I've been thinking about this for a while, ever since the If the World Were Like the Big XII fanpost by ern8897
For the sake of argument, I tried to overlay the geography of Westeros with that of the United States to a reasonable approximation (although I dispensed with that if the facts didn't fit, lol). I also tried to keep in mind specific events that happened this season in order to parallel some of the events of the books, and to mirror alliances between houses. (There are approximately dickety houses in A Song of Ice and Fire, so I limited myself to either a Great House, or a slightly lesser noble house). Just for fun, former Big XII members are included here as well.
As with most analogies, these are imperfect at best, and I'd love to see what the rest of you ASOIAF nerds can come up with. Needless to say, if you haven't read any of the books in the series, SPOILERS LIKE WHOA!
So, without further ado, I give you the noble houses of Big XIIeros, in alphabetical order.
1. Baylor -- House Westerling
What: A team with history, but without much in the way of resources or success, the Baylor Bears have long played second fiddle to teams like Texas. However, they appear to be on the rise, and their recent takedown of then-unbeaten Kansas State turned out be a coup of sorts, one that probably did not go unnoticed by their Big XII brethren.
Why: the Crag is approximately in the same location with respect to Lannisport that Waco is in with respect to Austin, and as with the Westerlings, the Baylor Bears have benefitted from a somewhat forced alliance with Texas. (Also, if K-State is Winterfell...)
2. Colorado -- House Mormont
What: A once-proud program and winning tradition, the Buffaloes are now in disarray, and toil in obscurity in the remote outpost they've exiled themselves to. They're not entirely gone, but they're pretty much forgotten these days.
Why: this was a tough one, but I thought CU's current status matched up nicely with Jorah Mormont's plight. He fled Bear Island (which is, btw, west of Winterfell) in disgrace, with no honor and little money, and now he's forced to do whatever he can to succeed, and he's in love with a woman who doesn't want him. Tell me that doesn't sound almost as pathetic as CU.
3. Iowa State -- House Arryn
What: Playing in a remote and windswept north-central-eastern land, the Cyclones are a small but proud program. Over the years, they have faced a variety of calamities, including losing seasons and a recent stint on the coaching carousel. Under new leadership, however, the Cyclones have found a measure of stability. Their only real enemies are the goons from Iowa City, but Iowa State has managed to keep them at bay for a few years now.
Why: The Vale is vaguely in the north-central-eastern part of Westeros, and their sigil is a bird. Also, much like Iowa State during all the realignment brouhaha, the Vale was able to maintain some semblance of neutrality, but without any obvious benefit.
4. Kansas -- House Karstark
What: KU is a place where football is just a speed bump on the way to basketball season. There is nothing else to say.
Why: Lots of reasons. Lawrence (like Karhold) is vaguely northeast of Manhattan (i.e. Winterfell). The Karstarks acknowledge the Starks as their overlords, much as Kansas is forced to regard K-State as its better in football. Also, the Karstarks are supposed to be ugly and not entirely trustworthy. Perfect fit, y/y?
5. Kansas State -- House Stark
What: Though its history is humble, and it maintains an "old school" values system, K-State is now the major northern power in the conference, and a force to be reckoned with. This season, an uncharacteristic display of weakness and stubborn failure to adjust led to a late season loss to Baylor, and these weaknesses were severely exploited by the Cats' bowl opponent. The loss of key players in leadership positions may alter the balance of power in the conference.
Why: Because we're the good guys, that's why. Actually, it fits for various other reasons too. The Starks' natural rivals are the Boltons and the Karstarks. The Starks were once engaged in fierce battle with the Ironborn. They maintain a tenuous friendship with the Vale. They best the Lannisters in battle, even if they can't win the war. Also direwolf, wildcat, same difference.
6. Missouri -- House Bolton
What: An old program with a now-almost forgotten tradition of excellence, Missouri's constantly shifting allegiances probably precipitated its departure from the conference. Struggling to find a foothold after realignment, the Tigers find themselves in a conference that is neither a good geographical fit, nor a philosophical one.
Why: So the whole flayed man thing doesn't really fit, and Missouri has no Red Wedding equivalent in its back pocket. That said, they switched loyalties almost as quickly (although perhaps less sneakily) than Roose Bolton. Also, the Boltons are apparently the "natural enemies" of the Starks and the Karstarks, and in fact, it was in exchange for putting down a Bolton rebellion that the Karstarks won their land holdings, right adjacent to the Bolton lands. Sounds like a Border War to me.
7. Nebraska -- House Greyjoy
What: Once paramount leaders of the conference, and self-declared kings of everything in sight, Nebraska felt slighted by the increasing influence and power of Texas. So they decided to take their ball and go home, relegating themselves to mediocrity in the Rust Belt. Their former conference members laugh at them, while Nebraska promises its fans that better days are ahead, and they will rule once again.
