The Big 12 has finally accepted that they need a conference championship to stay relevant in the Power 5 Conference group. Unfortunately for them, most of the choice colleges are already locked into the other 4, so as they look to expand, they're picked over some room temperature morsels on a devoured party platter. So who will they select? It comes down to metropolitan area/audience (TV contract), quality of football, and potential (future TV contracts). Here are my odds:
1. Cincinnati (Even): Pro - 24th largest metropolitan area in the U.S., and a decent football school with some recent success. Could provide West Virginia with a local rival. Basketball team would contribute to an already great basketball conference. Con - in all reality, what you see with the University of Cincinnati is what you get. The city isn't growing, and the university isn't suddenly going to be a threat for a national championship.
2. BYU (4:1 odds): Pro - probably the most significant football program left available. National recognition and a national following. Basketball team would fit nicely as well. Con - metropolitan area is the 7th largest of the possible expansion schools. Athletic teams don't play on Sunday. Already has its own TV network.
3. Central Florida (9:1): Pro - located in the 24th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. The potential for Central Florida's program is higher than any other school, in relation to its current status. Con - for the first decade, the Big XII will be carrying Central Florida, and if the school does things right will begin to carry its weight...but it will take time. Location - no really close to anything in the Big 12, and should the ACC/Southeastern Conference decide to expand to 16, a successful Central Florida would make for easy pickings.
4. Memphis (12:1): Pro - metropolitan area is decent (42nd), basketball team would be an asset. Proximity to other schools. Administration is pumping money into athletics in the hopes of getting picked. Con - metropolitan area is growing slowly, football team, while great last year, has no history.
5. Houston (12:1): Pro - school would love to join its SWC brethren again, much like TCU did a few years back. TCU forced the Big XII's hand by being the best football program available, and Houston is trying to do the same. 5th largest metropolitan area, largest of all the schools available. Con - the Big 12 already dominates the TV ratings in Houston, so the only reason they would add Houston is to prevent eventual expansion by the SEC.
6. U Conn (13:1): Pro - its location screams NEW YORK. Could be the premier football program in the tri-state area (sorry, Rutgers). Desperately wants to get into the Power 5. Fantastic basketball program. Con - school really isn't in the New York metropolitan area (Storrs is a part of Hartford, ranked 47th). School would likely also jump ship to the ACC once successful to renew rivalry with BC, Syracuse, Rutgers.
7. Boise State (20:1) Pro - has a history of being the premier outside Power 5 football school, besides TCU. School has been pumping money into athletics. Instant rivalry with Baylor over the recent scandals in Waco. Con - Boise is the 2nd smallest metropolitan area available (81st), and not near any schools in the Big XII, though they could become a rival to BYU.
8. Fresno State (25:1) Pro - has a history of being a decent football program. Gives the Big 12 a foothold in California. Con - 56th largest metropolitan area in the U.S.
9. Colorado State (25:1) Pro - would love to join the Big 12, renew rivalry with BYU (should they join). Decent football program. Con - smallest metropolitan area (152nd), University of Colorado would dominate the state if they could get their act together, no matter what CSU does.
10. San Jose State (30:1) Pro - located in the 11th largest metropolitan area of the U.S. Gives the Big XII a foothold in California. Con - area is dominated by Stanford/Cal, and this threat could cause the Pac-12 to come knocking on Texas' door again should they expand. No significant athletic contribution to the Big XII.
11. Charlotte (50:1) Pro - 22nd largest metropolitan area. Con - middle of ACC territory, and would be up for grabs should they become successful.
12. Hawaii (50:1) Pro - no other conference has any interest in Hawaii. 54th largest metropolitan area. Get to visit Hawaii, imagine how much fun the conference board meetings would be! Con - travel, travel, travel.
The Smart Move: if I were the Big XII, I would take 4 teams - BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Memphis. I think BYU would be a great addition, Cincinnati a natural rival for WVU, Houston to protect its flank from SEC encroachment, and Memphis to balance it out.
The predicted move: BYU and Cincinnati. They may try and overreach to U Conn or Central Florida, but that would eventually bite them in the ass.