In the NCAA Football world of today, conference realignment and expansion is a topic that is always just one rumor away from exploding onto the front page. With that being the case, and with the fact that eventually college football is going to have to whittle down to four or five 14-16 team conferences, it is never an inappropriate time for a conference to be looking for their next addition.
The Big 12 (actual number of teams 10) has fallen off of pace when it comes to expansion as of late. The last time the Big 12 “added” teams, those addition being the TCU Horned Frogs and West Virginia Mountaineers, they were actually just replacing two schools that left for the SEC. If the Big 12 wants to survive, it has to start branching out and snatching up the good schools that are out there and feasible for the taking. In my opinion, the perfect first addition would be the BYU Cougars.
Now the state of Utah may be a little bit outside of the traditional corridor of Big 12 states, but considering that it hasn’t been that long since the Colorado Buffaloes were members of the conference, it isn’t too far of a stretch. It certainly isn’t as far off as West Virginia. Then take into account that in recent years BYU has had a home-and-home series with the Texas Longhorns, and in 2009 they opened the season by beating the Oklahoma Sooners at Jerryland in Arlington, TX. You could say that they have a little familiarity with the Big 12.
Recruiting-wise, adding BYU would give the Big 12 a sort of “window to the west”. Their stiffest competition in the state/area would be from the Utah Utes of the Pac-12 and from perhaps the Boise State Broncos. With the Big 12 in their corner, the Cougars could start pulling some great talent to their team.
Performance-wise, there is nothing to suggest that BYU wouldn’t be a very competitive addition to the Big 12. Under current head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who should win a yearly award for best head coach’s name in the NCAA, the cougars have been one of the most consistent teams in the FBS. Mendenhall took over for the 2005 season and since then BYU has gone to a bowl game every season. Five of those seasons saw the Cougars end the year with 10+ wins and a Top 25 ranking in the Coaches Poll.
In 2012 the Cougars went 8-5, with three of those losses coming against teams that finished in the Top 25 of the BCS rankings. They only lost to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and bitter in-state rival Utah by three points, and dropped their game against Boise State by just one. If one or two plays had gone the other way, BYU could very easily have been 10-2 last season and looking at another Top 25 finish.
In order to stay competitive come 2014 and the new playoff system, BYU is going to have to pick a conference. It seems as though even Notre Dame is slowly accepting that they cannot stay independent forever and will saddle up with the ACC in all sports shortly. The Cougars have to follow suit, and the Big 12 would be a perfect home for a consistently solid team like BYU.