Only five months removed from having not one but two teams snubbed from the inaugural college football playoff the Big 12 Conference has some big decisions to make about its future.
After it was announced that both Baylor and TCU had not made the four team playoff Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was seemingly left scrambling to find answers and make adjustments to ensure this same situation would not repeat itself in the future. The most logical remedy was the implementation of a conference championship game. That elusive 13th game that although in the beginning was said NOT to have a bearing on the decision has recently been pegged as one of the determining factors.
The current problem facing the Big 12 is that NCAA regulations require a conference to have at least 12 teams and two divisions in order to produce a conference championship game. With only 10 teams currently in the conference the Big 12 had to determine whether they wanted to challenge that arbitrary rule. With support of the ACC, Bowlsby and the Big 12 did petition the NCAA to deregulate conference championship games. A ruling on that petition is expected to take effect by the 2016 season in favor of the Big 12.
However, the implementation of said game is still not a foregone conclusion. Big 12 coaches and athletic directors will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on whether to bring back a Big 12 Conference Championship game, which has been absent from the postseason lineup since 2010, this week during the spring meetings. The Big 12 Board of Directors will meet this Friday and presumably make a final determination to move forward with a 13th game or keep the status quo.
While some coaches are in favor of the move there still seems to be a trend toward holding off. The question is why? First and foremost, although deregulation is bound to be approved it has yet to be implemented. Voting on a conference championship game is irrelevant at this point being that even with a vote to reinstate current rules still negate the conference from moving forward. Bowlsby also said yesterday that, “a year does not make a trend”. While he is correct it does show there are situations where the lack of a 13th game can hurt the conference. Whether or not that becomes a trend is obviously yet to been determined but the writing is already on the wall.
While many analysts and media alike feel the Big 12 has the easiest road to a playoff birth the fact remains they are 0 of 1 in that theory. Yes the Ohio State win over Wisconsin was a freak event. It is not often a conference championship game renders such a lopsided victory. However, a Big 12 title game between TCU and Baylor, which at the time were both in the top 6 in the college playoff rankings, would have presumably negated the overwhelming Ohio State victory.
While many will argue the probability of this same scenario happening again is remote the fact remains it has already happened. Without a title game the Big 12 will more than likely need a team to run the table, something that is nearly impossible to do in that conference. The fear that a 10-2 SEC school jumping an 11-1 Big 12 school is real whether people want to believe it or not.
There are other ways to remedy last seasons snub without a conference championship game, some of which I am merely throwing out as suggestions. Big 12 could go the way of the Big 10 conference and do away with the scheduling of any FCS opponents. The Big 12 has already discussed requiring teams to schedule at least one non-conference Power 5 opponent, “We talk about it all the time” Bowlsby said yesterday when asked about the possibility.
Another albeit less likely remedy is to schedule marque conference matchups later in the season. TCU’s end of the season matchup against a then 2-9 Iowa State team did not help the “what have you done lately” aspect of the selection committee. And while Baylor’s victory over Kansas State was a quality win the Big 12 tiebreaker may have played a role.
Speaking of tiebreakers, that is one thing the Big 12 has remedied this week. The Conference finalized the details of a three-way tiebreaker thus forever doing away with the possibility of having co-champions in the future.
Regardless of the outcome from this week’s spring meetings the Big 12 has decisions to make that may have a huge bearing on its postseason future. However, the best decision right now may be not to make a decision at all.