Saturday, July 23, 2011

More Thoughts on the "Big XII"

I have written recently some thoughts I have on the "new" ten team "Big XII." I have been thinking a good bit about this league of late and wonder where it will be in the next couple of years. Will it have the same ten team format (along with the same ten schools)? Will it add a couple of programs to get back to a twelve team league, or will it go the way of the old Southwest Conference? I don't know of course but it will be interesting to watch.

I mentioned that one thing that this league must do is schedule "up" in non conference play. That may be harder to do than it appears what with everyone of the top programs in other leagues looking for likely wins in their non conference games. The Sun Belt, WAC, Mid American, and some IAA programs earn their bread and butter by taking on the "big boys."  That may make it difficult to schedule a tier one or two program for every non conference game. Still the effort has to be made.

 This year for instance the old Nebraska/Oklahoma rivalry is not to be played. I know the Huskers moved onto "greener pastures" but this rivalry is a time honored contest. One of the premier games in the land.  It is every bit as big as the Longhorn/Sooner, Aggie/Longhorn, Ohio State/Michigan, Auburn/Alabama, USC/UCLA and Florida/Georgia games. It is a shame that it will not be played this year. The reasons for this I do not know. I would suspect that it has something to do with the Nebraska AD's aversion to scheduling top teams in non conference play.

Will the Big Twelve have the need to add a couple of teams in the future? It is pretty hard to see who would be a good fit. Raiding the Southeast Conference is out of the question. In fact I would not be totally surprised to see the SEC try to entice Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and perhaps Mizzou or Baylor. Anyway if the Big Twelve tries to get back to twelve teams, who would they go for? The University of Houston come to mind. The Cougars would be able to compete (most years) fairly well in this conference. Louisiana Tech? Probably not but maybe not totally out of the question. Tulsa? Maybe. New Mexico? Might be a good fit. UTEP perhaps would also be an option. Southern Methodist would probably jump at the chance to affiliate with a major conference. TCU would be a boon to the league but next season they jump to the Big East. That is a travesty but also another story for another time.

What does the future hold for the Big XII?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Elite of the Game

There are really only a handful of programs in "big time" college ball that deserve the title of "elite" or "tier 1." I have composed a small list of these programs. Now some of the schools have had some bad seasons of late but the list is based more on prestige and historical success than anything recent. These programs have stood the test of time.

USC: The Trojans have become somewhat of a joke in recent years but the program will be back. They should probably make a quick coaching change though. Almost anyone would do.

Notre Dame: As above. The Irish' current coach has some character issues but he is a proven winner.

Texas: Always a school to consider when discussing the elite of the game.

Penn State: It may or may not be time for Paterno to go but it is unarguable that he has made this a tier one program.

Ohio State: Always a contender.

Michigan: Down for the past few years but a top program none the less.

Oklahoma: Always considered a top program

UCLA: It has been a long long time since this program made any noise nationally but it is still considered a destination school for top athletes.

Florida: Goes without saying.

Alabama: Of course.

Auburn: Ditto

Nebraska: No doubt.

There are some schools that are on the cusp, if you will, but just not quite there yet. Good programs but, thus far, don't quite have the long term history of success to be in tier one.

Florida State: Just a few more top seasons would have propelled them into the tier one category.

Miami (FL): They certainly were on their way but got sidetracked somehow.

LSU: Pretty close to tier one but just not quite there yet.

Boise State: Excellent program of late but has not stood the test of time. Perhaps even a little "faddish" to be seriously considered.

TCU: A lot of storied history here, but does not have the long term success.

West Virginia: Could have been in tier one with just a few more top seasons.

Tennessee: Close but no cigar

Arkansas: Ditto

I would put this group of programs at the top of tier two.

The list really has little to do with recent won/loss records and a good bit more to do with the "prestige" and history of the respective programs.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What The Big XII Needs To Guard Against

The Big XII has lost two programs to other conferences. One is a major player in the D1 game and the other is not. I am of course speaking of Colorado and Nebraska. From a strictly won/loss standpoint I suppose it was a good move on their part. Nebraska will most years dominate the Big X (with 12 teams) and Colorado may at least be competitive in the PAC 10 (now PAC 12).
The Big XII (with 10 teams, this is getting confusing) now is down to two "tier 1" teams: Oklahoma and Texas. The Longhorns were down last year and Oklahoma has had some pretty lean years in the not so distant past, but both of these programs are considered among the elite of the college game. Oklahoma State and probably Texas Tech make make up the "tier 2" group in the conference. Other schools no doubt have good years here and there. KSU has made some noise in the past and even KU and Mizzou for that matter. Texas A&M may be the best team in conference this year and even Baylor seems to be on track for a decent year but these programs are in no way to be considered elite or even tier 2 in big time college ball.

The Big XII needs to guard against irrelevance. Remember the old Southwest Conference? The problem there was a lack of relevance. There was Texas and everyone else. Of course sometimes another program made some noise. Houston and SMU come to mind. But the Southwest Conference, especially after Arkansas moved east, was no longer considered a premier conference in the latter years of its' history.

The new format for the Big XII has each conference member playing, well, each conference member. I like that format frankly. The problem though is that there are likely only to be three or four programs in the entire ten team league that are considered to be "good teams" in any given year. The conference as a whole must "schedule up" with their games out of conference to add a bit of lustre to the league. This, for the most part, does not appear to be the case with the upcoming season. For instance; Texas should be able to pad their record with some non conference wins, but victories over Rice, BYU, and UCLA are not the prescription. At least Baylor meets TCU and KSU meets with Miami (FL). Other teams play at least one tier 1 or tier 2 opponent with the exception of Kansas and perhaps Mizzou. Under no circumstances should any program in this conference schedule a IAA (I still call it that) opponent. They should perhaps also stay away from Sun Belt, Mid American, and WAC schools. The risks (scheduling these schools) are fairly high for an embarrassing upset and that type thing does not bode well for a league that may have already have some credibility problems.