Big 12: Big Ten Conference
Osborne told the Lincoln Journal Star that while he hasn't heard from Delany or entered into any formal talks with another league, he'd listen if the phone rings in the coming weeks. Delany told WSCR radio that the Big Ten is still conducting an internal study that he hopes to complete by late spring or early summer.
"We haven't entered into any formal talks with anybody right now," Osborne said. "We're focusing on the Big 12. But I don’t think that means if somebody wanted to pick up the phone and call us, that we'd hang up on them. You listen."
When a league offers $17 to $20 million per year in television revenue, listening is the smart thing to do.
Nebraska isn't a home-run addition like Texas or Notre Dame, but it would add another traditional power in football to the league. Although the Huskers aren't what they were when Osborne coached, the program clearly is on the rise under Bo Pelini. Nebraska also fits geographically better than Texas, as Lincoln is less than 300 miles from Iowa City. The big drawback would be a small TV market and a state that doesn't produce a ton of FBS players.
Many folks have brought up good points about why Texas wouldn't leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten: rivalries, geography, success in the league, etc. Would the same reasons keep Nebraska in the conference? I'm not so sure. Nebraska hasn't benefited from the Big 12 nearly as much as Texas. Its rivalry with Oklahoma isn't the same as it used to be, and the Big 12's power clearly rests in the South division.
Here's what Osborne had to say:
“I would have to say the center of gravity has moved south. You’d have to say that trend to the south still continues to this day, which is a little concerning sometimes for people in the north part of the Big 12."
Nebraska likely would be much more interested in the Big Ten than Texas. But would the Big Ten want the Huskers? Time will tell.
It's pure coincidence that on the day I fill in for the Big 12 blog, a report is published about Texas engaging in preliminary discussions with the Big Ten about joining the conference. A source with Big Ten ties tells the Lawrence Journal-World that the Big Ten and Texas have had "preliminary exchanges."
"People will deny that, but it's accurate," the source said.Until now, the Texas-to-the-Big-Ten talk had been purely speculation. Ever since the Big Ten announced in December that it will actively explore the possibility of expansion, a lot of junk has been thrown out, particularly the recent bogus rumors about Pitt. But this is the first legitimate news outlet to report discussions between the Big Ten and an institution.
There are numerous reasons why Texas would be a great addition to the Big Ten (or any league, for that matter). But this ultimately will come down to Texas' willingness to leave the Big 12, a league where it has flourished.
What happens to the Texas A&M and Oklahoma rivalries? Will the increased revenue from the Big Ten's TV deal offset increased travel costs Texas will face by being an outlier in the Big Ten? Would Texas only join as part of a package deal with A&M or Oklahoma?
The Big 12 certainly doesn't want to lose Texas, and I'd expect the league to put up a strong fight if these talks get more serious.
As a reminder, I'll be chatting about Big Ten and Big 12 football today at 4 p.m. at Sports Nation. Please join me.
News that the Pac-10 Conference is considering expansion and hired Beebe's predecessor, former Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg, as his point man should be viewed as a very real threat in the Big 12's Irving, Texas offices.
Early reports have Colorado one of the Pac-10's primary targets. It makes sense because of the fast-growing population in the state, the Denver television market and Colorado's traditional history as a football power before the Buffaloes' recent struggles in the Big 12 in the last several seasons.
In fact, Phil Wallace of the blog L.A. Observed mentions today the Pac-10's expansion plans should begin with Colorado.
It marks the second time in the last three months the Big 12 has been targeted. Late last year, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa State among others were mentioned in plans to add new members that could develop into an expanded Big Ten Conference.
Missouri's interest in moving to the Big Ten seemed the most intense. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told the Associated Press he believed Missouri would be moving up in prestige by joining the conference, disparaging conference brethren Texas Tech and Oklahoma State when he talked about moving.
While both other conferences would offer advantages to the schools moving, Colorado's move doesn't have the economic ramifications a move to the Big Ten would provide. Big Ten schools are already making $10 million-plus more than their Big 12 counterparts because of the fledgling Big Ten Network that Weiberg helped to start.
None of that is in place now for the Pac-10. The addition of Colorado would help expand the conference's geographic footprint, but realistically would provide little else for Colorado's program. There's no guarantee that the Pac-10's plans for a television network will provide more than what the Buffaloes already receive in the Big 12. Would they bet on what's to come rather than keep what they currently have in Colorado's current conference affiliation?
