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A Look at Conference Realignment in the Big 12


Big 12 realignment
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College football is an ever-changing landscape. It's a never-ending rumor mill of conference realignment where you cannot be certain that your conference will even survive.


While no conference is immune from realignment as we have learned over the years, the Big 12 Conference has arguably seen the most turnover among its members of any other conference in the country in the last few seasons.


In 2024, the Big 12 will consist of the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Baylor University, Brigham Young University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Colorado, the University of Houston, Iowa State University, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University, the University of Utah and West Virginia University after The Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners bolted for the Southeastern Conference.



With a new era of Big 12 football set to begin, I decided to look at each of these teams so I could more fully understand where they are coming from and see if I could make some guesses as to where they are going. I decided to go back 20 years so we could see what the teams that jumped up to the "power four" level did, and how well they adjusted to the new competition. Additionally, we can see if there are any parallels to be drawn between the 2011 realignment teams and the 2023 additions.


To get a general feel of where the holdovers and the new teams are coming from and make some guesses about where they are going, I broke each team down using categories such as win percentage, number of conference championships, bowl records, consensus All-America selections, and strength of schedule—omitting 2020-21 as many teams did not play a full season.



With those parameters set, let's see what the data says.


University of Arizona

Record: 114-134 (.460) 

Conference championships: 0 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 5-4 (0-1) 

Consensus All-Americans: 3 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 30 (1) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 40 (14) 

Average strength of schedule: 39.26 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 11 (2007) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 66 (2003) 

Coaches: 6 


Big 12 realignment
© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona leaves much to be desired with a below .500 overall record, no conference championships and only one major bowl appearance that resulted in a loss. New coach Brent Brennan's team, however, has a lot of momentum behind them, even after the departure of coach Jedd Fisch, who left for Washington. Brennan was able to retain QB Noah Fifita and WR Tetairoa McMillan. The future of Arizona now lies squarely on Brennan's shoulders and how well he can develop and lead the players he has.


Arizona State university

Record: 134-118 (.532) 

Conference championships: 1 (shared 2007 Pacific-10 Conference Championship with USC) 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 5-8 (0-0) 

Consensus All-Americans: 3 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 48 (4) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 87 (7) 

Average strength of schedule: 34.53 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 2 (2013) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 63 (2003) 

Coaches: 6 


Arizona State does have some bright spots with 13 bowl games, a No. 2-ranked strength of schedule (where they went 10-4), and are over .500 in the last 20 seasons. As bright as these spots are they are brought down by a lack of major bowl appearances and only one conference championship that was shared. The best thing that Arizona State has going for them is coach Kenny Dillingham. It will take him a few years of great recruiting but Dillingham is a coach that I can see leading the Sun Devils to at least a handful of conference championships over the next 10 years or so.


Baylor university

Record: 130-121 (.518) 

Conference championships: 3 (Big 12) 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 6-5 (1-3) 

Consensus All-American: 9 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 46 (6) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 100 (26) 

Average strength of schedule: 41.68 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 11 (2014) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 108 (2003) 

Coaches: 5 



The Baylor Bears went through a bit of a golden age from 2010 to 201 collecting four bowl wins and two major bowl appearances. Since then they have had two major bowl game appearances, winning one. Baylor sits on the fence right now and has to do everything they can to end up on the right side. Coach Dave Aranda has gotten worse with each season he has been at Baylor, but as the saying goes, it will get worse before it gets better.


Brigham young university

Record: 158-97 (.619) 

Conference championships: 2 (Mountain West Conference) 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 9-7 (0-0) 

Consensus All-American: 2 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 27 (2) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 70 (6) 

Average strength of schedule: 53.47 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 28 (2006, 2013) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 81 (2017) 

Coaches: 3 


BYU has done a lot to secure this new position in a "power" conference with an over .600 record, 70 weeks in the AP Top 25, and 16 bowl games in the last 20 years. You have to remember the conference championships are a little misleading as the Cougars spent the last 11 years as an independent. BYU is in a sink-or-swim situation and the biggest key to success for the Cougars will be building depth to the roster. The Cougars are facing much tougher competition every week and that can be very grueling for a team unaccustomed to it.


