The Big 12 and some of its schools have waged PR and marketing campaigns in recent years to promote and advance accomplishments, so the conference shouldn’t have an awareness issue.
But in at least one area, a disconnect may exist between how the Big 12 is perceived nationally and how it views itself, and that could have played into decisions made on the College Football Playoff bracket.
Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State were voted in. Baylor and TCU were left out. All were conference champions, none with more than one loss.
Turns out, the Horned Frogs had the best loss of the group, at Baylor by three points, which was the only head-to-head meeting among the six schools.
Baylor and TCU were hurting Sunday, but the choices of the selection committee were reasonable and defendable, although some tweaks to the system are necessary. The weekly rankings announcements must be reconsidered.
Identifying TCU third before the Horned Frogs won a game by 52 points and dropped three places is a system error. So is making the point that Baylor finished ahead of TCU in the final ranking based on the head-to-head triumph when that result had been on the books for two months.
Those are committee clean-up issues. The bigger concern for the Big 12 is the implication about how it conducts business.
Committee chairman Jeff Long made it clear that the Big Ten’s Buckeyes benefited from their overwhelming triumph over Wisconsin in a conference championship game. Alabama and Oregon also won impressively in their league title games, and Florida State did what it has done all year, survive and remain undefeated.
There’s no telling how Baylor’s case might have changed had its victory over Kansas State occurred in a 13th game at a neutral site. After all, Ohio State had spent the previous three weeks ranked ahead of the Bears.
Both won impressively, so it’s likely the Buckeyes remain ahead.
But it’s natural to wonder if the Big 12’s structure, which the conference considers a strength, works against it in perception.
Only the Big 12 plays a complete conference schedule. That concept became a major source of pride for a league that had to rebrand itself when it realigned to 10 teams and dropped its conference title game.
This season, Oregon avoided two ranked teams from the Pac-12 South. Alabama missed Georgia. The Big 12 doesn’t miss anybody.
The format has cost the Big 12 in recent years when Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor lost perfect records with league road losses in November against teams they might not have faced when the league had 12 teams and played eight conference games.
But at least the Big 12 could believe it had created the most rugged path to a championship and sell that concept. Other league champions can dance around danger. Not the Big 12. In the relatively new world of division football, the Big 12 delivered old school, play everybody, toughness.
Surely a committee that included iconic coaches and current administrators would appreciate the Big 12’s way.
Then came Sunday and Ohio State, said committee chairman Jeff Long, played an additional game and “it was significant. I can’t say that it wasn’t.”
So the Big 12 will have conversations about its future. Should it look like the rest of college football’s conferences, with divisions and a title game, as it did from 1996-2010? If so, who’s out there to add? Brigham Young always gets mentioned. Any team in the American Athletic Conference would jump at the chance.
The Big 12 had done a superb job of scheduling meaningful games on same weekend as the conference championships, and couldn’t have come up with a better matchup than Baylor-Kansas State last weekend. Even ESPN’s “College GameDay” show set up shop in Waco.
But if 12-game and 13-game seasons aren’t measured equally and two-division conferences title games are seen as an advantage, it won’t matter when the Big 12 games are played, until there is a 13th.