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Big 12 reportedly prefers expansion to be settled before start of season

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Unlike most goings-on in the conference, it doesn’t appear the Big 12 is going to drag its feet on the biggest issue it’s currently facing.

The Big 12 announced earlier this month that the conference will expand, whether by two teams or four.  Regardless of the final number, CBSSports.com‘s Dennis Dodd, citing three individuals with knowledge of the ongoing process, reported Thursday, the conference “would prefer to wrap up the expansion process before the start of the 2016 football season.” The reasoning for an expedited timeline is simple: the powers-that-be in the league do not want expansion talk and speculation to overshadow actual football.

Such a timeline would also be beneficial for any incoming teams.

If the expansion teams are indeed announced before the season, that conceivably would give the new schools a chance to begin playing in the conference in 2017. For now, the league is in the process of contemplating how it will decide participants for its championship game that has been reinstated for 2017.

“I have not made any comment on time frame and do not plan any such statement,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Dodd in a statement.

It’s believed that any new members for the Big 12 will come from a group that includes teams from both the AAC (Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, UCF, USF) and Mountain West (Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State) as well as football-independent BYU.  More specifically, BYU, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn are considered by some/most observers as the front-runners, with some throwing Cincinnati in as well.

The AAC kicks off its Media Days Monday, and expansion will no doubt dominate the conversation during the two-day event.

Texas governor, lieutenant governor, UT president tweet support for Houston in Big 12 expansion

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 4: Republican candidate for governor, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott speaks to the press after voting in the Texas primary at Western Hills Church of Christ on March 4, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Abbott is planning to make stops in Houston and Dallas for get out-the-vote rallies ahead of the elections. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
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Legend has it, Baylor would not be in the Big 12 had it not been for former Texas governor Ann Richards.

As the story goes, the old Big 8 was set to add Texas and Texas A&M and become The Big 10 But Not That Big Ten. The name needed some work. But realignment drama reached the Texas capitol, and Richards, a Baylor graduate, and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, a Texas Tech graduate, forced their schools’ way in as well.

History, as we know, has a way of repeating itself, as current Texas governor Greg Abbott is now throwing his political weight behind Houston’s inclusion into the Big 12.

Abbott is a Texas graduate but lived and worked in Houston previously. And it’s, of course, the public university of the largest city in the state he governs.

How much Abbott’s support for the Coogs matters in the end remains to be seen, but his support marries that of Big 12 coaches’ in favor of Houston. For starters, the climate is different in Texas now than it was in the mid-90’s. Texas A&M already left for the SEC, and two of the four Lone Star squads in the Big 12 are privates.

Of course, there’s a chance Abbott’s support could be a massive jinx for Houston. Someone in the governor’s office famously tweeted congratulations to the Houston Astros for defeating the Kansas City Royals in last year’s American League Division Series only to see the Royals rally to defeat the Astros and win the World Series.

Update: Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick and University of Texas president Greg Fenves have also posted statements of support for Houston today.

It’s a go: Big 12 to pursue expansion

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 25:  The Big XII logo on a pylon at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Presidents of American Athletic Conference and Mountain West schools, grab your phones. You’ve got some calls to make.

After a seemingly endless string of “will they or won’t they?” stories, brought on by the league itself, the Big 12 announced following a Board of Directors meeting Tuesday afternoon it has authorized commissioner Bob Bowlsby to pursue expansion candidates.

Not a lot of details are ironed out as of yet — this wouldn’t be the Big 12 if they were — but the concept is a go.

Oklahoma president and board chair David Boren said the Big 12 could become 12 again or balloon all the way up to 14.

While no one’s coming out and saying it now, the top candidates for expansion figure to be Cincinnati, Memphis, Connecticut, Houston, South and/or Central Florida, BYU and Colorado State in some order.

One thing that differentiates the Big 12 from others: Bowlsby has used the term “negotiate” when discussing the expansion process. With more interested parties than spots to give, the Big 12 can afford to be selective.

While no one attached firm dates to anything, the implication Tuesday was that this would be taken care of sooner rather than later.

One thing is certain: this is the Big 12 we’re talking about. No amount of craziness is off the table here.

