IRVING, Texas (AP) — The Big 12 is getting closer to deciding how it wants to crown one true champion in football.
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby reiterated Tuesday at the College Football Playoff meetings that his conference is prepared to use head-to-head results to break a two-way tie for first. He added that athletic directors will discuss at league meetings next week in Phoenix different procedures for breaking ties between more than two teams. Bowlsby told reporters the goal with three or more teams will be to whittle the group down to two and then use head-to-head to crown a champion.
The Big 12 began last season touting its “One True Champion” slogan and ended it with Bowlsby handing out championship trophies to both TCU and Baylor, which beat the Horned Frogs in the regular season. Both were left out of the College Football Playoff. Baylor coach Art Briles was among those who felt the Big 12’s decision not to declare a champion hurt the Bears chances to make the first playoff. Baylor finished fifth in the selection committee’s final rankings, right behind Ohio State. TCU was sixth.
“That will eliminate one of the variables from last year,” Bowlsby said about implementing a tiebreaker.
The other variable was the Big 12 being alone among the Big Five conferences in not having a league championship game, leaving TCU and Baylor with a 12-game resume as compared to Ohio State’s 13. The Buckeyes surged up the rankings thanks to a 59-0 victory in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin.
Selection committee chairman Jeff Long said after the final rankings were revealed that having an extra game to evaluate the Buckeyes, especially a huge game against a ranked opponent, helped separate Ohio State from the Big 12 teams.
Even before being shut out of last year’s playoff, the Big 12, along with the Atlantic Coast Conference, sponsored a proposal to deregulate rules regarding conference title games. Current rules state a conference must have 12 teams and be split into two divisions. The Big 12 has no plans to bring back its league title game, which was dropped when the conference went from 12 to 10 teams, but it would like the option to consider it.
“Going undefeated in a league where there’s a full round-robin is easier said than done,” Bowlsby said. “The opportunity to play a 13th game, even if it’s a regular-season rematch — which many of them are — may be well advised for us. A plausible case can be made on all sides of it, but we’re going to have to come to a conclusion on it.
“Obviously, we would be concerned if it was us every year and we thought there was a particular flaw in the model we were using. We would certainly seek to change it to the extent we could. But it’s a little early.”
Notre Dame is in a somewhat similar situation, limited to only 12 regular-season games as an independent. The Fighting Irish also have the disadvantage of not playing on the first weekend of December when conferences are playing title games and the Big 12 is completing its regular season. That leaves Notre Dame idle while the rest of the would-be playoff contenders are making a final case for the selection committee.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick echoed Bowlsby’s sentiments on whether playing one less game is problematic.
“It’s not that there’s a 13th game, it’s that it’s always going to be against a real good opponent. It’s the conference championship game,” Swarbrick said. “It’s not the aggregate number it’s who you’re playing. There are going to be years where a team that looks like it’s going to get in gets upset in their conference championship game. And they don’t get in. Did the 13th game help them? No.
“One year’s worth of experience with the system is way too small to draw any conclusions with the way it will play out over time.”
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