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Insiders say Big 12 bowl lineup is strong

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the next couple of weeks the complete conference bowl lineups for the 2014-19 cycle will come tumbling out.

You probably know about the new playoff system. Six bowls (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A) have been selected to host semifinals on a rotating basis. (The first two to host will be the Rose and Sugar in 2014.) When the six aren't hosting semifinals, three will resume normal programming (the Rose will be the Big Ten-Pac-12, the Sugar will be SEC-Big 12 and the Orange will be the ACC against either the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame.) The other three bowls are open and will get displaced champs, the highest rated of the Group of Five leagues (which includes Marshall's Conference USA) or an at-large team.

What's yet to be announced are those lower-tier bowls. But projections are out. And if you look at some you might feel the Big 12 - WVU's conference - is drawing the short straw.

This is the last season the Big 12 will play in the Cotton Bowl, which is jumping up (along with the Chick-fil-A Bowl) to that top tier. So the projection of the new Big 12 lineup is (in order) the Sugar, Alamo, Russell Athletic, Meineke Car Care of Texas and Buffalo Wild Wings.

Doesn't inspire much excitement, right?

Well, I did some digging, and here's the deal: The Big 12 will earn more money than ever via its new package. The 10-team league could secure as many as eight bowl landing spots. Also, the Big 12's lineup will trail only that of the Southeastern and Big Ten in terms of stature.

Insiders, who wished to remain anonymous because of ongoing negotiations, broke down the prevailing winds. Yes, there will be more flexibility within the system. Conferences may sign with one bowl in the six-year cycle for three years and another for the other three. There will be pools created in order to avoid "bowl fatigue." Those dreaded ticket guarantees will be lowered or eliminated.

But the dirty little secret that's not out there is this: The power conferences are doing all possible to stay away from bowl deals with the Mountain West, Conference USA, the Mid-American and non-power leagues. The conference formerly known as the Big East (American) is also not desired by the big boys. The more the power conferences stay away from those leagues, the more successful they feel.

It seems the Big 12 is feeling pretty good about itself, for a couple of reasons.

First, let's examine the league's setup. The Big 12 will almost always have at least two teams in the upper tier of the new system. One will more than likely be in the playoff. At least one - and sometimes two - will be in what we've known as the remaining BCS bowls. The money there will be staggering. (In case you've missed it, by the way, it's simply called the Sugar Bowl after an early designation as the Champions Bowl.)

 With the Cotton Bowl out of the mix, the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio is moving up. That works on one level because it will pit the so-called No. 2 Big 12 team against the so-called No. 2 Pac-12 team. It doesn't work on another level because reports say the Alamo will pay a half million less per team than the Cotton has.

All I spoke to, however, insist the Big 12 will more than make up for that via the rest of its lineup. The so-called No. 3 team for the Big 12 (after the playoff/Sugar and Alamo) most likely will meet the No. 2 team in the Atlantic Coast Conference (after the playoff/Orange Bowl) in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Industry insiders tell me the Orlando bowl has been increasing its purse and becoming a very prestigious destination.

Ditto the Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl. That's played in Houston's Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL Texans. Big stadium. Big market. And the Big 12 will apparently be playing an SEC team. One said the payout could be in the $3 million range.

After that? Look for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to stick, although it might drop a click to the Big 12's No. 5 team. A league source told me conference schools insisted on a presence in Florida (Russell Athletic), a presence in Texas (Alamo and Meineke) and one in the West. BW's is in Tempe, Ariz. The opponent apparently will be from the ACC.

The Heart of Dallas Bowl, held at the old Cotton Bowl, has apparently taken a leap forward. (It was the old TicketCity Bowl.) How much so? It seems poised to host the Big 12's No. 6 team and a Big Ten team, according to my sources.

And get this: The final bowl landing spot could be the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. In the words of Adam Sandler, not too shabby. There have been reports that could involve an American (ex-Big East) team, but one source insists that too will be against an SEC team.

Another source also mentioned a possible Big 12 hookup with the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas. A league insider, though, said Big 12 officials weren't keen on playing in a campus stadium. (It's played at TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium.)

So the Big 12 lineup seems very strong. And remember how I said the league is feeling good for a couple reasons?

Reflect back on the dirty little secret. Then look above. The Big 12 might enter the next cycle with absolutely no bowl pacts with non-power conferences.

Decide for yourself whether that's good or bad for college football. Yet that's the prevailing wind. To those within, that wind has the sweet smell of success.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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