Analysis: Breaking down top candidates to join the Big 12 if Texas, Oklahoma jump to SEC

The reports that Oklahoma and Texas have made overtures to the SEC still have the college football world abuzz.

Before we go further, however, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, at this moment in time, the talk is just that – talk. Any actual movement in conference membership is a few years down the road at this juncture due to contractual obligations – most of which involve TV rights.

And, even if the Sooners and Longhorns jump ship, there is no guarantee the remaining eight geographically disparate Big 12 schools would stick together. The likes of, say, Iowa State and West Virginia might find it more viable to seek affiliation with other leagues.

But we’ll assume the Big 12 does try to stay intact for purposes of this exercise of identifying potential invitees. Let’s face it – this discussion is largely football-driven, and the conference would have to add new members to stay relevant on the gridiron, even if the proposed playoff expansion becomes reality. At least two – and probably more – new schools would be needed.

Here are the most likely candidates that could be extended invitations. Fair warning – the American Athletic Conference would figure to take a hit.

Could coach Dana Holgorsen and the Houston Cougars make a move to the Big 12?

Houston

This would almost certainly be the first phone call. The Cougars would be reunited with former Southwest Conference foes TCU and Baylor, and the league would strengthen its Lone Star State presence despite the Longhorns following Texas A&M out the door by a few years.

Central Florida

Another obvious call, UCF would give the league an additional strong football program and extend the geographic footprint into the heart of SEC territory. South Florida might lobby to come along in a package deal, but the Knights would be unlikely to endorse such a proposal, given the bad blood between the two programs dating back to the last round of realignment.

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Cincinnati

Winning can be fleeting, but the Bearcats would be an appealing option if the program can sustain its currently strong footing. The UC basketball program would be a solid fit as well.

Memphis

Speaking of basketball, the Tigers would also have a case for inclusion. Yes, there’s a bit of a checkered hardwood history with the NCAA, but that seems less of a factor given the organization’s changing landscape. The football product hasn’t been bad of late, either.

SMU

Speaking of checkered histories, SMU could face a somewhat more complicated reconciliation with its former SWC mates, as it was the chain of events that started with the Mustangs’ football scandal that ultimately led to the demise of the league. But again, with the NCAA’s amateurism model all but gone, history might be less of a consideration.

Boise State

The Big 12 could conceivably look westward as well. The Broncos of the blue turf would be an outlier if they came alone, but there’s been dissatisfaction within the BSU program with the school’s arrangement with the Mountain West for a number of years.

San Diego State

This would pose an even bigger geographic challenge than Boise, with the Aztecs based two time zones from most current Big 12 schools, and three from West Virginia. But expanding into sunny Southern California would at least be something for league officials to consider.

BYU

This is a bit of a long shot. The Cougars’ overtures to the Big 12 have gone unrequited for some time. But BYU does have a national identity, so the league might at least explore the possibility if the need dictates.

Nebraska

Wait, what? OK, that’s an even longer long shot. But the Cornhuskers’ relationship with the Big Ten has been strained of late. There are probably too many fences to mend with the members of Nebraska’s former league to make this a realistic possibility, but if we’ve learned anything in this era of change, it’s never say never.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Eddie Timanus on Twitter @EddieTimanus

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