In 2014, the Big 12 missed the College Football Playoff because Ohio State demolished Wisconsin by 59 points in the Big Ten’s title game while Baylor and TCU parked their buses at 12 games each. After much gnashing of teeth, the Big 12 revived its title game, which was silly, because in a 10-team league, it meant a guaranteed rematch every year.
As far back as 2015, we tried to warn the conference against all this, showing the four times the old Big 12 Championship had cost it title shots. Was there something inherent in the old Big 12 title game that made it more likely than other league title games to wreck contenders? Not really. The point was that it’d be unwise to change your setup in response to a single season when there was at least as much evidence to the contrary, especially once Oklahoma was 2015’s first team to clinch a bid.
OU would’ve been the first to clinch a bid again in 2017, if not for a forced rematch against TCU. The Sooners skated and now stroll into the Rose Bowl against Georgia as the No. 2 seed. Big 12 crisis averted, right?
The Frogs entered Saturday able to say two things about themselves:
- They were demonstrably inferior to Oklahoma, having lost by 18 points earlier in the year.
- They were ranked No. 11, putting them in line for one of the New Year’s Six bowls, the series of committee-arranged, extra-lucrative, non-Playoff games.
After losing the Big 12 title rematch, the Frogs left Sunday able to say two things about themselves:
- They were still demonstrably inferior to Oklahoma.
- They were no longer ranked in the top 12 and had fallen into the Big 12’s normal bowl rotation, kicking everybody else in the conference down a peg (more or less) as well.
The Big 12 title game might’ve helped Oklahoma rank No. 2 instead of No. 3, but that didn’t matter, since they’d be playing Georgia in the Rose either way.
The only thing that’s different about 2017 because of the Big 12 title game:
TCU falling from a big bowl to the Alamo Bowl and pushing some other Big 12 teams down as well.
The conference’s actual reason for adding a title game: $$$.
That’s fine. Estimates at the time pegged it around $30 million. Probably worth it!
A chunk of that is gone because of TCU’s loss, though. If the payouts for the NY6 games are around $5 million and Texas Tech’s in the Birmingham because of TCU’s fall, that’d be roughly a $3 million cost for the conference.
Money’s beside the point, though.
The Big 12 overreacted to a single Playoff snub, was presented on-field evidence to the contrary of its worries the year later, proceeded anyway, and is now out a marquee game because of it.
We’ll see if it works next year.