Why: This was a tough call, since Nebraska could just as easily be House Stark. But I was taken with how the Ironborn's delusions of grandeur parallel Nebraska's (now mostly historic) sense of importance. Also, by leaving the conference and joining one that it's not a perfect geographic fit for, Nebraska has put itself on an island of sorts.
8. Oklahoma -- House Baratheon
What: Oklahoma is the Big XII's answer to Michigan, Alabama, Notre Dame, etc. The Sooners are a legendary program whose sustained success (with a few hiccups here and there) has made them the widely acknowledged (and equally widely resented) leaders of the Big XII. Their ability to routinely beat up on their conference opponents has helped lead them to many a conference title in the past decade, although their domination of the conference has not translated into a lot of bowl victories.
Why: Duh. Obvious reason is obvious.
9. Oklahoma State -- House Tyrell
What: Oklahoma State is a wealthy program, and recent successes over Texas and Oklahoma have helped the Cowboys become a strong contender in the Big XII as well. Their high-octane offense, snazzy uniforms and facilities improvements sponsored by all that Boone Pickens money should provide the Pokes with the sort of recruitment advantage that will keep them at or near the top for a long time.
Why: Oklahoma State is "getting stronger" using pretty much the same formula as the Tyrells. Throw your wealth around just enough to make the others (i.e. the Baratheons and Lannisters) take you seriously. Then move in the for the kill, especially against in-state rival Oklahoma.
10. Texas -- House Lannister
What: The wealthiest program in the Big XII, Texas is not afraid to throw its weight around and press its financial advantage. This does not necessarily translate into victories on the field, but Texas's reputation as a name program and its cache as a big market program will keep the Longhorns relevant even during losing seasons.
Why: The Horns shit gold, much like Tywin Lannister does (or did, until Tyrion discovered otherwise). Moreover, although they're more wealthy and devious than any other team, they're often beaten in battle by teams like K-State, and are forced to bend the knee to Oklahoma, even as OU knows that Texas is holding most of the purse strings.
11. Texas A&M -- House Tully
What: A great program in its own right, A&M often struggled with playing second fiddle to Texas (and later to Oklahoma) and eventually bolted to a new conference, where its geography and fanbase seem to fit right in. Their newfound swagger may help the Aggies leave the Longhorns in the shade permanently.
Why: Just as the Lannisters' betrayal led to the loss of Tully lands and the house's exile, so Texas' alleged high-handedness led to A&M's departure. Also, I find Catelyn Tully's resurrection as Lady Stoneheart oddly similar to A&M's sudden resurgence as a program. Johnny Football is not a zombie, but this feels a bit like a zombie invasion, lol.
12. Texas Christian -- Hightower
What: A storied program in the past, TCU is slowly finding its footing in big time football again. After the collapse of the old SWC, the Horned Frogs' ability to adjust to the changing landscape of college football guaranteed they'd never be without a good home. Now, after years of toiling in relative obscurity and without involvement in the Big XII's bitter realignment-related feuds, TCU has finally come home. A stout defense paired with great coaching and a gorgeous stadium should ensure TCU sticks around for a while.
Why: House Hightower is a small, but ancient house with significant history in The Reach. By always allying themselves with the right noble houses and by staying out of major conflicts, the house has been able to hang on to its lands and wealth. This struck me as a pretty decent parallel for TCU. The one bit I don't like is that the Hightowers are vassals to the Tyrells, but there's no such relationship between TCU and Okie State.
13. Texas Tech -- House Martell
What: Somewhat isolated in the desert of western Texas, the Red Raiders have created a unique identity for themselves, based mostly on the offensive system created by Mike Leach. However, they have not managed to rise to the level of Texas or A&M, leading to a certain level of resentment of those other programs.
Why: This seemed pretty obvious, given the location of Dorne and the way the Dornish are described in the book. I also think Kliff Kingsbury probably has as much fun as Oberyn Martell, and probably gives as much damn as Oberyn, which is to say none at all, of course.
14. West Virginia -- House Targaryen
What: Coming off a huge BCS victory, the Mountaineers were poised to take over their new conference in 2012. Instead, they fell off a mid-season cliff, and now they're stuck out east somewhere, as an also-ran in a conference where everyone else is too far away and mostly indifferent to their plight. Still, the 'Eers are probably too good a program not to bounce back in the next season or two.
Why: I know this seems like a misfit, but the geography sort of works, as does the idea that they may have been usurped a bit. Also, who knows, maybe they have a few tricks up their sleeves, i.e. figurative sleeping dragons?