For a man who routinely hunts rattlesnakes and self-describes his own mullet as the “Arkansas Waterfall,” Mike Gundy sure has a way of being a soothsayer when it comes to predicting the future of college football.
So, take note here of what he said in an interview with ESPN’s Marty Smith last week when predicting the future of the Big 12 — and of college football’s power vacuum.
“You hear people talk about ultimately there’s going to be a ‘Power Four,’” Gundy said. “In my opinion if I was in meetings or behind closed doors, would I say that’s a probability? I’d say yes. Somebody else might make that decision.”
With the Big 12 losing its bellcows in OU and Texas to the SEC, the likely implication here is that the Power Five of the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC becomes the Power Four of the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC. That means the remaining eight teams in the Big 12 likely get sucked up elsewhere, bolstering an already-strong infrastructure that, at least theoretically, could rival the SEC’s soon-to-be super-league of 16 teams.
This is an idea Kyle Cox imagined recently in a post he titled: “Super Powers: What Four 16-Team Conferences Could Look Like.” The idea and premise behind it was the OU-Texit would make a path for a four-conference power structure. The SEC gets OU and Texas to get to 16, so it is set. That leaves the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 find a way to add to their ranks to create their own 16-team structures to comprise four 16-team conferences. Here’s how Cox drew it up:
|Georgia Tech||Kansas State||Colorado||Georgia|
|North Carolina||Michigan State||Oregon||Mississippi|
|North Carolina State||Minnesota||Oregon State||Mississippi State|
|Notre Dame||Nebraska||Southern California||Missouri|
|Syracuse||Ohio State||Texas Tech||South Carolina|
|Wake Forest||Rutgers||Washington||Texas A&M|
|West Virginia||Wisconsin||Washington State||Vanderbilt|
Sixteen doesn’t have to be the number, of course. The Pac-12 could stand firm at 12 and remain a power conference league. Ditto for the Big Ten and ACC at 14 teams. But in a shifting landscape where the power lies increasingly in numbers, and with at least eight Power Five caliber programs in limbo, it may behoove other conferences to expand and be nimble with the shifting dynamics of the market.
No one knows what will happen nor what the landscape might look like in a few years.
“I wish I knew [what it meant for OSU football],” said Gundy. “I think anybody that says they really know the future is maybe stepping out of line. That could be maybe even the highest up at this point. The goal from what I hear is that this league stays intact through 2024. And, at that point, we all know there could be teams looking to go somewhere else.”
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