Why bringing the Big 12 Championship Game back is bad for the conference
The Big 12 announced it won't have divisions, but that its top two teams will play in the conference title game beginning in 2017
The Big 12 made a major announcement on Friday. No, it had nothing to do with conference expansion. You'll remember earlier this month the Big 12 told us that it was not going to be expanding, and that this was a unanimous decision made by the conference after thinking it over for months and delaying the decision as long as possible.
Because everyone agreed.
No, Friday's announcement was about the Big 12's Championship Game, which will be making a triumphant return for the 2017 season. There had been some talk about the conference splitting up into two divisions, and then having its two division champions play for the conference title, just like it's done in every other Power Five conference.
Well, that talk is no more, as the Big 12 announced it won't have divisions. Instead, the conference will just have the top two teams in the standings play in the title game, which commissioner Bob Bowlsby wants you to believe is a good idea.
"There are a number of advantages to matching our top two teams," said Bowlsby in a statement. "Given our round-robin, nine-game scheduling model, it is expected the Big 12 champion will be uniquely positioned for College Football Playoff consideration. I would argue there will be no path more difficult than our champion's, where it will have played every team in the conference, faced at least one autonomy conference non-conference opponent, and then plays in our championship game. The guaranteed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup will be a great game for our fans, and it's hard to imagine a stronger position for a conference champion."
Actually, Bob, it's a bad idea. Let me explain why in three simple reasons.
1. You don't actually need a title game to reach the College Football Playoff. Remember last year when Oklahoma was selected for the CFP? Yeah, the Sooners somehow managed to do that without a Big 12 title game. In fact, their path may have actually been easier without one. You see, unlike schools in the other Power Five conferences, Oklahoma didn't have to risk another loss against a strong opponent in a title game. Just imagine if Michigan State had been upset by Iowa in Indianapolis, or if Clemson had fallen to North Carolina in the ACC title game. It would have knocked them right out of the CFP!
Oklahoma didn't have to risk that.
Also, what exactly are we basing the idea that having a conference championship game increases your chances of being selected on? There have literally been two College Football Playoffs thus far, and the Big 12 has been in half of them. That's the same rate as the Pac-12 which -- guess what? -- has a conference title game.
2. The Big 12 already plays a round-robin schedule. This might be the dumbest aspect of the Big 12 having a championship game. Everybody in the conference already plays one another, so at the end of the season, you have your champion -- it's the team with the best record. If two teams finish at 8-1, one of those teams beat the other! Therefore it's the champion.
By having the top two teams play, you're setting up a situation in which a Big 12 team somehow manages to go 9-0, yet has to play an 8-1 team it already beat this season. Now, for the sake of this argument, let's pretend the 9-0 team beat the 8-1 team on the 8-1 team's home field. Then, on a neutral field, that 9-0 team loses the rematch.
Now you're saying the team that already beat the other team has to beat that same team twice, and only the second game counts, because had it lost the first one, it still would have been in the rematch.
This is so completely illogical. The only reason this game exists isn't to give the Big 12 a better chance at a CFP berth, or to determine a champion, it's just extra revenue. The same reason the Big 12 was exploring conference expansion. It just wants more money. That's it.
3. The Big 12 has no shot of ever getting two teams in the CFP in this setup. The odds of this happening for the Big 12 -- or any Power Five -- are already limited, as the selection committee really does value conference champions over everything else, but if there's ever an opportunity for the Big 12 to get two teams in, this arrangement makes it impossible.
Using the SEC as an example, with the divisional setup, it's possible that a team that wins the SEC (we'll call that team Alabama) can reach the playoff while the team that finished second in Alabama's division (we'll call this team Texas A&M) gets in to the playoff as well, as it finished the season 11-1 with its sole loss being to the Tide.
That can't happen in the Big 12 because it's now guaranteeing that every year its second-best team will have another loss on its resume.
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