Well now that we have had a day to digest the four teams that got into the playoff, there is one obvious question that is making the rounds. How did TCU or Baylor not get into the tournament?
One answer to that question is the play of Ohio State. They were down to their third quarterback for the season and playing a Wisconsin team that has a Heisman hopeful. It was a match up that many had picked that Ohio St. would lose because of the above circumstances. Instead the Buckeyes ran the Badgers out of the stadium, to the tune of 59-0. An impressive victory and statement like that would make it hard for the committee to leave them out of the argument for the fourth and final team.
And sure that could be a reason why one of those Big XII schools were left out of the playoff. But the biggest reason why they were left out rested on themselves and the conference.
Baylor and TCU did not exactly play the best non-conference schedule out there. Sure TCU did play Minnesota in the beginning of the year. But other than that, there is not much name recognition or good teams on their resume. Both teams played SMU, finished with one win this season. Both played an FCS school from the Southland Conference, Samford and Northwestern St. And Baylor played Buffalo from the MAC. Not exactly murder’s row there.
And their conference did not provide much help either. The Big XII plays a round-robin 9 game schedule. All teams will meet each other at some point during the season. And since there are only 10 teams in the conference, they do not have a conference championship game. The NCAA says that you must have 12 or more teams in the conference to have a conference championship game.
The conference boosts that they will have one true champion. However that theory was debunked this year. Baylor and TCU ended up tied in the conference standings, even though Baylor defeated TCU 61-58 earlier in the year. The commissioner stated they would name both schools co-champions if they won both of their games this past weekend. And of course what happens, both won and trophies were presented to both teams this past Saturday. Kind of makes the committee’s job a little hard when you really do not have a true champion.
And also does not help that the conference was not as strong as previous years. In the final playoff rankings only three teams from the conference were ranked. Heck the Pac-12 South and SEC West (divisions) had four or more teams ranked. And the Big Ten and ACC, which has been under some scrutiny, found four teams a piece ranked.
So what now? How does the conference and school make sure they are not let out of the playoff in the coming years? Well one answer could be to add some teams to the conference in order to qualify for a conference championship game. Sure the conference can apply for a waiver but there is no guarantee it will be granted; especially with the way the NCAA is about things.
But even if you go the route of adding to more teams, who can you add? The only plausible conference to raid would be the American Athletic Conference. Cincinnati could be an option. Maybe even Houston with their proximity to other schools already in the conference. But once again, there is no guarantee that schools would be willingly to move after conference realignment just ended a couple of years ago.
So the only option that Big XII schools have is scheduling. No more scheduling of three cupcakes in your non-conference schedule. I understand that you want to play teams in Texas so it is easier for you fan base to travel to the games, but still. There are some power five teams that are within reasonable distance if you want to stay close to home (Texas A&M, Arkansas, LSU, Missouri). Also the Big Ten is just to the north of the conference and the Pac-12 is on the west coast. And I’m sure they [Pac-12] would love to play Big XII schools. Seems like a select few want to travel west for a home-and-home series, but that’s another story.
So in the end the Big XII will have to make some adjustments and changes to ensure that this will not happen again in the future. Even if that means breaking future commitments with schools. It could mean the difference of being the first one out or the last one in to play for a national championship.