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2010 Big 12 College Football Preview: Oklahoma reclaims top spot

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 3:   Quarterback Landry Jones #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners hands the ball off to teammate runningback DeMarco Murray #7 in the first quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on October 3, 2009 at Landshark Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Here’s a quick and dirty look at how I see things playing out in the Big 12 this season:

#1 Oklahoma
In Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Jermaine Gresham, Keenan Clayton, Brody Eldridge and Dominique Franks, there’s no doubt that the Sooners lost a ton of talent from last year. However, this season is all about two names: Landry Jones and DeMarco Murray. Jones filled in admirably when Bradford went down last season, throwing 26 touchdown passes and gaining valuable experience throughout the year. Murray’s health history is a major concern, but if he can stay upright he’s scary good. He’s more versatile than Adrian Peterson was in that he can catch the ball out of the backfield or beat teams as a rusher. He’s big, he’s fast and he can get north and south in a hurry. He’s also going to get a ton of opportunities to shine this year as both a runner and a pass-catcher and again, if he can stay healthy he has the ability to be one of the best backs in college football. Defensively, Bob Stoops’ team has good depth and while the loss of McCoy hurts, don’t forget that Jeremy Beal was fifth on the team in tackles last season and first in sacks with 11. The linebacker corps has a chance to be special thanks to redshirt freshman Tom Wort and sophomore Ronnell Lewis. I know many pundits still like Texas in the South, but with Landry, Murray and nine starters returning on offense, I think Oklahoma reclaims the conference this season.

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The Top 10 Conference Shake-Ups

Real Clear Sports compiled a top 10 ranking of the biggest conference shakeups in college sports. At No. 1 is the conference that has been talked about the most recently, the Big 12.

The existence of the Big 12 is now in jeopardy because other conferences can offer more money through television deals. The irony is that that is why the Big 12 was formed in the first place.

The Southwest Conference was in trouble due to greed and the fact that one-time power Southern Methodist University had never recovered after receiving the “Death Penalty” from the NCAA in 1986. The Big Eight saw the opportunity to swoop in and expand its television audience into the state of Texas, with huge markets in Dallas and Houston. In 1994 the Big Eight cannibalized half of the old SWC (adding Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor) and became the Big 12.

But in reality it was Texas that really swooped in to form the Big 12. The headquarters for the conference not only moved from Kansas City to Dallas, with a Texan at the helm, but it considered itself a new conference, leaving all the history of the former Big Eight behind. A lopsided deal favoring the University of Texas left traditional power Nebraska feeling jilted, triggering the latest round of conference realignment that the Big 12 nearly did not survive.

You can check out the rest of the site’s top 10 here.

It’s easy to forget how conferences came to be, so it’s interesting to take a walk down memory lane. How quickly we forget that Penn State and Florida State used to be independents, Miami used to be in the Big East and most of the current Mountain West used to be in the WAC (which once again was robbed by the MWC when Boise State recently decided to bolt).

Speaking of the Mountain West, the addition of Boise State will only help them gain full BCS privileges soon, including an automatic bid for the conference champion and a greater share of the bowl payout. The conference has been held back due to how the average computer rank of every team in the conference at the end of the regular season has been so low. But assuming the Broncos don’t drop off the face of the earth with their play, that won’t be a problem soon enough. (TCU, Utah and BYU will also have to stay competitive too, of course.)


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About face: Texas likely to stay in Big 12

They say that money is the root of all evil. It’s also the reason why Texas might wind up staying in the Big 12 after all.

In a rather surprising turn of events, it appears as though Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has saved the conference by constructing a TV deal that could pay Texas upwards of $25 million per year.

ESPN.com has the details:

Texas stands to earn between $20 million and $25 million annually in television revenue in the reworked deal, including money from its own network, according to Orangebloods.com.

The Longhorns network figures to generate between $3 million and $5 million, according to the report. Because the Big 12 has unequal revenue sharing, the deal will mean more money for Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, who all would receive at least $20 million annually from the new deal.

The other seven schools in the Big 12 would make between $14 million and $17 million, doubling what they currently receive in TV revenue.

Assuming this deal gets done, this would be a big win for all parties involved. Beebe keeps the Big 12 from completely imploding, the remaining 10 schools in the conference increase their TV revenue and rivals like Texas and Texas A&M won’t split. (Before this report surfaced, the Longhorns seemed destined for the Pac-10, while A&M was likely to join the SEC.)

Considering the events that have transpired up to this point, it is surprising that Texas is on the verge of staying in the Big 12. But what isn’t surprising is why they inevitably might stay.

Money was going to win out in the end here. As I wrote earlier today, expansion has always been about money. The schools that were considering expansion were doing so because they want to increase revenue and joining other conferences was a way for them to do that. But if Beebe found a way to generate more TV revenue (which it looks like he did), then there was no reason for Texas to join the Pac-10 or any other conference for that matter.

Personally, I think this is good news. College football is about tradition and rivalries and I thought it was absurd for programs like Texas and Texas A&M to split. I also hated the idea of a 16-team Pac-10 with no conference championship game, which was one of the proposed scenarios last week. Sure, the conference still lost Nebraska and Colorado, but most of the Big 12 will stay intact and as long as Beebe’s plan comes to fruition, I think everybody wins.


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Report: Texas getting closer to joining Pac-10

ESPN.com is reporting that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are getting closer to joining the Pac-10. The report also states that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is trying to put together a plan to save the conference, although sources say that he has “zero” chance of succeeding.

Beebe’s last-ditch plan included an emotional plea about preserving rivalries and maintaining the best welfare of the student-athlete, one source said.

Texas A&M is now most likely to join the SEC, a source within the Big 12 said. This move, in the wake of Colorado and Nebraska’s departure, would further diminish the chance of Beebe’s plan succeeding, one source said.

Texas’ decision is expected to come no later than Tuesday. One source familiar with Texas’ plans suggested a hearing on Wednesday at the Texas House of Representatives is “a nonfactor.”

A report on Orangebloods.com said that Texas is committed to discussions with the remaining 10 schools in the Big 12 about a plan put together by Beebe that would keep the league intact with its current programs.

The plan includes assurances that a TV deal could net each school between $14 million and $17 million, Orangebloods.com reported, and schools such as Texas could still have their own TV network.

College football expansion is all about money, so Beebe’s plan isn’t completely hopeless. That said, things don’t look good for him and the Big 12. These schools are going to go where the TV deals are bigger and where they can generate more revenue. As of now, the Pac-10 offers the better “deal” for teams like Texas, so it seems inevitable that that is where they’ll wind up.

We’ll see if Beebe’s last-ditch effort can save the conference but as of now, it appears that the Big 12 is on the verge of imploding.

Update: Now ESPN is reporting that Texas is leaning towards accepting a deal to stay in the Big 12.

Based on a TV deal in the works that could pay them upwards of
$25 million per year, Texas is leaning toward staying in a 10-team Big 12 for the foreseeable future, Orangebloods.com has reported, citing sources familiar with negotiations.

Texas was meeting Monday with the other remaining nine schools in the Big 12 about a TV deal included in a plan put together by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe that would keep the league intact with its current programs, according to multiple reports.

Texas stands to earn between $20 million and
$25 million annually in television revenue in the reworked deal, including money from its own network, according to Orangebloods.com.


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Which conference plays the best college football?

The website SurveyMagnet.com recently asked me to guest write a column for them based on a poll they constructed which asked readers which conference plays the best college football.

My answer? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out…

Click here to check out the article.

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