It won't be that easy if Missouri or Nebraska were provided the opportunity to join the Big Ten. Tradition would mean something to both schools, but the larger television revenue for both schools could trump all of that.
If I was Beebe, I wouldn't take it as flattery that two of my conference's immediate geographic neighbors on either side are mentioned as trying to break up my conference.
Because if the Big 12 loses Missouri or Colorado or Nebraska, or Texas in some bold expansion plans, it would decline in national perception that would hurt badly.
It's something that Beebe can't afford to have happen on his watch.
And it's why he should be poised to react -- quickly -- as others are plotting to rip his conference apart.
Look on the bright side. It means a healthy dose of Big 12 lunch links to help you get through the drag of the first day of the work week.
Here's what I've got.
- The Kansas City Star’s Blair Kerkhoff does a nice job of tying up all the details about Missouri's possible move into the Big Ten Conference.
- Todd Reesing and Reggie Stephens didn’t help themselves with their performances at the East-West Shrine Game, the Sporting News’ Russ Lande reports. Lande also notes that Danario Alexander will be in the crosshairs for NFL scouts during practices this week at the Senior Bowl.
- The Austin American-Statesman’s Kirk Bohls is surprised that Texas Tech agreed to such a small contract buyout for Tommy Tuberville, among his delightful “nine things and one crazy prediction” for this week.
- Five incoming freshmen have joined Oklahoma’s team with a goal of immediately joining the Sooners’ playing rotation, the Tulsa World’s John Hoover reports.
- The Denver Post’s Woody Paige writes about a booster-initiated plan to raise $50 million for the Colorado football program.
- Colorado’s early struggles in attracting top recruits are detailed by the Denver Post’s Natalie Meisler.
- The Columbia Daily Tribune’s Dave Matter analyzes staff changes across the Big 12 North.
- Nebraska’s strength and conditioning program with James Dobson in charge is analyzed by the Omaha World-Herald’s Rich Kaipust.
- Tim DeRuyter tells the Bryan Eagle’s Richard Croome that he’s confident in his ability to turn around Texas A&M’s defense.
- Sam McKewon of the Nebraska State Paper.com opines that Bo Pelini has to do a better job of recruiting Nebraska's border states.
- Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier tells Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman that the Broncos’ proposed game with Nebraska for 2011 is off, although he is open to playing the Cornhuskers in the future.
- Denny O’Brien of Bonesville.net expects Ruffin McNeill to be a hit at East Carolina.
But there's still some news percolating around the Big 12.
Here are some of the stories people are talking about.
- Missouri could make up to $10 million a year in additional revenue by moving to the Big Ten Conference, Christopher Tritto of the St. Louis Business Journal reports.
- 6-foot-5 kicker Justin Castor has accepted a scholarship offer from Colorado, the Boulder Camera’s Kyle Ringo reports.
- Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy are listed as the top two players in the College Football News’ Pete Fiutak’s list of the top 100 incoming draft prospects. And Suh tells the Connecticut Post’s Chris Elsberry that playing soccer helped developed some of his unusual athleticism for a defensive tackle.
- The Oklahoman’s Brandon Chatmon writes that Oklahoma State's bevy of returning wide receivers could be ideal to operate new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen’s passing attack. And the Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel writes that Holgorsen might be Mike Leach’s ultimate disciple.
- In his weekly nine things and one crazy prediction, the Austin American-Statesman’s Kirk Bohls writes that Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford might be too fragile to withstand the NFL.
- Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Mike Hlas shares Paul Rhoads’ latest You Tube video from the Insight Bowl.
- The Tulsa World’s John Hoover writes about Oklahoma tapping into recruiting talent from San Diego, Calif.
- Nebraska has offered Boise State a two-for-one scheduling deal, the Lincoln Journal-Star’s Steve Sipple reports.
- Texas Tech’s Neal Brown and Kansas’ Chuck Long are ranked among Richard Cirminiello of College Football News’ 10 most important new coordinators for 2010.
- The Waco Tribune-Herald’s John Werner reports that Blinn College transfer defensive end Anthony Gonzales is coming to Baylor to reunite with his old high-school teammate Robert Griffin.
- Independence Bowl executive director Missy Setters tells the Shreveport Times' Scott Ferrell about the circumstances that led to the Shreveport bowl dropping its Big 12 affiliation.
