by Chuck Sippl, Senior Editor

The start of the 2012 football season is just two months away. But there are several fascinating changes on the way for conference play this season. We all know about the expansion of the powerful Southeastern Conference (which has produced the last six BCS champions) to include Texas A&M and Missouri. But there are six other conferences that will have a new look this season.

Before reviewing the new makeup of those leagues, let’s get ready for four new teams whose games will be listed on the regular Las Vegas schedule this season. Get used to seeing the scores of incoming FBS teams Massachusetts, South Alabama, Texas State, and Texas-San Antonio on the scoreline crawls at the bottom of your TV screens. Before taking a closer look at those four newcomers, here are the other teams with new addresses for 2012.

Missouri (Big 12 last season) is now a member of the SEC East.

Texas A&M (Big 12 last season) is now a member of the SEC West.

West Virginia (Big East last season) is now a member of the Big 12.

TCU (Mountain West last season) is also a member of the Big 12.

Temple (Mid-American Conference last season) is once again a member of the Big East. Temple, for 14 years a struggling member of the Big East until being expelled in 2004, is joining the “big boys” once again now that the Owls’ program has been elevated and the Big East found some of its best teams departing.

Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada (all in the WAC last season) are joining the Mountain West Conference.

Massachusetts, South Alabama, Texas State and South Alabama were all playing in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) last season.

Massachusetts (Colonial Athletic Association last season) is now a member of the MAC East for football. The Minutemen will play their home games in Foxborough at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL Patriots. Although that site is about a two-hour drive from UMass’ Amherst campus (and 17,000-seat McGuirk Alumni Stadium), school officials believe playing at Gillette will help the team “engage” its large Boston-area fan base as the Minutemen transition to FBS competition. That competition will begin with a fury, as UMass opens its season with a game at long-time regional rival Connecticut. The Minutemen will next host Big Ten representative Indiana at Foxborough, then get a big payday (and an accompanying shellacking) from Michigan in Ann Arbor. In this season of transition, UMass is ineligible to win the MAC title or go to a bowl game.

South Alabama (already a member of the Sun Belt Conference) joins the Football Bowl Subdivision this season. The Jaguar football program is only in its fourth year, but USA did stick its toe into the FBS waters last season with losses at North Carolina State (35-13) and Kent State (33-25). The Jaguars will play their games at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, home of the Senior Bowl and the Godaddy.com Bowl. South Alabama is not eligible to win the Sun Belt title this season, which was unlikely anyway considering that just three years ago the then-fledgling Jags played a 7-game schedule against junior colleges and prep schools.

Texas State (an FCS independent last season) joins the WAC—but not for long. The Bobcats of San Marcos, TX are headed to the Sun Belt after this season. Once known as Southwest Texas State, the Bobcats are coached by the well-known Dennis Franchione (SW Texas State, New Mexico, TCU, Alabama, Texas A&M, then back to Texas State last season). The Bobcats lost 50-10 last year at Texas Tech and 45-10 at Wyoming. Not eligible for the WAC title or a bowl.

Texas-San Antonio (an FCS independent last season, which was the first for the UTSA football program) also will play one year in the WAC in 2012, but is then headed for Conference USA. The Roadrunners are also directed by a well-known entity, former University of Miami coach Larry Coker, who won the BCS championship in his first season with the Hurricanes in 2001. Now loaded with sophs in its second football season, UTSA was 4-6 in its initial campaign, with victories over Northeastern State (of Oklahoma), Bacone, Georgia State, and Minot State. Not exactly a murderer’s row. However, the Roadrunners have big plans in football, playing their games in the Alamodome and averaging 35,521 fans, a new record for the inaugural year of a football program, eclipsing the 33,038 of South Florida in 1997.

What will the conference lineup look like in 2013? Don’t worry about it. Just get THE GOLD SHEET, as we closely monitor and scrutinize the developments of every team on the Las Vegas line. Besides, the upcoming changes for 2013 figure to make 2012 seem tame by comparison, so don’t strain yourself. Some of the many future changes have been mentioned above, such as Texas State moving to the Sun Belt and UTSA to the C-USA. Pitt is suing to leave for the ACC before 2014. Boise State is headed to the Big East. Or maybe not. Georgia State is due to join the FBS ranks. But, like I said earlier, don’t sweat the 2013 landscape now. The tectonic plates of college football remain in motion. And the continental drift might increase pace before the start of 2013 now that plans for a four-team playoff, complete with college football’s version of the “Super Bowl,” appear set for the 2014 campaign.

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