Here's a look at where things stand in the unceasing conference expansion rumors...
Big 10 (11): Possibly looking to expand to 12 teams, though some have discussed an even larger league...
Likely candidates - Missouri, Nebraska
Most desirable - Texas, Notre Dame
Unlikely candidates - Cincinnati, Iowa State, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, West Virginia, Syracuse
Ever since Barry Alvarez discussed the potential, even probable expansion of the Big
11 10 in early December, the school
discussed the most has been Missouri. Of course, many familiar with that conference over the past several decades are also aware of their attempts to lure in Notre Dame. However, just as in years past, that seems unlikely. Texas' name has been thrown out there, but most believe that to be a joke. A series of other schools, particularly Iowa State and Rutgers have been discussed as well. Now, Nebraska has been thrown into the mix.
To date, Missouri, currently a member of the Big 12, North Division (along with Nebraska) appears to be the strongest candidate. A big reason for that is that the school is located in Columbia, MO - 125 miles west of St. Louis and 125 miles east of Kansas City. Those television markets rank 21 (St.L) and 32 (KC) respectively. That's considerably higher than the Des Moines-Ames market (72) for Iowa State and the Omaha (76) and Lincoln (105) markets for Nebraska.
In the event that one of those three schools - Missouri, Iowa State, or Nebraska - were to leave the Big 12 North, who would be likely to fill that void? The most likely candidates that have been mentioned are Arkansas and BYU. Obviously, that would be a major change for BYU. We thought road games in Laramie were tough, imagine what it's like to play in Lincoln every other October. How do you try to improve upon an overtime thriller at The Pit? Try 16,000+ screaming the "Rock Chalk" chant at Allen Fieldhouse.
Likely candidates - Utah, Colorado
Most desirable - Texas, Utah, Colorado
Unlikely candidates - Boise State, BYU, Colorado State, Nevada, New Mexico, UNLV
I've covered why BYU is an unlikely option for the Pac-10 already. Again, Texas' name has come up but it is about as likely as a Dennis Pitta dropped pass. Utah and Colorado appear to be very realistic options and should be seriously considered. Other schools, such as Nevada or even UNLV or Boise State, fail to meet the Pac-10's requirements in terms of either their market size, academic distinction - or both. The Pac-10 would love to maintain its traditional athletic dominance of the western states, but won't panic and bring in a school its current members would a) be uncomfortable with and/or b) be unsure of in terms of fiscal improvement. That's why the most conceivable scenario involves the Utes and Buffaloes or no change at all.
Now, should there be a Pac-12 with both Utah and Colorado, what then? The Big 12 would be looking to add a replacement to its North Division and the MWC would be looking to replace a huge hole as well. Again, the Big 12 would look at Arkansas as a possibility. But after that it's anyone's guess - BYU? Houston? TCU? New Mexico?
The MWC would be even more desperate to add a school like Boise State as further incentive for BYU to stay. If BYU and Utah both left, Boise would no longer have a strong incentive for leaving the WAC. In fact, other schools like UNLV and San Diego State would have to seriously look at leaving for the WAC. And then, well, the MWC is no more.
But that's a lot, A LOT, of hypotheticals. Time will tell...
Tons of links regarding conference expansions after the jump...
Big 10 Commish: Geography 'significant' to adding team - Dallas Morning News
"We're in the process of an internal study, and we'll take those studies and those options and talk to our athletic directors, who then will pass on their thoughts to our presidents. I hope, by the spring or the summer, we'll have an idea of what it is we'd like to try to do, if anything." - Tim Delaney, Big 10 Commissioner
Big 10 Expansion: 11 + 1 can't equal 12 - The Rivalry, Esq. (Big 10)
"Big Ten expansion is not about "finding a rival for Penn State." Big Ten expansion is not about finding any local twelfth school so that the league can have a championship game. Big Ten expansion is about increasing the percentage of college sports dollars that go directly into the coffers of each institution. I am not saying this in a derogatory or cynical way. It's exactly what expansion should be about. If you're going to upset this apple cart by adding a new member, there better be some huge HUGE benefits. That was what the league got when Penn State joined. That's what the league should get now."
Big 12 Under Siege - Bring on the Cats (Kansas State)
"If the speculation that Utah is likely the 12th addition for the Pac-10, then that takes away our best opportunity to replace CU with another viable media market (Salt Lake City). Basically, if CU leaves, it's the same situation as we discussed with regard to Mizzou. There simply are no replacements that adequately compensate the loss. New Mexico, Colorado State, Memphis, and especially TCU and Houston add little to this conference. BYU might be an interesting option, as they would bring in Salt Lake City."
Conference shuffle talk is mostly just trash - Lee Barfknecht, Omaha World-Herald
"[Texas] doesn't need a measly $8 million more annually from changing leagues. The Longhorns battled to get revenue-sharing rules in the Big 12 that favored the more prominent schools. Why in the world would they go to the only league that equally shares all money, thus limiting future Texas-driven projects?"
CU and Utah pairing only logical move for Pac-10 - The Denver Post
"It will either be Colorado and Utah coming in together as new members of the Pac-10 or there will be no expansion by that conference."CU Buffs should jump into Pac-10 if terms work
CU Buffs should jump into Pac-10 if terms work - Terry Frei, The Denver Post
"It's naive to say that Pac-10 schools are more selective about admitting marginal football prospects than the Big 12, so CU - which at times can't get potential stars into school who end up playing against the Buffs - would be on a level playing field in recruiting. Elite private schools, such as Southern California, can be, um, very flexible. Admissions offices at a handful of public-supported Pac-10 schools also have been very cooperative with the football programs in recent years."
