All right, all right, somebody needs to check the Big 12 for steroids.
In recent weeks, the conference has worked to throw together a competitive television deal, become a viable option for strong programs like Florida State and Clemson and then, on Friday, announced a joint bowl game with the SEC that will be like the two leagues' answer to the Rose Bowl.
In weight-lifting terms, this is like a 95-pound weakling dropping the bar on himself and just a few months later, emerging as a ripped monster throwing up 400 pounds on the bench press, then dating the prettiest girl in school to boot.
The SEC? Well, that's the prettiest girl. The league has made eight BCS National Championship game appearances in the last 10 years, winning seven titles. The one appearance that the league didn't win? Last year, when an SEC team (LSU) lost to another SEC team (Alabama). That's it. No SEC team has lost in the title game to any other conference, over the past 10 seasons. And of course, the league has won six straight national titles … spreading those over four different schools.
From a performance standpoint, the Big 12 has been the second-best league* during that 10-year time period. The conference has five appearances in the title game over that same span, winning one title. And the Big 12 would have had six last year if not for the all-SEC showdown.
* The Big 10 and Pac-12 are tied for third with three appearances and one title apiece, though two Pac-12 appearances and the title were eventually vacated. Interestingly enough, the vacated title took place against a Big 12 team in Oklahoma. The Big East had the only other appearance, a title-game loss.
So from that standpoint, Friday's announcement makes sense. The bowl game would feature the champions from each league, provided that those two teams weren't tapped either for the playoffs or the title game. In that case, the bowl game would simply take the top available conference team. This past year, it would have featured Oklahoma State and either Georgia or Arkansas.
Politically, it also makes sense. The Rose Bowl was leverage that the Pac-12 and Big 10 were using to hold sway over the playoff selection process, most specifically whether or not the games should be played at neutral sites. By signing up for their own game, the Big 12 and SEC can basically eliminate that line of reasoning.
The shock comes in that the Big 12 was supposedly face-down in the dirt as recently as a few months ago, in part because of the SEC. After Texas A&M and Missouri announced their departures, supposedly in search of "stability." The flip side is that the Big 12 was then, of course, labeled as unstable. Oklahoma and Texas were able to find common ground, the rest of the league followed along, and the Big 12 poached West Virginia (a current member) and TCU (a future member) from the Big East to get back to 10 teams. In the 2012 football season, the Big 12 will deploy six teams that won at least 10 games a year ago.
The irony, of course, is that the addition of those teams, the television deal, and lastly the announcement of the bowl game with the very league that accepted the two teams leaving the Big 12 has lent the league plenty of stability, while Texas A&M and Missouri are now in a tougher league, with a minimal amount more money and the need for a much larger travel budget.
Grabbing Florida State and a partner, be it Clemson or someone else, would seem to be the next key to that puzzle. But it's important to take note: the agreed-upon bowl game would be an even tastier piece of bait to put on the realignment lure. And while the Big 12 could certainly gain from more teams (especially to re-attain the championship game) and programs of that caliber, the league is no longer recruiting to increase stability.
A few months after near-death, consider the stability problem solved. Now, any realignment is simply to cement the place the Big 12-SEC bowl alliance already assures the Big 12 it has: as one of the top couple conferences in college football.