- T-shirt vendors supporting Mike Leach are walking a narrow line as they try to develop pleasing designs without infringing on Texas Tech’s copyright, Adam D. Young of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 has more villains than can rightfully be included in one post, but so does college football in general.
Here are some my major perpetrators of ignominy.
Anybody else have some other suggestions about what in college football really raises their hackles?
College rulemakers -- Those soulless technocrats who attempted to make the game faster by instituting quick-play rules. Don't they know that the reason that college football is so much better than the NFL is the additional offense from more plays?
The Southeastern Conference -- The South shall rise again -- or at least it already has with its new megabuck television contract. Now, can the rest of the college football keep up?
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany -- By placing all of his bowl teams on the East and West coasts, he's robbing us in the flyover parts of the country of watching how slow and unathletic his teams really are.
Coaches as unchecked poll voters -- Who is the American Football Coaches Association trying to fool? Giving coaches the chance to hide behind the mask of anonymity in their final votes prompts a chance for widespread poll abuse and makes a mockery of their poll.
Weak nonconference schedules -- Every team owes its fans at least one marquee nonconference opponent a season and a pledge of avoiding FCS schools. Is that really asking for that much, especially with the run of Big 12 pastry-trough games with "opponents" like North Dakota State, Northern Colorado and North Dakota scheduled in the first week alone by Big 12 teams?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It sounds like the first of the bowl dominoes is fixing to fall.
The Seattle Times reported Wednesday that the Alamo Bowl is aggressively scrambling to better its bowl matchup, moving from a shared No. 4/No. 5 pick in the Big Ten to the No. 2 pick from the Pac-10.
I would expect that if the $3 million payout the Times mentions is correct, the Alamo Bowl likely could move up at least to the No. 3 Big 12 pick. It would then give the Alamo the Holiday Bowl's current matchup of Big 12 No. 3 vs. Pac-10 No. 2.
This game would be a huge coup for the San Antonio bowl. Traditionally, the San Diego game has featured some of the most intriguing offensive bowl games because the evolving playing styles of the Big 12 and Pac-10 appear to be such a good combination.
What it would mean for the Big Ten is unclear. Maybe Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany would be able to rejigger his conference's configurations in Florida, work the Holiday Bowl in its mix or involve the Texas Bowl.
The most interesting bowl to watch in the future in terms of the Big 12 will be the Cotton Bowl. If the Dallas Cowboys Stadium proves to be as attractive for fans as it appeared during my short visit there last month, I think it will only be a matter of time before that bowl is included in the Bowl Championship Series.
If that is the case, the Alamo Bowl would be in prime position to pick up the Cotton Bowl's current matchup of Big 12 No. 2 team one of these days.
I've always thought that San Antonio would be an ideal place to anchor the loser of the Big 12 championship game -- mainly because the championship game figures to switch between larger stadiums in Arlington, Texas, and Kansas City in upcoming seasons because of harsh economic realities for the Big 12.
The twinkling River Walk lights in late December in the Alamo City would be a nice consolation prize for the team that loses the Big 12 title game.
But until then, the Alamo Bowl's positioning to move up and snatch the Pac-10 team appears to be a wise move.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
By all accounts, 2008 was a landmark season for Big 12 football.
The unprecedented three-way tie for the South Division championship that involved Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma made the conference must-see television for the second half of the season for fans across the country. Attention was riveted to the conference unlike any previous time in the Big 12's history.
It should be more of the same this season as strong races are expected in both the North and South Divisions.
The conference again will feature cutting-edge offensive units that will score boatloads of points and be powered by the most talented collection of quarterbacks that can be found anywhere.
Those numbers are nice, but the Big 12's lack of defensive production is the main reason I still think it ranks behind the Southeastern Conference.
The top athletes in the Big 12 are clustered on offensive units, helping to result in shootouts.
In the SEC, those same athletes seem to end up playing defense. It might not be as much fun to watch, but the physical nature is apparent.
In recent bowl games, the Big 12 has struggled to match that defensive nature of the SEC for many statement-making victories. Oklahoma's loss to Florida in the BCS title game and Texas Tech's defeat to Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl last year indicated there's still a gap between defenses found in the SEC and the Big 12.
The SEC also has a deeper concentration of top teams, as seen by its four teams in the top 10 when the USA Today coaches' poll was released earlier today.
It doesn't mean the Big 12 won't be exciting or fun to watch this season. Because it will be -- again.