Big 12 realignment
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University of Central Florida

Record: 149-108 (.578) 

Conference Championships: 6 (Conference USA 2, American Athletic Conference 4) 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 6-8 (2-1) 

Consensus All-American: 1 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 34 (3) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 50 (17) 

Average strength of schedule: 79.32 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 43 (2023) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 107 (2003) 

Coaches: 5 


This is a case of paying attention to the average strength of schedule. UCF ranks last in the Big 12 in the last 20 years in that category, but it's not entirely their fault though as the Knights didn't join Division I until 1996. I don’t think it’s crazy to say that they have had the fastest rise to the top levels of college football. The concern I would have if I were a UCF fan is if they can sustain that rise or will they fall just as fast as they have risen?


university of Cincinnati

Record: 161-94 (.631) 

Conference Championships: 7 (Big East Conference 4, American Athletic Conference 3) 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 7-7 (0-3) 

Consensus All-American: 4 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 46 (1) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 75 (15) 

Average strength of schedule: 61.74 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 29 (2009, 2021) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 93 (2017) 

Coaches: 7 


Cincinnati is a very fun team to look at, with one of the better overall records in the conference and the most conference championships. It is clear to see why they received an invitation to the Big 12. It will be a rough road moving forward after losing coach Luke Fickell to Wisconsin. Fickell led the Bearcats to two bowl wins and two major bowl appearances in just five years.





University of Colorado

Record: 89-158 (.360) 

Conference championships: 0 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 1-3 (0-0) 

Consensus All-American: 4 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 36 (3) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 19 (6) 

Average strength of schedule: 50.37 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 13 (2016) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 97 (2012) 

Coaches: 8 


Big 12 realignment
© Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado has not done much of anything to move the needle in the past couple of decades, having the worst overall record, the fewest weeks spent in the AP Top 25, and the most coach turnover in the Big 12. But now, in today's college football world, you can't talk about Colorado without talking about Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders. I won’t say too much about him, because there remains much to be seen. Sanders has picked a great team after making the jump to Division I and has the Buffaloes headed in the right direction.


university of Houston

Record: 156-101 (.607) 

Conference championships: 2 (C-USA 1, AAC 1) 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 6-8 (1-0) 

Consensus All-American: 3 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 29 (4) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 51 (11) 

Average strength of schedule: 75.32 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 49 (2019) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 98 (2012) 

Coaches: 6 


Houston is a hard team to read going into their second season in the Big 12.  One interesting aspect to watch for will be how the Cougars adjust to a much harder schedule than the No. 75-ranked ones they have been used to.


Iowa State University

Record: 101-147 (.407) 

Conference championships: 0 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 3-7 (0-0) 

Consensus All-American: 2 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 21 (1) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 27 (10) 

Average strength of schedule: 43 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 14 (2021) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 71 (2003, 2008) 

Coaches: 4 



My “hot take” is I believe that had ISU not been included in the original creation of the Big 8 Conference, the Cyclones would be nowhere near being in a Power Five conference. Having no conference titles since 1912, no 10-plus win seasons in the school's history, and only one BCS bowl game appearance in the 1977 Peach Bowl (well before the BCS system started), I do not see any reason to keep them in a power conference outside of “fodder” for the bigger teams.


University of Kansas

Record: 93-158 (.371) 

Conference championships: 0 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 4-2 (1-0) 

Consensus All-American: 1 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 16 (1) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 34 (3) 

Average strength of schedule: 57.63 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 16 (2022) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 85 (2015) 

Coaches: 7 



While Kansas has not fared much better lately than Iowa State, the Jayhawks have at least achieved a 12-win season with an Orange Bowl win in the last 20 seasons. I will give credit to the program having a big turnaround in the works with coach Lance Leipold only getting better with each season under his belt.


