How WVU, TCU translate to Big 12
Mountaineers, Horned Frogs are built like title contenders in 2012 and beyond
The great conference-realignment shift of the past two seasons is nearly complete. The Big 12 officially will welcome the TCU Horned Frogs and West Virginia Mountaineers into conference play this fall, filling the vacancies left behind by the Missouri Tigers and Texas A&M Aggies.
The Big 12 was on treacherously shaky ground throughout the conference-realignment saga, and only time will tell whether stability will reign for the long-term future. In terms of on-the-field expectations in the near term, however, the 10-team conference may be as strong as ever.
According to our five-year weighted Program FEI ratings, the Big 12 upgraded this offseason. West Virginia and TCU both rank among the top 20 in PFEI, while Missouri and Texas A&M are ranked outside the top 25. The new Big 12 has five top-20 PFEI programs in 2012, one fewer than the SEC and outpacing the rest of the power conferences -- Pac-12 (three), ACC (three) and Big Ten (two).
This is significant, because every national championship game participant in the past 10 seasons has been ranked among the PFEI top 20 entering that year. Part of the reason for the SEC's recent dominant run can be attributed to its wealth of power programs in position to contend for a championship.
Of course, a cluster of power programs can impede a championship run as well. In the current BCS structure, winning every week is the only way to control your destiny. And even for an elite team, the more often it plays a strong opponent, the likelier it is to lose.
In the Big 12, an annual round-robin conference schedule will determine the league champion. How likely is it that an undefeated champion will emerge? And will West Virginia and TCU be part of that conversation? Let's take a look.
To read more on how the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs will fare in the Big 12, sign up for Insider today.
MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEADLINES
- Lions launching Ford Field bowl, sources say
- QB Lunt mulls Illinois after visit, sources say
- Former Arkansas QB Mitchell picks NC State
- McCartney back on WVU roster after 6 months
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
Insider CFB content
Expert Takes• Insider: Can Clemson win it all? | Louisville
• Kiper: Top prospects for 2014, by position
• Haney: CFB's top 10 teams based on talent
• Kiper: Top QB prospects for 2014 | RBs | WRs
• Haney: Make-or-break QB prospect scenarios
Post-spring projections• Pac-12: Oregon, Stanford, USC on top
• ACC: Can Clemson win the league title?
• SEC: Bama, South Carolina early favorites
• Big Ten: Surprise winner in Legends
• Big 12: Two-team race for first place
RecruitingNation• Michigan No. 1 in 2014 class rankings
• Luginbill: Answering mailbag questions
• Crabtree: Urban recruits popular draft picks
• Notre Dame, Boise State trending up
• Recruiting updates for Pac-12 teams
• Recruiting updates for Big Ten teams
• Recruiting updates for SEC teams
• Recruiting updates for ACC teams
• Recruiting updates for Big East teams
• Recruiting updates for Big 12 teams
Get news and rumblings before anyone
Travis Haney's blog
Analysis and buzz from around the nation