The Big 12 Left Out Of The College Football Playoff Again. Now What?
Quick previews at every bowl team with the basics of what you need to know for the 2016-2017 bowl and College Football Playoff season.
In life there are no guarantees and college football is no different.
Once thought to be a guaranteed invitation into the College Football Playoff, a conference title no longer matters.
To further the confusion, non-conference strength of schedule has also seemed to take a back seat to who is more popular.
With the 2016-17 CFP set, the Big 12 is left with more questions now than after the 2014 season. In 2014 TCU was ranked No. 3 going into the last week of the regular season. After beating Iowa State to the tune of 55-3 the committee dropped TCU from No. 3 to No. 6 taking them out of the inaugural CFP.
The reasoning at the time was simple, TCU had a weak non-conference slate in 2014 consisting of Samford and SMU. It was a tough pill to swallow, but it was widely accepted as the new standard in competing for a national championship; schedule tougher opponents.
The committee also pointed to the lack of a “13th data point” in the Big 12. Essentially the committee penalized both TCU and Baylor for not playing in a conference championship game. Again this was widely accepted as the new norm.
Jump to this season and confusion now reigns supreme. Ohio State has reached the CFP after not playing in a conference championship game and Washington has also made the cut with a strength of schedule ranked No. 41 in the nation by sagarin.com after a non-conference gauntlet of Rutgers, Idaho, and Portland State.
And now the Big 12 is trying to figure out what it needs to do.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has gone to great strides to institute a conference championship game in the Big 12. Remember, that 13th data point is important for consideration into the CFP.
Bowlsby went as far as to petition the NCAA to deregulate championship games; giving the Big 12 the ability to institute a championship without expanding to twelve teams. The petition was granted and the Big 12 will again play a championship game in 2017. But what does it matter now?
The argument is not for inclusion this season. The Big 12 had every opportunity to get into the CFP, and blew it. Oklahoma’s early season loss to Houston took it out of the running, Oklahoma State’s inability to beat Central Michigan or a weak Baylor took it of contention, and finally West Virginia was unable to get past top ranked opponents despite finishing the season 10-2.
So the argument is not whether a Big 12 school should have gotten an invitation, it is why does the criteria always changes from year to year?
Penn State could have not done more to get into the CFP. A strength of schedule ranking of 16 is definitely good enough. A victory over Ohio State is definitely good enough. And a Big Ten championship is more than good enough. But now Penn State, along with the entire Big 12, sits on the outside looking in wondering, “what more do we need to do?”
Scheduling tougher non-conference opponents now seems to be a mute point. Implement a conference championship game, again seems to be a mute point.
So where does the Big 12 turn for answers? Would we still be having this discussion if the Big 12 had implemented a conference championship game this season? The short answer is yes, Ohio State beat Oklahoma early in the season and with the criteria ever-changing to fit what seems to be an agenda the Sooners would still be on the outside looking in.
Bowlsby voiced his confusion after the selections were made with valid concerns, “Obviously I acknowledge the difficulty of the task, but I’m not sure what I advise my members right now, because we’ve been telling them that non-conference schedules matter, and one of the four has an exceedingly weak non-conference schedule.”
Bowlsby continued, “And we’ve been telling them the 13th data point matters, and we added a conference championship game because of that. We’ve always heard that conference championships matter and division championships matter, and now it’s confusing.”
In short, there is no set criteria to guarantee a playoff birth. All teams will continue to be at the whim of a committee that has shown no consistent rhyme or reason to their rankings. The Big 12 and Penn State should get a better explanation. If not for this season, for the future.