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Big 12, don't try to make expansion about the College Football Playoff

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This is a photo of a Big 12 team in the most recent College Football Playoff
This is a photo of a Big 12 team in the most recent College Football Playoff
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When Ohio State made it into the 2014 College Football Playoff ahead of TCU and Baylor, college football was granted the gift no one wanted: a prolonged argument about whether the Big 12 needs to have a championship game, a season-ending 13th game to pad its champion's resume, like other conferences have.

It's been over a year, and despite Oklahoma making the 2015 field thanks in part to the Big 12's lack of a title game, we're still going.

The Big 12 hired an analytics firm to study how much of an influence a conference championship game might have, and the results aren't exactly explosive. A title game would boost the Big 12's playoff chances by about 5 percent, according to Navigate Research.

The obvious two problems with any statistical analysis of Playoff likelihood:

  1. The sample size of all-time Playoffs is two, one of which the Big 12 made and one of which the Big 12 nearly made.
  2. We're still talking about a 13-person committee whose individual votes remain secret. The most advanced analysis is nothing but a guess about how 13 essentially unknown people might vote.

The firm also recommended the Big 12 add two teams and play only eight conference games, compared to its current 10-team, nine-game round-robin format. (BYU and Cincinnati seem to be the most frequently cited potential expansion pair.) The conference would not necessarily have to add two teams to hold a title game, but would need to add teams to avoid a guaranteed, awkward rematch in that title game every year.

A conference championship would give a contender another chance to boost its resume with a win over a quality opponent.

But a title game is a great opportunity for a contender to pick up a crippling loss, as the Big 12 has already learned. Over and over.

The bones of many BCS contenders were scattered in the old Big 12 title game. Upsets between 1996 and 2010 cost the Big 12 four BCS title appearances and nearly put three others on ice.

Since the Big 12 ended its title game in 2010, the conference would've made a hypothetical Playoff in 2011 and 2012, in addition to 2015. That would be three out of five years, or exactly as frequently as the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12.

The memory of the 2014 snub is fresh, but this is silly. It might help sometimes, but there's also something to be said for sitting at home during conference championship weekend and letting other contenders be the ones taking the risks.

You'll notice that, aside from the competitive rationale for expansion, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby also mentioned money. You know, the primary motivator for every realignment maneuver. A championship game is a big ticket item that would sweeten the pot for the conference's next TV contract, in addition to ticket sales and other event revenue.

If the Big 12 wants to expand, it doesn't have to bother couching it in terms of competitive advantages. It also didn't have to pay a research firm for that answer.


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