But until Big 12 teams can notch some statement-making victories where defense isn't an afterthought, its national perception will continue to lag behind the SEC's.
The rest of the nation is no comparison. Big 12 teams can occasionally win their BCS bowl games, unlike the ACC. It might not have the fancy television network of the Big Ten, but has a more exciting brand of football to showcase. And it's not nearly as top heavy as the Pac-10 with its concentration of USC and Oregon at the top and little balance after.
Here's my ranking of the top eight conferences heading into the upcoming season
- Big 12
- Big Ten
- Big East
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trying to earn more television money while maximizing exposure for his schools is taking much of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe's attention these days.
Beebe called working on settling that television question as the "major issue" that currently is facing him in his role as the conference's chief executive officer.
"I think that's fair to say because it was such a strong proponent of what put us together in the conference in the first place," Beebe said. "The origins of this conference was to get together to find a more valuable spot in the marketplace. We need all the platforms we can get for the quality of play that all of our student-athletes provide."
The Big 12 was formed in a marriage between the old Big Eight Conference and four schools from the old Southwest Conference because of vanishing spots in the market for those conferences in the mid-1990s.
A similar concern could be facing the Big 12 in the immediate future as it lags behind the megabuck contracts recently earned by the Southeastern and the Big Ten conferences that have helped propel those conferences to preeminent spots in college athletics.
"We can't deny it," Beebe said. "I give them a lot of credit for what they have been able to achieve. It's up to us to try to compete with that. It certainly concerns me there's going to be so much exposure of SEC product and Big Ten Network in this part of the country. And part of my charge will be how we will be able to compete with that in the future."
Several reports indicate there has been discussion among the Big 12, Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast conferences to provide a new television network with programming from two or perhaps three of the conferences in a consortium. Beebe said that the Big 12 must be creative in looking for ways to remain viable in the changing economic marketplace.
"I think we have to look at strategic partnerships with whomever, whether it's on the media side or the content owners (conferences) to find out what would be best for us," Beebe said. "I don't discount any scenario in that regard. Looking at a partnership with other conferences is something we'll have to take a close look at. Maybe there's something there that would work out for all of us."
Beebe conducted his press conference late Tuesday at the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington. The facility will serve as the home of the next two Big 12 championship game and the site for three regular-season games involving Big 12 teams this season.
Big 12 officials like many things about the new stadium. The facility's location, its ability to accommodate more than 80,000 fans and the ability to stage games in climate-controlled conditions are particularly attractive. The conference already has forged a working relationship with the Cowboys as the Big 12 will serve as the sponsoring entity for the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in 2014 when it comes to facility.
The new stadium also will serve as the home of the Cotton Bowl beginning in January. The bowl hopes that moving to the new facility will boost its chances of elbowing its way into the rotation of BCS bowl locations -- although the BCS likely will not expand before its current contract expires in 2014.
"If there's going to be an expansion of games in the BCS, we're certainly going to be adamant about that including a bowl in our region," Beebe said. "This would be highly attractive with the kind of facility we have here. The Cotton Bowl is our Tier I partner and we would try to accommodate that."
Beebe said he hopes the conference will have agreements with its bowl partners by the start of the football season with plans to take them for approval to the conference's board of directors at its October meeting.
"Our bowl partners have been tremendous," Beebe said. "The addition of the Gator Bowl has been very great for us. I wish I was this desired when I was a single man. There are a lot of bowls interested in coming after us and we're very fortunate in that regard."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After watching Big 12 games last season, I got the idea that the league was one where offenses dominated and defensive coordinators grew old very quickly.
But I didn't realize how much Big 12 offenses ruled until I looked at the numbers compared to the rest of the country.
The NCAA broke down all of the 2008 statistics on a conference-by-conference extrapolation. I then pulled out a calculator to delve deeper than the surface numbers.
The Big 12 led every conference in almost every major offensive statistic. Some of these margins were by an unexpectedly large margin.
Take average number of plays. Here's how the conferences rank on a per-game, per-team basis.
Big 12 71.0
Conference USA 69.9
Mountain West 69.1
Sun Belt 68.5
Big Ten 68.3
Western Athletic 67.4
Big East 66.1
Atlantic Coast 65.2
NATIONAL AVG 67.7
The statistics indicate the Big 12 ran 1.59 percent more plays than its next closest rival and was 4.93 percent above the national average.
Punting also provides another interesting comparison. The Big 12 ranks last among conferences in average punts per game. Here's a look at the national average in per-team punts per game.
