Summer is here, which means that College Football is just around the corner. A continuing twist that seems to be increased in the 2012 season will be the arrival of new teams to their new conferences, with West Virginia leaving the Big East for the Big 12 and the new SEC arrivals – Texas A&M and Missouri looking to make the biggest splash.
It’s an opportunity to create new rivalries but there’s also the side of rivalries lost. Nebraska moving to the Big Ten was the beginning of that trend after being such a significant part of the Big 12 for so many years. Now there’s no longer a Texas – Texas A&M annual game, and with the continuing power struggles at the top of the College Football with conferences in constant change; playoff rules waiting to be accepted and engaged, 2012 won’t be the last year we see big changes in the scenery of the major conferences.
West Virginia Mountaineers – Big East to Big 12
Was that win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl a sign of things to come? That 70-33 result is still a painful matter in some parts of South Carolina, but the Mountaineers have moved on, hopefully to bigger and better. They left one of the oldest rivalries in the sport behind, the Backyard Brawl with Pittsburgh, but also a conference that seems to be falling apart.
In the Big 12, the Mountaineers will be questioned about their defense, because it seems to be a consensus that Dana Holgorsen will have his Geno Smith (senior year) led offense in tip top shape. The problem will be keeping teams under 30 points, and live up to the favorites label many have given them to win the Big 12 this year and be a member of the higher parts of the BCS rankings when the year is done.
Their non-conference schedule ain’t so rough – Marshall and Maryland, while they have games against Oklahoma and TCU at home, ending the regular season at home as well, playing Kansas.
TCU Horned Frogs – From the MWC to the Big 12
It seems TCU are finally at home. After four consecutive wins of winning at least 11 games, including three straight MWC conference titles and winning the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, TCU don’t have to be BCS busters anymore, getting to join the Big 12, keeping the Texas-Rest of’ em balance intact, replacing A&M.
TCU did lose a lot of players from last season, but Patterson, who’ll now have a big game each week, which includes ending the season with a trip to Austin and play Texas before hosting Oklahoma on December 1, is considered a big game coach. He has lead the Horned Frogs to a Bowl Game win in six of the last seven seasons. People expect TCU to finish with at least 8 wins on their first Big 12 season.
Missouri Tigers – From Big 12 to the SEC East
After being part of the Big Eight/12 since 1964, the Tigers got lucky by landing in the SEC East, which seems close to be open for the taking. They’ll have four non-conference games in 2012, including Arizona State, UCF and Syracuse, but except for the Alabama game in October, everything else seems winnable.
Under Gary Pinkel Missouri have won at least 8 games a season over the last six years, including 8-5 in 2011. But their roster isn’t the strongest in the conference and the division, and the overall feeling in Columbia is that it’s all a build up to 2013, which should be big for the Tigers as they adjust to the harsher, faster game in the SEC.
Texas A&M Aggies – From the Big 12 to the SEC West
A&M are headed for a rough year. The Mike Sherman era was disappointing, finishing with an overall record of 25-25 during his four years at the job and only one finish in the top 25 (2010). He wasn’t even part of the Bowl game win over Northwestern, but maybe it was for the best. Now it’s Kevin Sumlin’s turn, who did a great job with Houston (12-1 last season) to turn the Aggies around, but it’s going to be a harsh start.
Just a look at the schedule – Home to Auburn, LSU and Missouri (season ender), with scary visits to Auburn and Alabama. Hard to see the Aggies making it past 7 wins this season, and don’t be surprised if it’s below .500. But this move was for the future, and a successful future means a hard road in the present.
These were the big moves, but not the only ones – Three WAC teams left to the Mountain West Conference – Hawai’i, Fresno State and Nevada. Temple left the MAC and joined the hurting Big East. The Texas State Bobcats from San Marcos, Texas, will play in the WAC after playing in the FCS. They’ll join the Sun Belt conference in 2013. UMass will join the MAC and. The University of Texas in San Antonio, the Roadrunners, will join the WAC as well and will later join Conference USA. The University of Texas in Arlington, the Mavericks, will play their football in the Sun Belt Conference.