd have them finishing somewhere around fourth or fifth in the Big 12 standings.
How about BYU?
Olson: The FPI projection for BYU was about the same as Houston. If the Cougars had to play West Virginia's conference schedule, they'd be projected to win 3.9 games in Big 12 play -- beating Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and possibly Texas Tech. That'd be a 6-7 win season, which I think is probably fair. I do think BYU would be well-equipped to handle the road challenges, since they've been playing teams all over the country as an FBS Independent. And Big 12 teams could have a tough time in their first trips to Provo.
Sherman: It takes a supremely talented team to navigate any conference move smoothly, let alone a jump from the Group of 5 or independent status to the Big 12. The reason is simple: While you, as the new kid, must start with a blank slate in preparation for every foe, your conference opponents begin each week with a base of knowledge and experience against nearly every team on the league schedule. In the Big 12, where every team plays every other team each year in the pre-expansion schedule format, the edge for existing league members is magnified.
Trotter: Even though BYU isn't as explosive as Houston, I actually believe BYU might be better equipped for an immediate transition to a Power 5 league. The Cougars have been playing challenging schedules for years -- their first four games this year are: Arizona, Utah, UCLA and West Virginia -- and the track record of their depth, from the quarterback position on, seems to be more on par for a Power 5 program. BYU wouldn't challenge in the Big 12. But I could see the Cougars pushing the likes of West Virginia, Texas and Kansas State for the No. 5 spot in the standings.
Is there any other expansion candidate that would challenge for the top half of the Big 12 standings?
Olson: It's probably relevant to point out TCU and West Virginia both went 7-6 in their first seasons in the Big 12. I don't think all of these Big 12 expansion candidates would experience a similar fate, but most of them probably would. The candidates most likely to finish in the top half of the league this season, in my opinion, would be Houston and Boise State and then maybe San Diego State or BYU.
Sherman: For Houston, BYU or Boise State, the disadvantage of playing an unfamiliar opponent in every game, I believe, would equate to the loss of one day each week in practice. Over the course of 12 games, it amounts to a two-game swing. So if Houston looks like a 9-3 regular-season team on paper in the Big 12, mark them down for 7-5 in the transitional year -- or just outside the top half of the league.
Trotter: Boise State has the pedigree that would make them a tough out playing in any conference. And San Diego State seems to have a pretty talented squad this year. I wouldn't pick either to finish in the top half of the Big 12, though. And beyond that, there doesn't seem to be anyone else worth mentioning.