The Big 12 will bring back the conference championship game in 2017. What will the new divisions probably be? What would’ve happened if there was a championship over the last few seasons?
So the Big 12 is going to bring back a conference championship game for the 2017 season, but without expansion and without a network – for now.
The NCAA gave the go-ahead a while ago even though the Big 12 has just ten members, and now it’s time to figure out exactly how this is all going to work.
What are the new divisions going to be? What’s the alignment?
The league is still expected to keep the current round-robin schedule format (good), but it’s going to bust into two five-team divisions (not really all that good) as it goes for the money grab with Fox getting the TV rights in 2017, ESPN or ABC in 2018, and then go back and forth until 2024.
Here’s the problem. As is, the Big 12 already has the best set-up possible to get into the College Football Playoff. If its champion goes 12-0, it’s a mortal lock to get in. If it goes 11-1, it’s almost certain to be in the CFP – what happened in 2014 with 11-1 Baylor being left out was a total anomaly.
The potential for all five Power Five conference champions to finish unbeaten or with one loss is very, very slim, and an 11-1 Big 12 champ would still almost certainly get in over a 13-0 Group of Five champion.
Forget the metrics from some analytics firm – the Big 12 has a better shot at getting into the CFP without a championship game, mainly because it eliminates the fluke factor.
Go back to 2001. Texas would’ve played Miami for the national title, but it gagged away the Big 12 title to Colorado and the world had to watch Nebraska get mauled by the Canes in the Rose Bowl.
In the first Big 12 Championship game in 1996, Nebraska was all set and ready to rumble to a possible national championship, but it lost to James Brown and the Longhorns.
Worse yet, now there’s going to be a guaranteed rematch now for the Big 12 title. Forget that the matter was already settled on the field, there’s now going to be a redo.
But it’ll be fun, and it’ll bring the Big 12 more attention and make it a little easier to compare apples to oranges for the CFP committee. On the plus side, it’ll also potentially combat the Notre Dame factor.
Last season, Notre Dame – because it destroyed the Texas team that later beat Oklahoma – probably would’ve been in the CFP over the Sooners if it had held on against Stanford. However, a 12-1 OU with a Big 12 Championship win would’ve gotten in over the Irish. But that was a one-time deal. Going forward, the conference will have to figure out the logistics.
How will this realistically work for the new divisions?
Assume the Texas teams will be kept together, and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be together. To split up the ten teams, the North will almost certainly be Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and the South will likely be Baylor, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia. The goal will be to try to get an Oklahoma-Texas rematch in the Big 12 Championship, or at least make it possible.
If this was in place when the Big 12 first ditched the title game back in format back in 2011 – assuming the division alignments are like I’m guessing – the championship games would’ve been …
2011 (remember, this was the final year for Missouri and Texas A&M): Oklahoma State vs. Baylor. Oklahoma State won the first matchup 59-24.
2012: Kansas State vs. Oklahoma. Kansas State won the first matchup 24-19.
2013: Baylor vs. Oklahoma. Baylor won first matchup 41-12.
2014: Baylor vs. Kansas State. Baylor won the first matchup 38-27.
2015: Oklahoma vs. TCU. Oklahoma won the first matchup 30-29.
What really matters about this? In 2011, a 12-1 Oklahoma State probably would’ve made it into the BCS Championship over 11-1 SEC West second-place finisher Alabama to play LSU, and 2014 12-1 Baylor might have had an interesting argument over Ohio State for the College Football Playoff.
Eventually there will be two six-or-seven team divisions in the Big 12, but for now, another championship game means more meaningful college football.
Okay, Big 12. This will be interesting.