 

Injury will sideline TCU RB Shaun Nixon for entire 2016 season

LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 26: Shaun Nixon #3 of the TCU Horned Frogs can't make the catch against the defense of Justis Nelson #31 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders on September 26, 2015 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. TCU won the game 55-52. Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
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Last week, TCU added a graduate transfer running back.  As it turns out, that was a very fortuitous development.

As the Big 12 kicked off its Media Days Monday, Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson revealed that Shaun Nixon will miss the entire 2016 season because of an injury.  That was the only thing Patterson revealed as the coach declined to detail the specific nature of the injury or how it happened.

Because of injuries at the position last year, Nixon shifted the majority of his focus to wide receiver for his redshirt freshman season.  In starting seven games, he finished second on the team with 47 receptions and was fourth in receiving yards with 501.

Additionally, Nixon ran for 66 yards on 16 carries, one year removed from a significant knee injury that forced him to take a redshirt his true freshman season.

With Aaron Green‘s departure, Nixon and Kyle Hicks, third on the team with 276 yards, were expected to shoulder most of the running-game load.  Those duties will now fall on Hicks and graduate transfer Derrick Green, a former five-star recruit from Michigan.  The program also added a pair of three-star backs this past recruiting cycle.

Hornung Award watch list headlined by 2015 winner Christian McCaffrey

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Running back Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal stiff arms cornerback Iman Marshall #8 of the USC Trojans on a kick return during the first quarter of the Pac-12 Championship game at Levi's Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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And then there were none.

The avalanche of watch lists (I believe) (I hope) has come to a merciful end for another year, with the Hornung Award becoming the final college football honor to be released.  This year’s Hornung Award consists of 43 players, including 2015 winner Christian McCaffrey of Stanford.

Additionally, two other 2015 finalists have returned as watch listers — Adoree’ Jackson of USC and Jabrill Peppers of Michigan.

First given out in 2010, the Hornung Award, named in honor of Notre Dame legend Paul Hornung, honors the nation’s most versatile player.

“I’m ecstatic that the Paul Hornung Award has gained national prominence in such a short time,” Hornung said in a statement. “During the past six years the quality of our winners, finalists and weekly honorees has been impressive, and I’m pleased that we are able to acknowledge outstanding players who contribute any way possible to help their teams win the way I did.

“I enjoy following the players on our Watch List and watching many of our winners and finalists from the first six years as they make their marks in the NFL.”

From the award’s release:

The 2016 Watch List is composed of 21 seniors, 13 juniors and nine sophomores who start at a total of seven different positions, and represent 42 universities and all 10 conferences that are part of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The Pac-12 leads the conferences with eight players followed by the ACC and SEC with seven players and the Big Ten with six players.

Below is the complete 2016 Paul Hornung Award preseason watch list:

Ishmael Adams, UCLA
Victor Bolden Jr., Oregon State
Antonio Callaway, Florida
Seth Collins, Oregon State
Jared Cornelius, Arkansas
Tim Crawley, San Jose State
DeVon Edwards, Duke
Brisly Estime, Syracuse
Johnathan Ford, Auburn
Janarion Grant, Rutgers
Nyheim Hines, NC State
Brandon Holloway, Mississippi State
Adoree’ Jackson, USC
D’Ernest Johnson, South Florida
Quay Johnson, East Carolina
Xavier Johnson, South Alabama
Corey Jones, Toledo
Desmond King, Iowa
Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Donovan Lee, Colorado
William Likely, Maryland
Jalen McCleskey, Oklahoma State
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Elijah McGuire, Louisiana Lafayette
Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia
Charles Nelson, Oregon
Zach Pascal, Old Dominion
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
Darius Phillips, Western Michigan
Trevor Ryen, Iowa State
Artavis Scott, Clemson
R.J. Shelton, Michigan State
Cameron Sutton, Tennessee
Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
Jahad Thomas, Temple
Aregeros Turner, Northern Illinois
KaVontae Turpin, TCU
Tim White, Arizona State
Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh
Brandon Wilson, Houston
Dontre Wilson, Ohio State
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia