The Big 12 and ACC have partnered to draw up legislation that would change NCAA rules on how conference champions can be determined, according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports. The ACC is apparently eyeing a three-division format, but for the Big 12, the new rules would allow the conference to hold a championship game without expanding from 10 teams to 12.
After Baylor and TCU were left out of the first College Football Playoff in 2014, and with selection committee chairman Jeff Long confirming Ohio State got a resume boost from its 13th game, a blowout win over Wisconsin, speculation began that the Big 12 would try to add teams.
Big 12 expansion would likely mean a promotion to power conference status for a couple of schools. Boise State, BYU, Cincinnati, Memphis and UCF have long been rumored as potential candidates. Now, is that opportunity gone?
The Big 12's ability to hold a championship game without expansion would mean conference realignment is likely in a holding pattern for the time being. But as the volatile recent years have proved, it's foolish to say "never."
Yes, the Big 12 would prefer to stay at 10 schools. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has repeatedly made that clear. But that doesn't mean the conference would shelve the idea for good just because of a conference title game. Part of the motivation for expanding, under current NCAA rules, is a title game, but if it made long-term financial sense, the Big 12 should still consider making a move.
What's this mean for the little guys?
If the Big 12 doesn't expand, what does it mean for those potential candidates? Jumping from the Mountain West or American to the Big 12 would mean more conference revenue on an annual basis thanks to a lucrative TV contract, and it would offer a real shot at competing for national championships. Even if those schools go unbeaten, playing in the MWC or AAC will likely put them behind one-loss power teams. Move to the Big 12, and that's not a problem.
BYU, however, might not be so bad off. The Cougars are trying to emulate Notre Dame's model as a powerful independent, and the fallout from the Big 12's Playoff snub seems to be working in their favor. BYU has scheduling flexibility as an independent, and many Playoff contenders are looking toward Provo in an attempt to beef up their non-conference schedules.
BYU probably wouldn't turn up its nose to a Big 12 invitation, with the right scheduling considerations for the school's religious concerns, but the Cougars might not need a conference to compete for a national title. Run the table against a schedule featuring the above teams, and a spot in the top four is a real possibility.