Yup, talking playoffs today. Let’s go ahead and establish some things:
1. I am an alumnus of a Big XII school and staunch defender of the Big XII as the second best conference in the land
2. I can’t stand the Big 10, especially Ohio State
3. The SEC fan base drives me crazy as well
4. It is the playoff committee’s job to produce rankings each week based on current body of work. This explains why teams can rise and fall each week, even without losses.
5. Let’s not complain about the playoff too much, after all, it kicked the BCS out.
Now with all those ground rules established, I’m going to start off by stating that I personally feel that the rankings are correct. I have zero issues with Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Ohio State going to the playoff. Obviously, the first 3 are no-brainers. It’s this fourth spot that has been the biggest issue. Well let’s look at some numbers.
The first of which are records against ranked opponents. While some teams drop drastically during the season, I still value the wins because the stage the teams have to play on is a much bigger one than when the teams are not ranked. College football is home to the most passionate fans in the country, so for argument’s sake, teams will be kept anonymous for now in order to hopefully bring attention to the facts.
Team A: 3-0
Team B: 3-0
Team C: 4-1
The next thing we will look at is strength of schedule (here is my source on that, http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/sagarin/):
Team A: 56th
Team B: 52th
Team C: 42nd
Now, lets look at the final ranking of each teams’ worst lost (same site used above):
Team B: #50
Team C: #7
I would argue those are the three biggest factors, after overall record, that should be considered for a spot in the playoff. I’m sure that these are weighed by the committee. So looking at those numbers, a few things stand out. SOS (strength of schedule) shows that the gap is not a tremendous one. For the determining factor, it can be considered a wash. Record against ranked teams is close to equal as well, so I would personally throw that out. Which would leave me with worst lost. Clearly the worse loss is by Team B. So through this small lens, it looks like Team A and Team C would get in over Team B. But lets sprinkling in some new details.
The next details will give the teams away so I’m done with the cloak and dagger game. Team B also lost their game at home, which reveals they are THE Ohio State University (…gag). Team C has the best loss, but was beat by Team A. TCU, it simple. TCU looks like a top 4 team right now for sure, but already lost to Team A (Baylor). Head-to-head has to trump everything when all is equal, otherwise why do we keep score on these fall Saturdays? That reason alone whittles it down to Ohio State and Baylor. I’m not going to compare the losses because each has arguments that, to me, end up sounding like excuses. Baylor was on the road, West Virginia was playing well, hostile environment, etc. Sounds like any other thing a team has to deal with. Ohio State lost at home, to a worse team, buuuuuuuuuutttttttt (as I know Buckeye fans, as well as the media, are quick to point out) they were playing with a new QB, it was the perfect storm of things to go wrong, Virginia tech played the best it did all year in that game, they are playing so much better now, blah blah blah. Ohio state was not the first, nor will it be the last, to deal with major injuries so give me a break. Both schools end up sounding whinny when it comes to defending the one blemish on their respective schedules. So how did Ohio State get the nod over Baylor?
Bob Bowlsby’s can really only blame himself, but we will get to that shortly. Strictly speaking to on the field reasons, in my mind, there is no doubt Ohio State got it because of a conference championship game. It’s 1 more time Ohio State had to go out and show their worth that Baylor didn’t get. It’s 1 more time Ohio State could have choked/defended the loss on a 3 string QB/shouted from the roof tops how they got a raw deal (did I mention I’m not a fan of Ohio State). It’s 1 more time 18-22 year olds’ motivation could be in different spots, or not able to control the emotions of the moment, which impacts the quality of performance. But it was also 1 more time that they got to go out and make a statement. It was a statement they emphatically made. Ohio State has looked good the past 6 weeks, but it was hard to really buy them being a top 4 team with a 3rd QB. Welp, as the old ball coach would say, they stomped doubts out quickly. Every aspect of the game was dominated, and you shut down the best RB in college football, that team can no longer be ignored. I would think that anyone who really follows college football would agree (unless you’re a Big 10 homer) that the Big XII is an overall stronger conference than the Big 10. But playing 1 more game, with all the things that could go wrong before and during a game, Ohio state rose to that opportunity and delivered exactly how they need to in order to jump into the playoff.