Dominoes: Big 12 Edition - BCS Evolution
"The BIG 12 could be aided slightly in this event by a PAC 10 expansion involving Utah. If BYU is selected [to replace Colorado] the BIG 12 would be restored to a position of dominance and free pickings of whoever they want of the remaining teams. If the Colorado Buffaloes are the expansion partner the scales between the MWC and BIG 12 remnants would be nearly balanced."
Eastward, Ho! Pac-10 expansion will happen, but only if CU - Addicted to Quack (Oregon)
"A conservative, non-secular, non-research university [BYU] that hardly has graduate programs and won't play on Sundays? There is no way BYU would be allowed into the conference. To get the SLC market, Utah makes more sense on every possible level and, as I explained above, you wouldn't want both."
Expanding To Pac-12? No To Utah, Perhaps Intrigued With Colorado - Bruins Nation (UCLA)
"...count me against firmly against Pac-10 expansion with just schools from Utah. Yes, I am not all that interested in having BYU in the Pac-10 either. Provo is again not exactly a great place for a road trip and culturally BYU is not going to be a fit for Pac-10 conference. Now, if the Pac-10 were dead set on expanding, I think the most logical way to expand it would be to add two prominent schools from another relatively populated Western State with a big metro region that has a high profile college football culture, so that the conference can be symmetrical in it's regional divide, and maintain it's end of the season rivalries. If there were to be a Pac-10 expansion, to me Colorado-Colorado State would be the other logical choice."
How does the Pac-12 sound to you? - Coug Center (Washington State)
"Essentially, you'd be selling your soul to appease a football system that might not be around in 10 years, anyway. And I think that's pretty dumb, especially when I'm not convinced that adding two teams is going to increase the value of the product enough to offset the loss of what makes the Pac-10 unique."
Include Texas on Big Ten expansion list - Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune
"...Texas would make more money from the Big Ten's television agreements, but would that be enough to compensate for flying non-revenue teams to Minneapolis and State College rather, than bussing them to Waco and College Station?"
Nebraska willing to listen if Big 10 calls - Adam Rittenberg, ESPN
"We haven't entered into any formal talks with anybody right now. 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." - Tom Osborne, Nebraska AD
Pac-10 expansion will happen - Block U (Utah)
"Based on history, if the P10 does expand, they're going to announce in the next few weeks, if not sooner. What I believe will happen is that the conference will let it be known this month that they have decided to expand. They won't say who they're expanding with, just that the league is now doing a thorough evaluation of every prospective program. It will prove to be a big list. Most teams won't have a legitimate shot."
Pros and Cons for the Buffs - Stuart Whitehair, Bleacher Report
"Yes, Colorado is a good distance from the other schools of the Pac-10, but travel is not as much an issue as it once was. If you take out a map, it's not any more difficult to get from Boulder to Berkeley than it is to get from Boulder to Waco. Plus, the largest out of state CU alumni base is in California."
Soundoff: Is Pac-10 Expansion A Good Idea? - Cal Golden Blogs (Cal)
"Sure, Utah might not have that sparkling record like in 2008. However, they're a solid Western football program. Colorado was highly competitive until the Southwestern Conference dissolved and became the Big12-South. The Big12-North has practically no shot consistently winning the Big 12 as currently constructed."
The Pac-10 cannot expand without BYU and Utah - Dawg Sports (Georgia)
"The Pac-10 cannot merely injure the Mountain West as a potential BCS competitor; the Pac-10 must land a killing blow. Poaching Utah would leave a scar, but BYU must be grabbed, as well, if the West Coast league intends to remain the only perennial BCS power on the block. Cultural and religious objections to the inclusion of Brigham Young will not be enough to overwhelm the Pac-10's justified fear of a Mountain West with a guaranteed major bowl slot. At the end of the day, the addition of BYU and Utah would be easier, would perpetuate the league's traditional practices, and would keep the MWC at bay."
What happens if Utah goes to the Pac-10 - MWC Connection
"One far fetched idea that has been floated if the Mountain West gets decimated by Utah and TCU leaving and Boise State stays in the WAC is that BYU would go independent. One radio host ... was saying that if BYU could get a special deal to the BCS like Notre Dame, then they would go independent in a second. That is never going to happen for BYU. Oh, and he mentioned that BYU and Notre Dame would play ever year? Why? The last series was a two for one deal between the Domers and the Cougars."
Where would Pac-10 expansion leave Boise State? - One Bronco Nation Under God (Boise State)
"The losses of Utah, BYU, and/or TCU could swing the non-BCS power to the side of the WAC, and Benson and Co. could be in position to make a power play and build up the WAC's membership. Boise State could stay in the WAC, the conference could add an Air Force, UNLV, and/or SDSU, and everyone would win. Well, everyone but the Mountain West because that would pretty much spell the end for that conference."
Utah and Colorado to the Pac-10? - Corn Nation (Nebraska)
"If the Big 10 takes Missouri and the Pac 10 takes Colorado, where does that leave the Big 12? And where does it leave Nebraska? Before you respond with "big deal, who needs them, let them leave" comments, it'd be best to consider Nebraska's position. We have a very small TV market. While our fan support is better than anyone's, it generates money for our athletic department, not necessarily for the conference. Were both those teams to leave, there is the (small, granted) possibility that the Big 12 might dissolve (stranger things have happened) and Nebraska might find themselves on the outside looking in."