Sun Belt 5.1
Western Athletic 5.0
Big Ten 5.0
Atlantic Coast 4.9
Big East 4.7
Mountain West 4.7
Conference USA 4.6
Big 12 3.7
NATIONAL AVG. 4.7
The Big 12 has fewer punts -- by a huge margin over any other conference. It's 27.45 percent below the national leader and one full punt per game below the national average.
The Big 12 also led the nation convincingly in most yards per team. Here's a look at the national per-team, per-game averages.
Big 12 439.6
Conference USA 401.8
Sun Belt 378.2
Western Athletic 370.2
Mountain West 368.8
Big Ten 367.2
Big East 360.9
Atlantic Coast 329.1
NATIONAL AVG. 371.6
Again, the Big 12 has a huge edge over the rest of the country. The per-team per-game total offense total is 9.41 percent above its next closest finisher, 18.3 percent above the national average and 33.6 percent above the last-place finisher's average.
Scoring again was led by the Big 12. Here's a per-conference, per-team, per game comparison.
Big 12 35.6
Conference USA 28.8
Western Athletic 26.7
Big Ten 26.6
Mountain West 26.4
Sun Belt 26.2
Big East 25.3
Atlantic Coast 24.0
NATIONAL AVG. 27.2
The Big 12's figures were a whopping 23.6 percent over second-place Conference USA, 30.9 percent above the national average and 58.9 percent above the scoring done by independents.
Here's how the conferences ranked on a yards-per-play average.
Big 12 6.19
Conference USA 5.75
Sun Belt 5.52
Western Athletic 5.50
Big East 5.46
Big Ten 5.35
Mountain West 5.33
Atlantic Coast 5.03
NATIONAL AVG. 5 49
The Big 12's average per play ranked 7.65 percent above its closest contender, 12.8 percent above the national average and 23.1 percent above the lowest finisher among the conferences.
It will be interesting to see if the Big 12 offenses can maintain that domination next season. With the strong cast of returning quarterbacks, it wouldn't surprise me if it is similarly skewed next season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I guess Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany must have been hibernating since his regular season ended before Thanksgiving last season. The Big Ten season ends pretty early with no playoff game.
That must be the explanation for why Delany is allowing his conference to adopt the archaic tiebreaker rule that bit the Big 12 last season.
For those of you who may have forgotten -- Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech all were tied for the Big 12's South Division championship with 7-1 records. In the fifth tiebreaker to settle the logjam, the team's BCS rankings were used, pushing Oklahoma past Texas despite the Longhorns' 45-35 victory over the Sooners earlier in the season.
That controversy ignited several weeks of consternation across both sides of the Red River. And it served as a talk-show and bulletin-board staple long after that.
I guess Delany must not have been listening or reading. Or maybe he didn't call Big 12 officials for their take on the controversy and all of the egg they had to clean off of their collective faces.
Because settling ties by computer polls isn't a smart idea. The Big 12's controversy last season clearly proved it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
From Bellevue: Does 6-6 or a lofty 7-5 sound realistic for the re-tooled Cornhuskers?
Tim Griffin: Yes it does and maybe a step better, like 8-4 if Bo Pelini grabs some beginner's luck along the way and stays away from some defensive injuries that might cripple his program.
Pelini's arrival has been like a shot of adrenalin through the Nebraska program. I think it only continues once the season begins. I also expect Nebraska to absolutely mash the ball lot more than most people would think. I was talking to one of the most-respected Nebraska reporters over the weekend. He told me it wouldn't surprise him if the Cornhuskers ranked among the top 10 nationally in rushing. With backs like Lucky, Castille, Helu and Mendoza, it's a possibility.
To go 8-4, the Cornhuskers absolutely have to win their first three nonconference games. I'm thinking they could be ripe for an upset in one of those games and Pelini has to guard against that. But I really like their home schedule from there with games against Virginia Tech, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. They will likely be underdogs for the first three. It wouldn't surprise me if they can claim at least one of those games and maybe two.
And if the Cornhuskers can finish strongly, they should finish at least 7-5 and maybe better. And a late winning streak might catapult them into a good bowl. Watch what the Gator Bowl does in terms of taking Notre Dame. If the Irish end up in Jacksonville for New Year's Day, don't be shocked to find the Cornhuskers finish up somewhere in Texas -- like San Antonio or El Paso -- for their bowl trip this season.