From sea to shining sea. From Orlando to Tucson and Cincinnati to Salt Lake City. This is the current state of the Big 12. It is too confusing and long-winded to summarize how the conference and college football reached this point. The Big 12 is a bloated shell of its former self, the 12-team group that lasted from 1996 to 2010. It is even more unrecognizable from its eight-team predecessor, which only spanned the Midwest and an outpost in the Rocky Mountains.
We look for nostalgia in the most minute things, especially now in this Manifest Destiny era of college football, an era of mega-conferences and TV markets. Possibly in an unknowing fashion, the Kansas Jayhawks just gave the college football world some nostalgia to smile upon.
For multiple years in the early and mid-2000s, Kansas City was the prize for the Big 12. Like Wilbert Harrison, schools from the conference dreamed of going to Kansas City. Arrowhead Stadium hosted the Big 12 Championship in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2008. Oklahoma twice clinched spots in the BCS Championship in Kansas City in 2000 and 2004.
Arguably, the most iconic Big 12 game in Arrowhead history was not even a Big 12 Championship Game. Although neither team made the BCS Championship Game, the 2007 Kansas-Missouri game had implications for the national title picture. The Jayhawks came into the season with the #2 BCS ranking, and the Missouri Tigers were right behind them at #3. Missouri prevailed but lost its chance to play in the national championship with a loss to Oklahoma the following week in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Kansas-Missouri game at Arrowhead was a landmark event on the Big 12 calendar in its years at the Chiefs' home from 2007-2011, with thrilling finishes in 2008 and 2009 adding to the rivalry's lore.
Kansas' home slate features no home games against former Big 12 South schools, so there will be no Big 12 Championship Game nostalgia. The closest we may get to a Big 12 Championship-esque game at Arrowhead are Jayhawk games against TCU and Houston, schools that would have been in the Big 12 South had they been in the conference.
Yet, with the Big 12 back in Arrowhead Stadium, some feel of the conference's prime is restored. Like when traditional conference powers Oklahoma and Nebraska squared off for the Big 12 title in 2006 at Arrowhead, nostalgia will fill the air in Kansas City, like the aroma of the barbecue the city is famous for.
Kansas' games may not be blockbuster matchups, but they will reestablish the Midwestern flair the Big 8 carried for decades and into its first years as the Big 12. With the recent additions being preemptive strikes to commandeer new TV markets and bring the league further from its past, returning to one of the conference's most familiar proving grounds is a refreshing development for the Big 12.