What Adding Fresno State Means to the Big 12 Bowl Picture
Fresno State may be at the bottom of the bowl pecking order should they join the Big 12 and may cause the conference to seek new agreements.
The PAC-12's realignment push for SMU and San Diego State is well-known, but the Big-12 may make their own splash in realignment. News emerged of the Big 12's discussions with Fresno State president Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval. Adding Fresno State to the Big 12 gives the conference a California market and potentially brings the conference closer to adding Gonzaga. However, it makes Big 12 membership less ideal for West Virginia, Cincinnati, and UCF.
Big 12 membership is a step up from the Mountain West for Fresno State, but the bowl partners for football are hardly good fits. Below is a table of the distance from Fresno to the Big 12's bowl partners:
The closest bowl game to Fresno is the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix which has the second-to-last selection in the Big 12's bowl order. Even then, the Big 12's Texas schools and BYU are more attractive options than Fresno State.
If Fresno State joins the Big 12, we may see the Bulldogs rotate in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, the First Responder Bowl, and the Armed Forces Bowl in the next couple of years in the bowl cycle. The Big 12's bowl partners will likely pass over the league's only California school, leaving either the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl, or First Responder Bowl to choose the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs' possible entry into the Big 12 may force the conference to pursue the Holiday Bowl or Las Vegas Bowl as a bowl partner. BYU and Fresno State have ties to the Holiday Bowl through their past membership in the WAC and the conference would be a better fit than the ACC. The same applies to the Las Vegas Bowl which has the Big Ten or SEC playing the Pac-12, which Fresno State and BYU both appeared in as Mountain West members.
The Big 12 adding Fresno State would cause ripples to the college football landscape, but it could force the Big 12 to make significant additions to its bowl lineup. If the Big 12 does not make changes to its bowl lineup, Fresno State could have some tough bowl trips to make should they join the conference.