New Big 12 will be much, much tougher
In the same breath, it's wholly unfamiliar.
West Virginia in the Big 12? As in the campus that's 500 miles closer (371 miles) to the Atlantic Ocean than another Big 12 campus? (Iowa State, 871 miles).
Yeah, that one. Get used to it (and airplanes, traveling Big 12 fans).
TCU in the Big 12? That school in the metroplex Big 12 folks mocked for being in college football's little league (until their teams played them).
That opened a door for TCU to gain the membership it always coveted, rejoining a host of former Southwest Conference rivals in the Lone Star State-based Big 12.
It also provided a life raft for West Virginia, the premier program in the Big East, to escape a sinking league with an increasingly meaningless name (though, really, the 10-team Big 12 can't talk much regarding that one).
And so, here we are.
Three years, three different Big 12s.
This one may stick for a bit, unless Notre Dame and/or Florida State pick up the phone and decide to give the Big 12 yet another configuration soon.
The league's sort of over that whole "no championship game" thing. Considering last year's Bedlamgeddon, the Big 12 may have to get used to the final weekend of the season being more about the top teams' survival, rather than settling the title on the field.
Either way, the Big 12 decided that it was better off inviting great football teams, even if armies of fans wouldn't be following. In West Virginia's case, the Big 12 got both.
The result will be a brutal league in 2012 that's going to leave a whole lot of fans disappointed. Somebody's got to be. Three defending league champions will be taking the field in the Big 12 this season. Six (!) teams are coming off of 10-win seasons in 2011.
For you non-math majors, that's 60 percent of the league, which is, of course, more than half. Simple math guarantees they won't all win 10 games again. Fans of Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia or Baylor: Write that down somewhere, and it'll make you feel better when your team falls short this season.
The league got a little easier when the Huskers left after the 2010 season. That tends to happen when five national titles leave for the Big Ten.
Texas A&M and Missouri left for the SEC with just one Big 12 title (Texas A&M, 1998) to show for 16 years of competition. In came TCU and West Virginia, newcomers to college football's toughest leagues, but winners of 70 games (West Virginia) and 77 games (TCU), compared to just 47 (Texas A&M) and 63 (Missouri) the past seven seasons.
TCU and West Virginia enter as conference champions, the Frogs doing so for the fourth time in seven seasons in the Mountain West, including three consecutive league titles.
West Virginia has taken home Big East hardware six times since 2003, including three wins in three BCS appearances, including a thorough embarrassment of Big 12 bully Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl.
TCU is also one of just three teams to beat Bob Stoops in Norman since Stoops took the job in 1999.
Neither team will be lacking for respect when it enters the league, though both will lack the rivalry and history of former friends Missouri and Texas A&M.
To quote a broken record: It's a whole new Big 12 these days.
Time to get used to it. It might be a bumpy ride on the field this season.
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