Extra Points: Let's stop the Jimbo Fisher to LSU talk before it really begins, OK?
Each week, college football insider Matt Hayes tackles the biggest topics in the game, in and around the SEC:
The health of Aggieland
Before we go down the rabbit hole that is LSU moving on from Ed Orgeron (it’s 1 game, everyone), understand this: Jimbo Fisher is not leaving Texas A&M.
While that new $9 million a year contract helps, the larger reason is what he’s building in College Station. The Aggies now have what some pro scouts believe could be the first offensive (Kenyon Green) and defensive lineman (DeMarvin Leal) taken in next year’s NFL Draft.
When you can recruit elite lines of scrimmage in the SEC – and beat the heavyweights within the conference for those players – it’s a huge boon toward recruiting difference-makers at the skill positions.
Fisher is in the middle of the best state for high school players, he has an administration that will spend anything to win, and he’s recruiting like he did at Florida State.
Translation: Fisher isn’t going anywhere, no matter how much money his good friend Scott Woodward (the AD at LSU) throws at him – if things collapse at LSU.
Big 12 expansion: Does it even matter?
So the Big 12 intends to add BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston. And this means exactly what in the grand plan of desperately clinging to its Autonomous 5 status?
First and foremost, the Big 12 is far from securing the A5 – or Power 5 – status that would allow it a significantly larger piece of the College Football Playoff pie.
In fact, they’re still much closer to the Group of 5 share.
“That’s something a lot of us are still trying to wrap our heads around,” one Big Ten athletic director told me. “Do you really think those four (new Big 12 members) compensate for the loss of Texas and Oklahoma? Does TV even care about any of those four? The answer is probably no.”
The next big debate among the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 commissioners has nothing to do with some contrived “alliance” – it has everything to do with the Big 12.
What exactly do the four A5 conferences do about one of their own who has been mortally wounded? A decade ago, the BCS conferences walked away and left for dead the Big East after it was picked apart in expansion.
This isn’t about “feelings” or “relationships” or any other Pollyanna pomp. This is business.
This is how Mike Tranghese, one of the best men to ever run a major college conference, was left on an island by the other BCS conferences. If it can be done then, it can be done now.
Or as another Big Ten AD told me, “We’re not in the business of handing out lifelines.”
The Big 12 simply doesn’t have heavyweight programs. There are outstanding basketball programs (Kansas, Baylor), but the Big East had the best basketball conference in the nation.
Football drives conference expansion, and by proxy, major conference contraction. The remaining Autonomy conference presidents and Notre Dame will make the decision on the Big 12.
And TV draw will be the critical factor.
The allure of Iowa State
The very best thing that could happen to the Big 12 this week is an Iowa State win over Iowa.
The Cyclones have lost 5 straight in the Cy-Hawk series and have been a media darling the entire offseason. A win here against an Iowa team with a 7-game winning streak will give the Cyclones credibility outside the Big 12.
More important: It sets up bigger television games over the course of the season where Iowa State could not only strengthen its brand but save the Big 12.
“The Big 12’s best hope this season is Iowa State,” one television industry source told me. “But it’s a double-edged sword.”
Why, you ask? Simple: The more Iowa State wins, the more attractive it becomes for TV — and the Big Ten.
Should Iowa State do the unthinkable and win the Big 12 and reach the CFP, its profile is suddenly more attractive for television and streaming. People want to watch winners, especially new winners.
Clemson always had a strong profile for television, but became must-watch when Dabo Swinney changed the course of the program over the past decade.
When Frank Beamer had Virginia Tech winning the Big East and ACC, the Hokies were must-see TV. Prior to Beamer, it was one of the worst programs in college football.
A unique season in Ames not only changes the way Iowa State is viewed by television – because, like Clemson, it’s football-crazy in Ames – but it suddenly piques the interest of the Big Ten. Iowa State already is a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities, an almost prerequisite for joining the Big Ten.
Add to that an elite football team, and the interest from the Big Ten could get serious, quickly.
Pac-12 on parade
UCLA took the first step last weekend. Oregon is up next, and Washington can right an ugly wrong for the Pac-12 this week.
New Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff can make moves off the field and it all looks pretty. He can set up an “alliance” and proclaim the conference doesn’t need to expand.
He can talk about the new media rights horizon of streaming, and expanding the footprint of the conference that has been all but forgotten since Pete Carroll left USC in 2009.
But nothing – absolutely nothing – will strengthen the Pac-12 brand like winning elite nonconference games. UCLA beat SEC heavyweight LSU last week, and Oregon gets a shot at Ohio State this weekend.
Washington, which lost last week to FCS Montana, travels to Big Ten blueblood Michigan (TV blueblood, anyway) with a shot at redemption.
Now, the problem: UCLA was the outlier last week. Stanford was whipped by Kansas State, Purdue beat Oregon State, Nevada beat Cal and BYU beat Arizona.