With only the national championship remaining, the college football season is now in the rear view mirror. However, the spin on what was and what might have been is still at the forefront in the national media.
At every opportunity and in every game, the conversation turned to the College Football Playoff – and for good reason. But the Big 12 wasn’t even a thought for it after the first few weeks, while USC turned into the sexy team on a national scale despite getting off to an awful start, too.
The Big 12 was written off literally one week into the 2016 season when Oklahoma lost to Houston. It was an easy sell, Oklahoma, who was the clear favorite to win the Big 12, had lost its first game of the season. It only got worse two weeks later when the Sooners were embarrassed by Ohio State.
So as the season progressed the Big 12 was simply an afterthought, regularly ranked below the AAC in conference rankings. So going into the bowl season, there were no expectations of the conference to do much of anything – the conference was expected by many to finish 1-5 in bowl games.
So how did a conference that, according to analysts, didn’t play defense finish 4-2 in bowl games and allowed the least average points per game of any conference?
The answer is simple, fake news. Or, at least, a fake narrative.
In a year where “fake news” dominated the political headlines, no one really gave any thought to those same semantics spilling over into college sports. The Big 12 was down, it wasn’t competitive, there’s no way it could compete with the likes of the Big Ten or SEC. All media driven statements.
So what else was fake? Let’s start right at the top with the Big Ten.
The Big Ten HAD to get into the College Football Playoff – heck there were three times to pick from, Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. Anyone want to guess how many of those schools won their bowl game? Zero.
Ohio State embarrassed itself against Clemson, Penn State did hang with a very good USC, but Michigan lost to Florida State who, by all accounts, had a down season.
Were we surprised by this? Sure we were, we had been told that the SEC and Big Ten were far and away the best conferences in college football. No way would either conference not have a winning record going into the national championship. But here we are, the SEC stands at 6-6 and the mighty Big Ten at 3-8.
It was the wrong year to sell propaganda.
Don’t expect a Western Michigan to ever gain the respect it deserves. And don’t expect the Big 12 to ever be anything more than a middle-of-the-pack Power 5 conference in the eyes of many. Why you ask? Because just like the media touted in the presidential elections, no one cares about middle America.