Through the opening few weeks of the College Football Playoff committee’s rankings, one thing remains clear: The Big 12 is still the least respected of the Power 5 conferences. I don’t even think that’s debatable.
You have a blue blood program in Oklahoma that has the best non-conference win in the country (road game vs. Ohio State), has one loss to an Iowa State team that has been ranked, and has an unprecedented three top 11 wins. However, OU has spent recent weeks in the #4 spot, with two ACC teams ahead, Alabama at #1, but there had also been appearances from Georgia and Notre Dame as well.
Despite rolling through their last month of the season, including top 11 wins against Oklahoma State and TCU, the Sooners could never crack above #4. Why? Because the respect for the Big 12 is slim to none.
The committee lauded the defenses of Clemson and Miami, but apparently Oklahoma’s all-World offense isn’t worthy of Kirby Hocutt’s praise. Do the Sooners have a great defense? Nope. But hell, have you seen Miami’s offense lately? How about Wisconsin’s? What about Jalen Hurts’ performance in the Iron Bowl?
As we get ready for the return of the Big 12 championship game for the first time since 2010, it’s incredibly clear this is the correct move for the conference.
Now for this specific season, maybe OU could maintain their #4 spot had there been no Big 12 title game. They’re the Oklahoma Sooners after all, one of the best brands in the sport, and they got a bid to the Playoff with one loss in 2015. But also, if Auburn wins the SEC title, Clemson beats up Miami, Wisconsin rolls Ohio State, then Oklahoma would be debated against one-loss Alabama for the final spot in the Playoff, possibly. Do Sooners fans really want to take that risk? A win over a TCU team that could be ranked in the top 10 this week will solidify Oklahoma’s playoff spot.
As for this game on Saturday, TCU is very unlikely to make the Playoff, even with a victory. So the Horned Frogs are designated to the spoilers role.
But what if TCU had beaten Iowa State earlier this season? This game could possibly be for the Horned Frogs to get revenge and possibly secure a spot in the College Football Playoff. In that scenario, they’d be a one-loss team at the moment looking for revenge against a Top 4 opponent and trying to win a conference championship.
Also, if you’re a fan of the Bears, Jayhawks (I’m just trying to be inclusive here), Wildcats, Cyclones Cowboys, Red Raiders, Horned Frogs, or Mountaineers, you should see the writing on the wall and realize this Big 12 championship game is imperative for you to ever make a College Football Playoff, unless you’re undefeated.
If the Oklahoma Sooners are unable to get above #4 through the first four weeks with their resume, why would you? I’m not trying to put OU on a pedestal. But just look at the reality of the situation. The committee has played favorites with blue blood programs who drive ratings. That’s not debatable. They did it in 2014 when choosing Ohio State over Baylor/TCU, because Ohio State had a conference championship. Then they picked Ohio State last season, despite losing a head-to-head to eventual Big Ten champion Penn State because of some “eye test”. To which I say, “?!?!?!?”
So the majority of Big 12 teams have to realize that to reach the College Football Playoff in today’s environment, the Big 12 championship game is a must. It’s good for you. If, for sake of argument, West Virginia goes 11-1 next season and is #4, but loses to two-loss Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, Mountaineers fans will scream that the Big 12 championship game is an awful idea.
It’s not. Because the committee would’ve possibly bumped you out of that #4 spot in Selection Sunday anyway. This gives a team another chance to beat a highly-ranked opponent in a tough championship game environment.
No the rules aren’t fair and they’re not the same across the board. But it’s the system we have in place and there’s no reason to sugarcoat the reality of what is going on here.
The Big 12 needs this championship game. It might have adverse affects in some years. But as we approach the return of the conference title game for the first time in nearly a decade, it’s clear as could be that this is a must for the conference.