SEC’s Gain is Big 12’s BIG Loss
It seems that whatever the SEC touches in the world of college football the last few years has turned to gold. Witness the University of Missouri and Texas A&M, relative newbies to the power conference of all power conferences. In just under two full SEC football seasons they’ve added a Heisman Trophy winner, a Cotton Bowl victory and an SEC East Champion (with a shot Saturday afternoon for the conference championship and perhaps even more) – all at the expense of the Big 12.
When A&M and Mizzou fled from the shrinking Big 12 (Colorado and Nebraska were also recent refugees), they were replaced by TCU, coming off an undefeated season and a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin and a nationally final ranking of No. 2 just two seasons previously, and West Virginia, a puzzling choice geographically but a traditionally strong football program (they throttled No. 14 Clemson 70-33 in the 2012 Orange Bowl, their last game as a member of the Big East). The Frogs and Mountaineers certainly looked like solid replacements, perhaps even upgrades over the Tigers and Aggies at the time, who finished 8-5 (5-4 Big 12) and 7-6 (4-5 Big 12) respectively in their last Big 12 seasons. But the winds of change were a blowing for all four universities on the football field, its just that nobody saw it coming.
Last year in their first seasons in their new conferences, TCU and West Virginia were a combined 14-12 (8-10 Big 12), and A&M and Missouri went 16-9 (8-8 SEC). The downward spiral for the Frogs and Mountaineers continued this season as they went a combined 8-16, (4-14 Big 12) while A&M and Missouri posted a combined record of 19-5 (11-5 SEC), and currently hold BCS rankings of No. 24 for the Aggies and No. 5 for the Tigers. And in a strange twist of unlucky fate for the Big 12, the one solid win the Mountaineers posted this year was a 31-20 shocker in Morgantown over then No. 11 ranked Oklahoma State, the only blemish on the now No. 6 ranked OSU schedule. That loss could very well be the reason the 10-1 Cowboys (and the Big 12) aren’t playing Florida State for the National Championship on Jan. 6, assuming they get by in-state rival Oklahoma this weekend in Stillwater.
Can TCU and West Virgina rebound to gain their former status next year? Possibly. Being a Horned Frog myself I certainly hope the boys from Fort Worth can regain some semblance of the quality teams I’ve witnessed over the past decade or so, but there’s no guarantee. The one thing for sure is the SEC continues to roll as a conference, even if it’s not the Crimson Tide playing for the title this year.