Kansas state university

Record: 151-104 (.592) 

Conference championships: 3 (Big 12) 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 5-9 (0-4) 

Consensus All-American: 5 

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 36 (3) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 86 (21) 

Average strength of schedule: 35.68 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 4 (2012) 

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 64 (2005, 2008) 

Coaches: 4 




There's not much to say about K-State other than the Wildcats are a model of consistency with only six seasons in the last 20 without a bowl game and four NY6/BCS bowl game appearances. Despite the consistency, the Wildcats will have to navigate next season without starting quarterback Will Howard who transferred to Ohio State.


Oklahoma state university

Record: 174-85 (.672)

Conference championships: 1 (Big 12)

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 11-8 (2-4) 

Consensus All-American: 9

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 40 (8) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 175 (38)

Average strength of schedule: 24.74 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 4 (2011)

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 74 (2005) 

Coaches: 2


Oklahoma State is one of the pillars that the new Big 12 should be built upon. They are among the top in almost every category that I measured, and assuming coach Mike Gundy stays a few more years, there is no reason to think the Cowboys would not stay there.


Texas Christian University

Record: 179-77 (.699)

Conference championships: 5 (MWC 4, Big 12 1) 

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 11-5 (3-2) 

Consensus All-American: 7

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 56 (7) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 161 (25)

Average strength of schedule: 37.21 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 6 (2022)

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 96 (2003) 

Coaches: 2


TCU has one of the most impressive histories in the conference, measuring in the top of most categories. Coming up to the “power” level in the conference realignment of 2011, the Horned Frogs have only had four seasons where they did not play in a bowl game. Three of those seasons have happened since 2019.



Texas Tech University

Record: 144-102 (.585)

Conference championships: 0

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 11-4 (0-2) 

Consensus All-American: 4

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 33 (4) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 59 (0)

Average strength of schedule: 31.63

Highest strength of schedule: No. 9 (2004)

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 55 (2019)

Coaches: 5


Texas Tech is a team you can never count out. Though the Red Raiders have not had a conference title, they have managed to participate in a bowl game in 14 out of the last 19 seasons, including two NY6/BCS bowl games.


university of Utah

Record: 180-79 (.695)

Conference Championships: 5 (MWC 3, Pac-12 Conference 2)

Bowl record (NY6/BCS record): 12-6 (2-2)

Consensus All-American: 9

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 59 (6) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 157 (44) 

Average strength of schedule: 34.21 

Highest strength of schedule: No. 8 (2013)

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 73 (2005)

Coaches: 2


Big 12 realignment
© Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Utah is quite the compelling new addition, coming out of the gate as a conference favorite is not an easy task, however, the Utes have the resume to back up the lofty expectations. Utah measures at the top of the conference in a number of categories which is impressive considering the Utes have only been playing at a “power” level for only 13 years compared to the rest of the Big 12.


West Virginia University

Record: 162-92 (.638)

Conference championships: 6 (Big 12)

Bowl Record (NY6/BCS record): 7-10 (3-0) 

Consensus All-American: 4

NFL draft picks (first round picks): 47 (5) 

Weeks in AP poll (CFP poll): 138 (14) 

Average strength of schedule: 35.58

Highest strength of schedule: No. 4 (2007)

Lowest strength of schedule: No. 68 (2004)

Coaches: 4


West Virginia is an absolute sleeper team. The Mountaineers have consistently appeared in bowl games, and have proven they can be successful at this level. Is coach Neal Brown the one to get them there? Under his tenure, WVU has only made two bowl game appearances after only missing one bowl game (2013) before Brown's arrival.


Big 12 realignment takeaways

Based on this 20-season breakdown, the top teams of the new-look Big 12 will be TCU (highest win percentage), West Virginia (best NY6/BCS bowl game record), Utah (most draft picks and most weeks in CFP poll) and Oklahoma State (most first round draft picks, most weeks in the AP poll and the highest-ranked average strength of schedule). Based on the betting odds recently released by 247 Sports, these teams will likely be the favorites for the Big 12 title.


From top to bottom, the Big 12 will be the most competitive conference in college football in 2024.  I for one cannot wait to watch how this all plays out and I hope you will too.













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