As the realization sets in that both Baylor and TCU were shunned from the first college playoff, questions are now raised as to whether the Big 12 went the correct route in determining their conference champion. One thing is certain though, the Big 12 can only blame the playoff committee once.
The most shocking revelation on Saturday was TCU falling from being ranked #3 and firmly in the playoff picture to finishing #6 and three spots out of contention. What did TCU do wrong? Absolutely nothing, they beat a team handily 55-3. Hindsight is 20/20, but what the conference did wrong was schedule TCU and Iowa State on Championship Saturday.
It is obvious now that the committee takes the ‘what have you done lately’ approach. And while TCU was taking care of business as expected, their opponent was a mere 2-9 on the season. At the same time, Ohio State was using a 3rd string QB to dominate a highly ranked Wisconsin team.
There should be no dispute that TCU had the tougher strength of schedule. Unfortunately, the strength of their opponent on the final weekend of the season was not even close to that of the other top 5 schools still playing.
Baylor is a completely different story. Baylor beat TCU and should have been named the sole Big 12 conference champion, They also beat a highly ranked Kansas State team on Championship Saturday. What did that get them? It moved them ahead of TCU, but still one spot out of the college playoff.
There is only one explanation for what happened, the Big 12 was punished for not having a conference championship game. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby admitted as much in an interview with ESPN on Sunday stating, ” “It’s clear we were penalized for not having a championship game. It would have been nice to know that ahead of time. We were told we had a different model and that wasn’t going to penalize us.”
Here is where the conference, and specifically Commissioner Bowlsby may have gone wrong; they did not crown ‘One True Champion’. The Big 12 gave championship trophies to both TCU and Baylor. Would it have made a difference if the conference had stuck to its slogan and named Baylor the sole champion? Maybe, or maybe not. Baylor head coach Art Briles expressed his displeasure with how the conference champion was crowned by telling ESPN, “Presenting us as co-champs,”speaking of Baylor and TCU, “I think hurt the cause for both of us.”
So what happens from here? There are simply two options: One, petition the NCAA to deregulate conference championships, and allow the Big 12 to have a conference championship game. Unfortunately the conference has attempted this before, but to no avail. The second option is that dreaded word, expansion. However, as has been discussed here before, there are no viable candidates at this time. There is no shortage of schools that would be happy to accept an invitation, but none of those schools are truly anything more than another ‘body’.
Current ESPN conference power rankings have the Big 12 as the best conference in the NCAA. So why were two schools left out, with bodies of work so much more impressive than others that were included? There is only one explanation, a lack of a marquee championship game.
There is one more hurdle to jump here though. Even if the conference cannot win a petition to have a CCG with a 10 team league, there will be schools adamantly against expansion. Before you ask why, allow me to explain:
It has everything to do with money. Some schools simply are not willing to give up annual games against the likes of Oklahoma or Texas. Teams such as West Virginia, Kansas, and Iowa State would lose out on those yearly matchups. Those home games bring in money with stadium sellouts and national broadcasts.
It would be understandably hard to give that up, especially if you knew you would not be rewarded for it. What I mean by that is simple, and not a slight toward any one school but, the possibility of the Jayhawks or Cyclones competing for a conference championship and subsequent playoff birth are slim. So why sacrifice only to see no return?
In the end, the Big 12 is going to have to make a decision whether it wants to annually ensure itself a fighting chance at the table. Both options to do so will likely be met with contempt.
article photo courtesy of Big12Sports.com