The Big 12 Conference got dealt a major blow Sunday when Ohio State received the fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff over Big 12 co-champions TCU and Baylor.
Karma has a way of coming back to people, and karma blew up in the face of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Bowlsby rallied the conference around a 10-team league with the idea of the Big 12 having “one true champion”. All of the Big 12 coaches, including former Kansas head coach Charlie Weis and eventual interim head coach Clint Bowen, were featured in a commercial promoting the idea of “one true champion”. By season’s end, Bowlsby had changed his mind. Instead of sending Baylor as the Big 12’s champion, he sent the College Football Playoff committee co-champions. This decision was the result of the Big 12 bylaws that technically deem both Baylor and TCU as co-champions because of their identical conference record. All Big 12 sports operate like this; all this despite Baylor beating TCU during the regular season, giving the Horned Frogs their only loss.
Now the door opens up for schools like BYU and Boise State to sell the Big 12 on the idea of restoring a conference championship game and asking the independents or mid-major powerhouses to join the conference. This is something all power five conferences wanted to avoid.
This decision is even worse for Baylor and TCU than just not being allowed the chance to play for the national championship. The reality is money and reputation won out. Ohio State came from an atrocious Big Ten Conference, but has a major fan base in addition to a gigantic student body which travels well.
The same problem that took place with the Bowl Championship Series has now seeped into the College Football Playoff. The committee voted for a public school team with more money to spend than two private schools who limited national recognition. If a team goes unbeaten in a mid-major conference, even when playing a tough non-conference schedule, it will never stand a chance in this playoff system. In the future, it appears that teams in power conferences without a strong football history (Duke, Northwestern, Arizona State) will need to go undefeated, even after playing a tough non-conference schedule.
Just when this pessimistic piece of typing couldn’t seem to get any worse for Baylor fans, it does. Committee chairman Jeff Long admitted one of the knocks against Baylor was their weak non-conference schedule. The only power-five conference team on the Bears’ schedule in the next five seasons is Duke. Baylor will play at Duke in 2017 and host the Blue Devils in 2018. In the next five seasons, the schedule will feature Rice and UTSA three times each. In four of the five years, Baylor will host an FCS team. The next two seasons, the Bears will face SMU, a team who finished 1-11 this year and recently hired a new head coach. This is a bad recipe for the future.
In the end, nothing came out well for Baylor in this decision and it’s clear commissioner Bowlsby is not on the side of Baylor. On Monday morning Bowlsby told the Dan Patrick Show he would have voted for TCU for the fourth and final playoff spot. If the Bears can’t win over their own commissioner, how can they win over a playoff committee?