In another month or so, Nebraska will turn the page on its sixth season of competition in the Big Ten. That means there are kids starting school now who have only known the Huskers as a Big Ten team. For a certain generation, however, it’s still probably hard to think of Nebraska as something other than a former Big 12 member. It gets a little easier each year, and eventually where the Huskers used to call home won’t matter at all, but that’s still probably a decade or two down the road. It seems unlikely at this point that the Big 12 will even be around at that point to be fully forgotten.
The old neighborhood ain’t what it once was. Let Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com count the ways:
Actually, the astonishing thing is how far the Big 12 has sunk in terms of perception, talent and … winning. We can debate everything from revenue to recruiting, but what can’t be argued is image.
The Big 12’s is not good at the moment. Type the words “Big 12” on Twitter and mostly vitriol is shot back. What was once celebrated is now defended.
It is the only league to miss the three-year-old College Football Playoff twice. It is the only Power Five league not to win a CFP game.
That’s on top of having 14 players total selected in the recent NFL draft, one fewer draft pick than the AAC produced. Then there’s Texas, the state, which is suddenly as open to outside recruiters as its ever been. Per Dodd, Oklahoma hasn’t signed one of the top 10 players in the state in four years. For Husker fans who grew up with the Big 12, it’s hard to feel too wistful about what once was.
It’s getting hard for Oklahoma President David Boren to dance around the conference’s uncertain future, too. Boren was recently asked about SEC Network host Paul Finebaum’s comment that the Sooners were “desperate” to leave the Big 12. He disagreed with that notion in the Tulsa World, but sure made major change sound like an inevitability more than an undesired outcome.
“I don’t disagree with the whole thought that it’s in our interest that the Big 12 succeed,” Boren said before telling reporters how famously OU gets along with conference rivals Oklahoma State and Texas. “So, no, we’re not desperate to go anywhere else …
“I would just say that we’re, at this point in time, hoping the Big 12 will improve and succeed.”
And that’s where things got less predictable and more interesting. At this point in time.
“I think we’re really looking ahead at a whole wave of realignment as these contracts come to an end,” Boren said, referencing the Power 5 conferences’ media rights deals. “I think we’re four or five years away from it.”
That doesn’t sound desperate, it sounds anxious. The Big 12 media rights deal extends through 2024-25. The Big Ten’s is up for renegotiation two years earlier, or five years away from now.
Neglected to include this a couple of days ago, but ESPN put out its Big Ten West stock watch earlier this week. Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota all earned “Buy” designations. Illinois and Iowa were “Sell” schools. That leaves Purdue and Nebraska as “Hold” schools.
Here’s Dan Murphy’s take on the Cornhuskers.
The Huskers returned to their nine-win plateau in Mike Riley’s second year. At the end of spring, they haven’t provided many reasons to believe they’ll reach double digits in 2017, especially with cross-divisional games against Penn State and Ohio State on the schedule. Tanner Lee won the quarterback battle in the spring, but there is still some uncertainty about the full cast of receivers he’ll be targeting. New defensive coordinator Bob Diaco might need a couple years to recruit the ideal players for his 3-4 alignment.
I think Diaco’s defense will be just fine, even if the prototypical players for his defense are a recruiting cycle or two away, but I’d hold Nebraska right now, too. And, assuming I had to sell this entire West portfolio one year from today, I’d be buying Wisconsin, Northwestern and Purdue, holding Iowa and Minnesota and selling Illinois.
The Grab Bag
- Hot on the heels of ESPN, Sports Illustrated announces a small round of layoffs. SI also reportedly plans to make some hires, however.
- Mike Babcock gets you read for the Huskers’ weekend series against Michigan State.
- Interesting read on the politics behind college football’s signing-day reform.
- Going Oklahoma-heavy today: The Sooners just paid a boatload of money to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
Today’s Song of Today