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Who Is Going To Be The Blue Blood Of Big 12 Football?

Jun 21, 2022, 11:31 AM
BYU Football - Big 12 Conference...
A banner in the BYU football offices displaying the 12 teams in the new Big 12 Conference. (Mitch Harper, KSL Sports)
(Mitch Harper, KSL Sports)

SALT LAKE CITY – Big 12 membership is coming into focus with BYU joining in 2023 along with UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston; however, there is still nothing solidified on when Texas and Oklahoma head to the SEC. 

The Longhorns – despite struggling since they lost to Alabama in the BCS title game in 2009 – are one of the biggest brands in all of college football and the same goes for Oklahoma except the Sooners have been winning and have College Football Playoff appearances.

Those two are the true bluebloods of the Big 12. After that, it is a bunch of good teams but none that are great. By the time that the Sooners and Longhorns leave, there will have been zero teams that have made the College Football Playoff (baring a berth over the next few years).

As for New Year’s Six bowl appearances, there will currently be just seven games that featured a non-Texas and non-Oklahoma team with Iowa State, TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma State. The latter two combine for five of those. Those seven appearances would be just one more than the American which currently has six total New Year’s six showings, which also includes the Bearcats playoff berth from last season.

Then there is the national title question. The Big 12 has only won three national titles to claim on the football side in its existence with Nebraska winning it in 1997 (they split with Michigan), Oklahoma in 2000, and the last title coming from Texas’ epic Rose Bowl win in 2005. That number will, obviously, be zero once there is new membership. BYU will be the team with the most recent national title and that will have been over a generation ago from 1984.

Who Is Going To Be The Blue Blood?

There are a lot of really good teams in the conference with Oklahoma State and Baylor being the leader in the clubhouse for that blueblood badge. Jason Campbell at Iowa State is slowly getting the Cyclones in the mix but they are a step behind.

As for BYU, they can make the case for having the most recognizable brand and fans with its association with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It does help that Kalani Sitake has had back-to-back 10-win seasons, and former Cougar quarterback Zach Wilson was selected No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

UCF comes in from the AAC with success including a pair of New Year’s Six appearances, plus their undefeated 2017 season which saw them finishing No. 6 in the AP poll. Three of their prior five years included double-digit wins.

Houston has always had potential but has yet to get over the hump and get back to their late 1980s and very early 1990s when they had a Heisman Trophy winner in Andre Ware 1989. They did go to a Peach Bowl back in 2015 but that year and 2022 are the only double-digit win seasons during that time frame.

There are a lot of good teams but nothing screams elite, however, that is no different than the majority of college football. Also, if BYU were to come in right away and win a conference title in football, that would not be the best look for the new Big 12.

That is a point that Unrivaled’s Scott Mitchell brought up. The Pac-12 is not considered elite without USC, the Big Ten would not be what it is without Ohio State.

The SEC has always had a national power and it is whoever is winning the league as it shows with their five national titles in eight years. Of those five teams in the playoff era, three schools have won a title with Alabama winning three of those.

“If [BYU] wins a championship in three years, that’s a big problem for the Big 12,” Mitchell said. “They’ve added four teams, but they basically eliminated their relevance in college football. Every conference needs a blue blood program. There are no blue blood programs left once Oklahoma and Texas leave the Big 12.

“I would be more concerned with the Big 12 having an image problem. The worst thing in the world for the Big 12 is if BYU wins. I hate to say it and BYU can win it and can compete relatively quickly. That’s not good, and that’s a problem (for the conference).”

The Big 12 will have quality teams coming in but it might take a few years to find that true top team in the conference. Right now it seems that it’s Oklahoma State and Baylor but once the league is settled one of those two might end up being the first team to earn a playoff bid.

Yet, taking a few years to establish the best teams will hurt the Big 12 as it tries to find itself.

“If you’re going to have a conference of a lot of good teams, not a great one, you’re going to end up beating each other up. You’re never going to get a team in the playoffs,” Mitchell added. “Then everyone’s going to say, ‘where’s the program? Where is the flagship? Where is the credibility of the Big 12?’ It doesn’t exist.

“If you’re hoping that it’s Baylor. Baylor is not a blueblood program. Baylor is not this traditional power that can carry things.”

A conference that is full of a bunch of really good teams is not going to cut it. Once that elite team comes around and has an 11-1 season or a 10-2 year with a tough schedule, they might get overlooked when it comes to earning a playoff spot.

Look at the Pac-12, it has a bunch of really good teams but too many teams end up having two or three losses and ranked in the mid-teens to the end of the top 25 polls. That could be the Big 12 if no one team comes out of this realignment and solidifies itself at the top. 

However, saying that BYU will be able to contend right away is an amazing thing for the Cougars program but not so much for the Big 12, at least at the start. It is not too far-fetched to think that after a while the Cougars could be the class of the Big 12, but it will take some time to build up recruiting and other necessities to be a Big 12 and national power.

The goal should be to have teams compete for a playoff berth in the current four-team setup and whatever the new format will be in a few years. Without a true power, getting into that four-team field will be difficult on a yearly basis.

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