TCU and Baylor, I would love to agree with the argument that if you were Texas or Oklahoma, you wouldn’t have dropped. But I don’t believe that. No matter the 4 teams in the playoff, the amount of cash is going to be absurd (which is why I’m astounded it took so long to get a playoff in place). The playoff committee is not making decisions to fatten their wallets. How in the world is Lieutenant General Mike Gould going to make more money off of his selections? He isn’t. Tom Osborne’s wallet isn’t getting fatter with brand names in the playoff. The only way that would be happening is with SUPER SHADY dealings, which would be one of the largest sports stories of all time. So I can’t believe for one second brand name is a factor in that room. TCU, and more specifically Baylor, need to be upset with Bow Bowlsby.
“One True Champion”…..my ass. Pre-season, the Big XII PR department and commissioner nailed this one. A conference that plays everyone every year was a great argument going into this season, and it still is. I believe all conferences should do that. Get rid of cupcake games, and just play everyone in your conference. But, because that probably will never go away because FCS schools love that money, the Big XII appeared to have a good scheduling argument for this playoff. Everything was fine until TCU and Baylor kept winning and had to lose a game along the way. So ole Bob sat there, waiting for things to unfold. Can’t say I blame him, no need to make a statement with 4 and 5 games left in the season. But then it gets down to the last 2 weeks and still no real statement. Well, Bob and his advisor/constituents/bros/whoever he talked to came up with a genius gamble. “Hey, if the way things are going and we get a few bounces, we could sneak 2 teams into this bracket. If I don’t name a true champion, and call them co-champions, then it present two conference champions to the playoff committee. Yes,” he said taking one last powerful puff on his cigar, “let’s run with it.” So on Dec 1st, a week before the final rankings would come out, Bob informs everyone of his gamble. His statement leaves most/all people perplexed. Normally a pretty simple and clear tie breaker is head-to-head matchups. Bowlsby even stated during the Big 12 Media days to start the season that head-to-head would be the first tie-breaker in deterring his “One True Champion.” But in his mind, and I’m sure plenty of others, the thought was “This is college football, nothing stay status quo.”
The morning of December 7th, the college football world woke with Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State, TCU, and Baylor all having won their final game. Status quo was the worst possible situation for the Big XII. But Bowlsby’s game plan was in place, too late to turn back now. He pushed all his green and purple chips emphatically to the center of the table with the all the other Scarlet chips in as well. Everyone knows how this turned out. The Big XII’s two pair lost to the Ohio State’s flush. Big XII fans grabbed their pitch forks and torches demanding answers from the conferences leader. He provides them with this gem. If TCU could have back pedaled that quickly, they probably would have beat Baylor. Big XII fans fire back with, “Well, now that it’s decided, could you at least tell us who you would have voted for?” Bowlsby responded. Umm, I guess it makes sense if he “misspoke” earlier about head-to-head. So with those two giant failures/head scratchers out there, the next outcry is, “We need a conference championship game!” The conference can’t play one without getting to 12 teams, NCAA rule. So have to add two teams, simple right? Commish says everyone calm down, not gonna happen right now.
So it’s been 2 days, change won’t and can’t happen this quickly for the Big XII, but Bowlsby has to come up with a game plan this off-season. It can’t be, “Pray to the football Gods we have someone go undefeated.” There has to be entirely way too many things to fall into place for a conference to try to weasel two teams into the playoffs from one conference, doesn’t matter which conference it is. What the Big XII did has to be a lesson for all the Power 5 conferences. A conference has to go all in on one team getting into the playoffs. More importantly, the Big XII needs to find 2 teams to come to its conference so all of the Power 5 conference are on the same playing field. The Big XII took a swift kick to the gut on this decision, but it was the correct one. Now, who is going to be the winner of the first ever playoff?
That’s easy. Nike.