Many people who have opinions on who will be joining the Big 12 Conference have the Colorado State Rams on the outside looking in. What if those people are wrong and CSU has a better chance than most think. Jacob Schildgen posted an article comparing the Colorado State Rams to the other expansion candidates.
Areas of comparison include sports (football, men's and women's basketball, and volleyball), facilities, tv market, demographics (students, area population, and alumni of other schools), geographic area, and academics. However, there a few things that CSU has or could use to its advantage to raise their profile in the eyes of the Big 12 administration.
The Big 12 has come out and said the expansion by 2 teams or by 4 teams is a possibility. There have also been talks about creating 16 team super-conferences eventually. If the Big12 expands by two teams, CSU is more than likely on the outside as BYU and Cincinnati seem to be the top candidates; BYU for their national profile and Cincinnati to give West Virginia a travel partner.
If the Big 12 chooses to expand by four teams, CSU has a better chance; CSU and either Houston, Memphis, or UCF would be the next 2 teams chosen. If the 16 team P5 super-conferences are going to happen, then the Big 12 would be ahead of the game by picking the best available four now, instead of being stuck with whatever is left. If the 16 team P5 super-conferences become a reality in the future, CSU's dream of jumping to the P5 starts to look more and more realistic as there are currently 65 teams in the P5 and having 5 super-conferences would mean that there would be 80 P5 teams.
Another issue that is going to pop up is the exit fees for schools. BYU has the greatest advantage here as they are independent and don't have to pay an exit fee (edit: They won't have to pay as a big an exit fee. Their other sports are in the West Coast Conference and BYU might be required to pay an exit fee for them). BYU also has clauses in game series contracts that allows them an out should BYU join a P5 conference.
Athletic Conference teams have a bigger hurdle than BYU and the Mountain West schools. AAC teams have to give 27 months' notice and pay a $10 million dollar fee. If an AAC school were to decide to leave before the 27 months are up, they could face a lawsuit, a la West Virginia. The MW has an easier out than the AAC does. A Mountain West school can forgo any exit fees as long as it announces the exit on June 30th of the previous year from admission (as points out, this isn't possible if CSU or Boise State wish to join in the 2017-18 year, as it is already July). If a school wishes to leave within a year's time, they would have to pay a fee. The fee would either be $5 million or double the final year of conference revenue, which ever sum is greatest. That school would also forfeit their final year of conference revenue. So for the 2017-18 athletic year, BYU has the easiest time getting out of current contracts. If the expansion weren't to happen until the 2018-19 athletic year, then BYU and the MW would have the advantage in this case.
Expansion including football-only teams is also under consideration by the Big 12 Conference. If this were to happen then this seems to benefit BYU, Boise State (could join BYU in the WCC for other sports), and UCONN (could join either the ACC or Big East in other sports). However this seems to be an option of last resort, as many believe the Big 12 doesn't want to degrade the reputation of the conference in the other sports. CSU could possibly fit the bill of a full expansion school because of the reputation of their other sports. From volleyball to basketball and the other sports, CSU is committed to winning championships in all sports.
TV revenue and things schools can bring to the table are also another issue on the table. Colorado State could be at advantage over other schools because they don't require that much money at the start. It was even suggested that CSU would accept a phase in in regards to the TV revenue, a la $10MM for the first two years, $12.5 MM for the next 2, and so on and so forth. With the pro rata TV contracts, this allows for the other conference schools to split the remaining money left over from however much the conference earns per school.
So, for example, with each Big 12 school getting $30MM and CSU accepting $10MM, the other 10 schools would split the remaining $20MM amongst themselves. The advantage of this comes from the fact that AAC schools receive a larger amount of TV revenue and have larger athletic department budgets than CSU. And if this were to be the case then CSU would be a low cost, high reward choice for the Big 12.
Other things that schools can bring to the table include potential sponsorship's for the Big 12. Memphis has FedEx backing them and Houston has Tilman Fertitta on their Board of Regents and he could bring in multiple sponsorship's for the Cougars.
CSU can hold their own in this regard with their business connections in Fort Collins and the Denver area. CSU is also potentially holding a wild card in their back pocket and that is their relationship with the Denver Broncos. CSU could potentially use Mile High Stadium to host Texas and Oklahoma and could offer it to the Big 12 as a neutral site for the Big 12 Championship game.
No one knows for sure who is going the Big 12 is going to pick for expansion. All any of the potential schools can do is position themselves as best as they can. Colorado State seems to be doing pretty well in that regard.