The Big 12 Championship Game is back ... and the timing couldn't be worse
Just when OU doesn't need a 13th data point to make the College Football Playoff, it has to get one
If there were ever a year not to stage a Big 12 Championship Game …
Really, do you have to be told about the suddenly obvious pitfalls for the last Power Five league to tack on a 13th data point?
What's the worst that could happen in an Oklahoma-TCU rematch? Not so glad you asked.
- The Big 12 could lose a playoff berth with its highest-ranked team (No. 3 OU) getting upset by an opponent (No. 11 TCU) the Sooners have already beaten by 18 points.
- Baker Mayfield -- and by extension, the league -- could lose a Heisman. By playing that extra game, the Heisman's prohibitive favorite would be subjected to the wear and tear of ... playing an extra game.
- Worst of all: If the Big 12 had kept its old format and not added a championship game, at 11-1 with the regular season over, OU would have been good enough to get in the College Football Playoff right now. "They're in the top four," CBS Sports' Jerry Palm said, "and they'd remain in the top four [without a title game]."
Insert wince here. In what has become the Week of the Rematch, the Big 12 might be most at risk. Another miss would make it three years out of four that the conference would miss the playoff.
The Big 12's own analytics show the team defeated in the first meeting wins the rematch more than half the time. Double wince.
"I don't know if there's good and bad," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. "I just think it is what it is. You know each other better, there's probably going to be less surprises."
Tell that to the Big 12 and most of the rest of FBS. Seven of the nine conference championship games this weekend are rematches. That's as many rematches as the SEC has played in the 26-year history of its championship game.
For only the second time, the Pac-12 game will be a rematch when Stanford meets Southern California on Friday. Because of a scheduling quirk, Boise State and Fresno State are playing in back-to-back weeks. Only the one Saturday at Boise counts toward a title.
Georgia and Auburn will meet in a playoff-take-all rematch in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn knocked off then-No. 1 Georgia 40-17 on Nov. 11. In the previous six SEC rematches, the regular-season winner is 5-1. There hasn't been such a rematch in the conference since 2010.
Memphis against undefeated Central Florida in the AAC title game is a de facto elimination rematch for the Group of Five Golden Ticket. The winner most likely goes to the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange or Peach Bowl. UCF won the hurricane-delayed first meeting by 27.
Don't forget serious momentum for a playoff started because of a rematch. Folks don't necessarily want to see them. TV ratings plummeted when LSU and Alabama met for a second time in the 2012 BCS title game.
The possibility further exists for first-ever College Football Playoff rematches from the regular season. Possibilities: Auburn-Alabama, Clemson-Auburn, Oklahoma-Ohio State.
The Big 12 went to great -- and sometimes time-wasting -- lengths before re-instituting its championship game. That was 13 months ago. That was also after a more than year-long process when the conference elaborately explored expansion. In the process it teased a gaggle of Group of Five hopefuls and angered its TV partners before settling on this sort of half-measure.
The 10 Big 12 teams will split at least $30 million annually in rights fees and ticket sales from the championship game. To further boost its playoff chances, the Big 12 became the only FBS conference to match its two best teams -- not division winners.
For better or worse. For the first 15 years, the Big 12 first staged a championship game (1996-2010), it was one of the most volatile in college football. Five times the lower-ranked team won. Three times in those 15 years, the Big 12 lost potential national championship shots because of upsets. In 2011 (Oklahoma State, BCS) and '14 (Baylor, TCU, CFP), teams narrowly missed playing for national championships minus a Big 12 title game.
The conference now has at least gained equal footing with its four other Power Five peers by playing a 13th game. There is one big difference: The Big 12 is the only league that plays a true round-robin schedule. That guarantees a championship rematch.
For the first time in the Big 12, here's what it looks like: Top-seeded Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1) has little to prove after beating TCU 38-20 on Nov. 11. The Sooners' lone loss was to Iowa State. Meanwhile, the second-place Frogs (10-2, 7-2) -- with losses to Iowa State and Oklahoma -- see this as a brass ring. Maybe. As a two-loss Big 12 champion, TCU would conceivably be compared to Ohio State (11-2 as a Big Ten champion) and Auburn (11-2 as an SEC champion) or Alabama (11-1 as the SEC West runner-up) by the CFP Selection Committee.
In other words, not necessarily in the playoff.
For all the hosannas thrown at Oklahoma for beating Ohio State, the Sooners had three of the worst FBS teams on their schedule as UTEP, Baylor and Kansas combined for two wins. Those three opponents represent a quarter of Oklahoma's schedule. UTEP (0-12) was the only winless team in the FBS.
It's still win or go home for the Sooners. If anything, the schedule probably keeps the Sooners from being the CFP No. 1 seed.
Win, and they're in.
If only the Sooners didn't have to play this week to prove it.
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