The University of Missouri appears to be headed to the SEC, which means that the Big 12 might look to expand once again this year.
With Missouri expected to officially apply and be accepted into the SEC as its 14th member sometime in the very near future, according to The New York Times, the Big 12 drops to only nine member schools.
Earlier this year the conference lost Texas A&M to the SEC, but managed to poach TCU from the Big East. Now that the school needs to expand again, who might interim commissioner Chuck Neinas pursue?
Expect the usual list of BYU, Louisville, and West Virginia to dominate the Big 12's expansion discussions. One of the big questions to factor into the target list is whether the Big 12 expands to 10 schools or 12 schools.
After speculation ramped up that Missouri was interested in joining the SEC, Neinas told reporters that the conference would expand to either 10 or 12 schools, but there was currently no consensus. If the conference decides to just expand to 10 teams it could add BYU and not upset the college athletics environment too much.
But if the conference expands to 12 teams it'd undoubtedly include at least one of Louisville and West Virginia, which could cause some major ramifications and aftershocks in the conference realignment world.
It'd throw a major wrench in the Big East's plans to expand to 12 football-playing schools and could essentially kill off the conference. The Big East schools recently approved an increase in the conference exit fee from $5 million to $10 million, but the extra $5 million likely wouldn't stop either Louisville or West Virginia from bailing to the Big 12.
If the Big 12 somehow decides that it is not interested in either Louisville or West Virginia - very doubtful - it could look at Boise State, Houston, and SMU. All three are currently being pursued for membership by the Big East, but most signs point to all three jumping at a chance to be in the Big 12 over the Big East.
But while all of those teams could make arguments for their inclusion in the Big 12, it's very doubtful that any of the three will get an invite to the Big 12. After already adding TCU, it's extremely doubtful Texas would want another Texas school to join the conference and further cut into its recruiting pipelines.
Boise State offers another viable team, but the Big 12 isn't desperate to keep its BCS automatic qualifier status like the Big East. Beyond having a good football program, Boise State doesn't offer as much in terms of fan base, academics, or other sports as Louisville and West Virginia.
As stated above, right now the key is that the Big 12 needs to figure out how many schools it wants to add. If it sticks to 10 teams and adds BYU, it could mean smooth sailing for the Big East to add its six targeted schools. But if it decides on 12, it will definitely include at least one Big East school and turn college athletics upside down all over again.