There are four spots and five conferences, so naturally, inevitably, something had to give. And, sorry SEC fans, your conference isn't good enough to warrant two spots, so in the end, one conference was going to be shut out of the inaugural College Football Playoff, and that conference is the 10-team Big 12. Of course, the fact that a 10-team league calls itself the Big 12 is a problem right away, but nonetheless.
College football is a game where the haves (the Big 5) and the have-nots try to play nice enough to make it all work and for the most part, it has worked well enough. Not great, mind you, but well enough. The Big 12 will be in full spin from 1:00 PM today until the bowl games come around, but if they want someone to blame, they need to look at themselves in the mirror.
Four of the five conferences have championship games, and call them what you want, these championship games are playoff games. If Missouri beat Alabama, the SEC would likely not have a team in the CFP, no matter what the coaches, athletic directors and conference commissioner said; they would have been out. On the flip side, Alabama's impressive performance in the title game cemented them as the number one team going into the CFP. So, as you see, there are benefits to playing a conference title game in addition to the money that it generates.
People have been trying to find ways to rip both Florida State and the ACC all year, but their win in the ACC title game helped the Seminoles because trust me, Georgia Tech is no joke. If you were surprised how close that game was then you haven't been following college football enough to know that the Yellowjackets are pretty darn good. Furthermore, Florida State played a very good schedule this year. They played Oklahoma State, Florida and Notre Dame in their nonconference games; did Alabama do that? Oregon?
Here is what did the Big 12 in. First, they didn't play a conference championship game. Remember, this is a conference that was burnt by conference championship games in the past when the weaker team beat the heavyweight and took the heavyweight out of the then BCS Championship Game. These losses occurred when the Pac 12 and the Big Ten did not have title games and there was a lot of squawking by Big 12 coaches like Bob Stoops and others saying that it wasn't fair. When the Big 12 lost Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, they decided to stand pat with 10 teams and because the NCAA requires 12 teams to have a conference title game, the Big 12 had to abandon its title tilt.
The Big 12 then stated that they are the most complete conference because they play a true round robin of nine conferences games and thus can crown a true champion. The Pac 12 also plays nine conference games but only the Big 12 plays a true round robin, so we'll grant them that.
Second, they let the round robin format bite them in the foot. By refusing to declare Baylor the conference champion because of its head-to-head win over Texas Christian, they dared the committee to pick both teams, something the committee wouldn't do at gunpoint. Even Art Briles was furious at the conference by its sitting on the fence, and Texas Christian coach Gary Patterson didn't do conference solidarity any favors by not taking one for the team and admitting that the 61-58 loss at Baylor should be the tiebreaker for Big 12 supremacy.
The conference title game hurt the Big 12 the most. Earlier this year, the NCAA allowed the Big Five conferences more autonomy when it comes to its football programs. They can pay players and do other things that they see fit to make more money for themselves and their conferences. One procedure that was already in place is the Championship Game waiver which a conference can use to petition for a post season game even if they don't meet all the normal criteria.
The Big 12 could have applied and likely received a waiver to play a championship game while having under 12 members; there is a precedent for doing so.
The SWAC is a 10 team 1-AA conference that divides its teams into two five team divisions and plays the SWAC Championship Game every December. If the SWAC can do it---and they're part of the NCAA---then certainly the Big 12 can. When UB beat Ball State in 2008 the MAC championship game existed because of a waiver granted. At the time the MAC had 13 members and the rules of the day stated every team had to play all teams in their division.
For fun, lets' say that the Big 12 had received a waiver and divided into the following divisions and were divided as such:
North: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State
South: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas Christian, Baylor, West Virginia
If this was the setup, Baylor's win over Texas Christian would have made them South Division champs even though both would have the same record. The Bears would have faced Kansas State (yes, two times in one year, but didn't Oregon play Arizona twice this year?), for the Big 12 championship and it would have given them the same stage that Ohio State had last night in its dismantling of Wisconsin for the Big Ten title.
The Big 12 comes off as the crybaby here. Their coaches cried and really, they have nobody to blame. Many think that eventually, this will be a six (my preference) or eight team playoff, and had that been the case, the Big 12 would have two tough teams in the CFP. There is no denying how good Baylor and Texas Christian are, but they were done in by their own conference in the end. As mentioned, Briles' frustration and Patterson's silence didn't help when it mattered most. As my father said, "you can't be upset at someone for whupping you."
There are many that call Ohio State's loss at home to 6-6 Virginia Tech a bad loss and I say nonsense. Virginia Tech has been good for many years and they are a Big Five school, so to me, that's a game that should be scheduled. Baylor played 1-AA Northwestern State, Buffalo and SMU, a 1-AA school and two Group of 5 schools. To me, losing to Virginia Tech is better than beating Buffalo.
College football needs to get its act together. As much as I love seeing FCS schools playing FBS schools to enrich their athletic budgets, Big 5 schools should no longer be able to schedule these games. The SEC does this all the time; Alabama will schedule Western Carolina the week before Auburn if they don't have an outright bye, and that has to stop---right now. If you have an FCS school on your 2015 schedule, make a call tomorrow and dump the game. Let the MAC, CUSA, Sun Belt, Mountain West and American play FCS teams, but there's no reason why Baylor and Auburn should be playing the likes of Northwestern State and Samford. The Big Ten has forbidden its schools to do this, so why not make this an across the board policy?
Another thing they should do is require the Big 5 conferences to play nine conference games. College football is hot now, a weekly commodity that brings people to their televisions and isn't it better to see Ohio State play Purdue rather than Kent State or Navy?
No FCS opponents; 9 conference games; conference championship games. It's that easy and it's that simple. And, to me, a five team CFP is not of the question either. In a five team scenario, each conference could send one team, and the opening game of the CFP would be the always exciting 4/5 matchup. I won't go as far to say that the team should be the winner of the conference championship game because if a 9-3 Wisconsin beats a 12-0 Ohio State, the conference may want to have a say on who they send. Of course, the six team CFP would work best because it would allow room for a Group of 5 school to make its way in should they go 12-0 or 13-0, but once again, the CFP is the Big 5, the big boys so let's not kid ourselves here.
Under a five team scenario, Baylor would visit Ohio State this weekend with the winner advancing to the Sugar Bowl to take on Alabama. Texas Christian would cry but they had their chance when they lost to Baylor.
This will all be forgotten long before the CFP begins. The controversy will be great for talk radio for a couple of days, but by the end of the week, it will be on to Army-Navy, the Heisman Trophy and the Michigan coaching search and of course, the NFL. The Big 12 will get a few days to vent, but they should be venting to each other because they did themselves in.