Big 12 followers, start your expansion speculation.
The message from the College Football Playoff committee on Sunday was 13 is better than 12.
That is, 13 college football games, one more than the Big 12 can play without a conference championship game.
The inaugural College Football Playoff pairings were announced without a Big 12 participant. The games and final seeds: No. 1 Alabama against No. 4 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, and No. 2 Oregon against No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl. Both games are on New Year’s Day.
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The winners meet Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, a few miles from where the two teams that finished fifth and sixth in the final playoff rankings, Baylor and TCU, completed their seasons and were deemed co-Big 12 champions.
Although he never said the Big 12 was hurt in the selection process by not playing a title game, College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long repeatedly spoke of Ohio State’s overwhelming performance in the Big Ten championship game that vaulted the Buckeyes onto the playoff bracket.
“With the championship game, Ohio State demonstrated they were a total team,” Long said.
The Buckeyes walloped Wisconsin 59-0. Baylor also won its finale impressively, defeating a Kansas State team ranked ninth by the playoff committee 38-27 on Saturday.
Going into the weekend, the playoff committee ranking had TCU third, followed by Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor.
The top six teams, including Alabama and Oregon, won their last games, but the order changed in the final committee vote. Florida State went to third, Ohio State fourth, then Baylor and TCU.
Teams with conference games finished 1-4, and the Big 12 was left on the outside looking in. Baylor is headed to the Cotton Bowl, and TCU to the Peach Bowl.
“We’re obviously very disappointed,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “It appears we were penalized for not having a postseason championship game.
“If indeed that is the case, I wish we would have been advised of that, that it was likely about which we would be penalized.”
For 15 years, the Big 12 had a title game as a 12-team conference. But when the league settled on 10 teams after the realignment period from 2009 to 2012, it couldn’t have a championship game under NCAA bylaws. The league has supported legislation to change the rule requiring conferences to have at least 12 teams in order to hold a championship game.
“I suspect it will get dealt with in the next six months,” Bowlsby said.
Baylor coach Art Briles and TCU’s Gary Patterson expressed their disappointment.
“If you want to get in, you’ve got to be perfect,” said Patterson, whose Horned Frogs lost to Baylor 61-58 on Oct. 11.
Briles went conspiracy theory, suggesting the Bears’ case was damaged by the committee’s makeup.
“I think the committee needs to be more regionalized with people that are associated with the South part of the United States,” Briles said. “I’m not sure there’s a connection on there that’s familiar with the Big 12 Conference.”
There is. The committee includes a Big 12 athletic director, Oliver Luck of West Virginia. Apparently that’s not southern enough for Briles, who believed the Big 12 was disadvantaged when Archie Manning left the committee because of illness.
“The only person born in the South on that committee is Condoleezza Rice,” Briles said. “She was born in Alabama. When Archie Manning went off, I said we were in trouble.”
Briles made his comments a day after getting heated with Bowlsby about the commissioner not identifying Baylor as the outright league champion. Briles believed co-champion status hurt the Bears.
Earlier in the week, Bowlsby said it wasn’t the league’s duty to present a single conference champion to the committee. The conference coaches and officials said in case of ties, co-champions would be identified.
“There seems to be some who believe we had some control over declaring a co-champion or sole champion,” Bowlsby said. “The fact is, our coaches and ADs adopted unanimously when we have two teams tie we have co-champions. We don’t have a tie breaker for the purpose of naming a champion.
“Will this facilitate a discussion? I’m sure it probably will.”
Another damaging factor was non-conference scheduling. Ohio State’s was rated higher than both Big 12 teams. Scheduling will continue to be part of offseason discussions, Bowlsby said.
“We’ve been telling our coaches and athletic directors they need to strength their preseason schedule,” Bowlsby said. “Some have been able to do it, some not.”
But Bowlsby, who handed TCU and Baylor conference trophies after their victories on Saturday, did not question the integrity of the 12-member selection committee that included former coaches Tom Osborne, Barry Alvarez and Tyrone Willingham.
“It’s a subjective process,” Bowlsby said. “We’re asking 12 honest people who they think are the four best teams. You can’t empower them (and) then question the very judgment you ask them to provide.”
But the Big 12 can ask itself if the committee’s decisions should play a role in how the league is shaped, or at least open the dialogue.
“It certainly is an impetus for soul searching and for probing some of the ways we do things,” Bowlsby said.
College Football Playoff schedule
▪ Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif. (4 p.m. Jan. 1 on ESPN): No. 2 Oregon (12-1) vs. No. 3 Florida State (13-0)
▪ Sugar Bowl, Superdome, New Orleans (7:30 p.m. Jan. 1 on ESPN): No. 1 Alabama (12-1) vs. No. 4 Ohio State (12-1)
▪ National Championship Game, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas (Jan. 12 on ESPN): Semifinal winners
Selection committee bowls
▪ Peach Bowl, Georgia Dome, Atlanta (11:30 a.m. Dec. 31 on ESPN): No. 9 Mississippi (9-3) vs. No. 6 TCU (11-1)
▪ Fiesta Bowl, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. (3 p.m. Dec. 31 on ESPN): No. 20 Boise State (11-2) vs. No. 10 Arizona (10-3)
▪ Orange Bowl, Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla. (7 p.m. Dec. 31 on ESPN): No. 7 Mississippi State (10-2) vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech (10-3)
▪ Cotton Bowl, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas (11:30 a.m. Jan. 1 on ESPN): No. 8 Michigan State (10-2) vs. No. 5 Baylor (11-1)
▪ Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (noon Jan. 1 on ABC): No. 16 Missouri (10-3) vs. No. 25 Minnesota (8-4)
▪ Alamo Bowl, Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas (5:45 p.m. Jan. 2 on ESPN): No. 11 Kansas State (9-3) vs. No. 14 UCLA (9-3)