One year ago, the Big 12 was blindsided by Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 for greener pastures in the Southeastern Conference. This monumental move left the Big 12 scrambling to add teams to increase their value nationally and kicked off a new wave of realignment. With USC and UCLA fleeing the Pac 12 for the Big Ten and Cincinnati, BYU, UCF, and Houston set to join the Big 12 next summer, the Big 12 seems to be in a much more secure position overall. However, while the Pac 12 is looking to add other west coast members, they also have to worry about current members leaving. So, although it is anyone’s guess where the future of college football lies, there will surely be more movement, and the Big 12 will likely be at the center of more realignment moves. 

Oregon 

Possibly the biggest brand in college football looking for a home, except for Notre Dame, the Oregon Ducks were left out of USC and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten. While Oregon could still follow the Los Angeles schools if they receive an invitation, the Ducks might be on the top of the Big 12’s wish list. 

While Eugene is just over 2,000 miles from Irving, Texas, regional markets and proximity to other conference rivals are now a determinate of the past. Oregon will give the conference a foothold on the West Coast and bring along Nike co-founder Phil Knight. The former CEO provides a significant tie to the multination corporation and is an asset in recruiting and NIL opportunities. However, several reports suggest Knight has been “cold-calling” other conferences and would prefer the Ducks to join the SEC or the Big Ten. Although Oregon may not wish to join the Big 12, if the SEC and Big Ten decide to pursue other options, the Big 12 may be the most viable option for the Ducks in the long run. 

Washington 

The other flagship program of the Pacific North West, Washington, might be a package deal with Oregon. Enviable for any conference willing to pursue the Seattle television market, these two schools coming to the Big 12 would immediately raise the level of competition. While the Huskies’ play on the field has been subpar as of late, they are one of two Pac-12 teams to participate in the college football playoff and a national championship. 

Although Washington may align with Oregon in looking to join the Big Ten, Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark’s comments at the conference’s media day leave all avenues open. 

“We are open for business,” Yormark said. “Optionality is good and we are vetting through all of them. I think it is fair to say that I have received a lot of phone calls. We will leave no stone unturned to drive value for the conference.”

There is a genuine possibility one of those stones will wind up being the Washington Huskies. While the Huskies may be eyeing the Big Ten, the conference may overlook the Seattle market, given they already have a foothold on the West Coast in Los Angeles. Since the Big Ten also has the New York, District of Columbia, and Chicago markets, the Seattle market may not be a priority for the conference. However, if the dominos do fall this way, the Pacific North West may soon be considered Big 12 territory. 

Utah 

The most consistent team in the Pac 12 these past few seasons, Utah has emerged as the most competitive organization in the west. Coming off their first-ever Pac 12 championship, the Utes have high expectations for this upcoming season, especially after being named the favorite in the Preseason Pac 12 Poll. While the Utes would not bring a national brand to the Big 12 as Oregon would, Kyle Whittingham, one of the longest-tenured head coaches in college football, would bring a team to compete for a conference championship. 

Although geography is a minimal factor in the new wave of expansion, with BYU joining next season, the Big 12 will have a dominant presence in the rocky mountain region. It would also revitalize one of the oldest rivalries in college football, “The Holy War,” between BYU and Utah. Although the two meet annually, this historical rivalry which began in 1896, would quickly become a premier matchup for the Big 12. However, Utah might not be the only team in that region willing to move conferences if the Pac 12 implodes.

Colorado

The Colorado Buffalos and the Big 12 Conference have a complicated history, which is likely an understatement. A little over twelve years ago, the Buffalos accepted an invitation to join the Pac 12, a move that shocked many Big 12 fans as Colorado was a founding member of the Big Eight. However, this move proved to be a blunder as the Pac 12 looks like the odd-man out with television deals quickly approaching. Although the Buffalos did align themselves with USC, UCLA, and Stanford, two of these three schools have left for the Big Ten, leaving Colorado in a fractured  Pac 12. 

However, even without headliners USC and UCLA in the conference, George Kliavkoff, commissioner of the Pac 12, seems determined to keep the Pac 12 together amid rumors of the Big 12 expanding again. 

“With regard to the Big 12 being open for business, we haven’t decided if we’re going shopping there or not,” said Kliavkoff.

With the Big 12 looking at all options for expansion, it would not be surprising for the conference to welcome back one of its founding members. However, according to Sean Keeler, an award-winning writer for the Denver Post, the Colorado administration views the Big 12 as a “JUCO” conference. So, while the Colorado faithful might be eyeing a move back to the Big 12, how the administration reacts to this new wave of realignment will be seen. 

Arizona 

While the Colorado administration may look down upon the Big 12, not every school in the Pac 12 feels this way. Jason Scheer, the publisher of Wildcat Authority for 247 Sports, suggested Arizona may be looking to switch conferences after the departure of USC and UCLA. 

“I feel comfortable saying that the Arizona Administration would like to be in the Big 12 right now,” Scheer told SicEm365. 

However, along with Arizona’s reported interest in the Big 12, Scheer suggests the Wildcats may not want to make a move by themselves. 

“There are aspects to that at play. They don’t want to go alone.”

Although the Arizona football team has had several rough football seasons as of late, the Wildcat’s premier basketball program would surely be able to compete in the Big 12 immediately. With the Big 12 looking to expand and Arizona reportedly interested in the conference, the Big 12 could look to expand sooner rather than later. 

Arizona State 

Unlike the Arizona administration, which may be eyeing a move to the Big 12, Arizona State has publicly supported the Pac 12. The Sun Devil’s athletic director Ray Anderson made a clear statement earlier this month that the school will stick with the Pac 12. 

“ASU remains fully committed to the Pac-12 Conference. ASU continues to work closely with the other remaining conference members to advance the best interests of its student-athletes as well as to support the continued success of the conference itself,” Anderson said in a statement. 

However, just days after USC and UCLA made their move to the Big Ten; a reported meeting took place between the Big 12 and Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah. If this report is even remotely accurate, these four schools are at least willing to explore all avenues and potentially move conferences. 

SMU

The only non-Pac 12 school on this list, Southern Methodist University, could follow its current American Athletic Conference members to the Big 12. Unlike the rest of the schools on this list, the Big 12 may be cautious in extending an invitation to SMU. While the conference already has a school in the Dallas-Forth Worth metropolitan area in Texas Christian University, SMU would allow the Big 12 to take sole control of the fifth biggest television market in the country. 

While geography is not a determining factor in this wave of realignment, SMU’s proximity to the Big 12 headquarters certainly does not hurt. This move would also allow the Big 12 to add another historical rivalry with TCU and SMU facing off against each other annually for over one hundred years. So, although the Big 12 may have other schools above SMU on its list of potential conference members, SMU’s geography and history make them a prime candidate to join the Big 12.