Championship Games Matter
The round-robin, late-season gauntlet that the Big 12 put in place this year for their four top teams is in full swing, and the two Texas top dogs have subsequently taken the proverbial “knock out punch” from their conference brethren north of the Red River. The last two Saturdays saw the Oklahoma State Cowboys crush TCU’s dreams of a final four appearance and the Oklahoma Sooners knock Baylor from contention as well.
During Saturday night’s rain-soaked game in Waco, the Sooners’ QB Baker Mayfield not only put himself into the Heisman conversation but perhaps his team back into an outside shot of the playoff picture. What’s that you say? A one-loss Big 12 team could make the playoffs? Now I must admit I think it’s a tremendous long-shot, and Oklahoma would have to have a plethora of dominoes fall right for them outside of the Big 12 while still beating TCU and OK State the next two weekends, but logical or not, losing early is a much better plan than losing late in this new world of the Committee. The Sooners’ 24-17 loss to a God-awful Texas squad on a neutral field in early October, or Alabama’s home loss to Ole Miss in mid-September, are deemed much less damaging than TCU’s loss nine days ago to an undefeated OK State on the road in Stillwater. It’s how Ohio State was able to overcome their 2nd game of the season loss to Virginia Tech last year on their way to a National Title.
And it’s exactly why the Big 12 screwed up royally in their scheduling strategy this season. Not willing to adhere to the Committee’s “not too subtle” suggestion of installing a conference championship game (as the other 4 power conferences have in place) after TCU and Baylor were both left out last season, the Big 12 decided to host their own “quasi-tournament” by aligning their four power teams against each other in the last four weeks of the season. But now, the very real chance of several one-loss teams with late-season losses log-jammed at the top of the conference exists. So, unless Oklahoma State can reel off consecutive wins against Baylor and in-state rival Oklahoma, my guess is the Big 12 will be on the outside looking in once again.
The one team I have my eye on, just to make sure things are on the up-an-up for the Big 12, and to make sure the Committee sticks to their “Selection Protocol,” is Notre Dame. The Irish have been sitting in the #4 spot, and many feel if they run the table they’ll be in. But remember they are independent when it comes to football, and with no conference alliance comes no conference championship game – just like the Big 12. So let’s take a look at the Committee’s own words when it comes to selecting an independent school to participate in the playoffs……
…to select a non-champion or independent under circumstances where that particular non-champion or independent is unequivocally one of the four best teams in the country…
So for Notre Dame to get in, and a one-loss Big 12 champion team to be left out, Notre Dame would have to be, without any question at all, no grey area what-so-ever, Committee members willing to bet their lives on it, a top four team. The Committee likes championship games and Notre Dame doesn’t have one either. To me, that seems like it would be impossible for a one-loss Notre Dame to get in. But does the Committee like the idea of Notre Dame being part of the playoff better than, let’s say, Oklahoma State? I’m guessing yes.