- David Ubben, College Football
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For the second consecutive year, the Big 12 is beginning play with an all-new lineup.
For the second consecutive year, the Big 12 is beginning play with just 10 teams.
Perhaps most importantly, it's beginning with no Big 12 Championship game. The Big 12 lucked out in 2011 on the season's final weekend.
Who said there was no Big 12 Championship? Oklahoma and Oklahoma State played for the Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl on Championship weekend, providing a fitting end while the SEC played its title game and the Big Ten and Pac-12 held their inaugural games.
Oklahoma State romped and stated its case for the national title game, though the Cowboys fell short.
Now, 2012 is a new year, and a new risk befalls the 10-team Big 12: Can it survive in college football's new world without a title game?
Expanding to 12 teams is a possibility, but not a necessity for the league to reinstitute a title game. The Big 12 could petition the NCAA and likely bring back the event on the season's final weekend, the same weekend the league hosted from the time it began in 1996 until 2010.
There's little motivation to do so from those who tend most to on-field matters: Coaches. At least one expressed a desire on Monday, though.
"I would like too see us add a couple more in the future to get us back to 12 and a conference championship game," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. "But who’s out there?"Everyone is kind of scrambling around trying to fill it up."
The biggest motivator, though, is the same as always: Money.
Former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe convinced ABC/ESPN to honor its contract with the Big 12 in the summer of 2010, despite doing away with the Big 12 title game.
A new first-tier TV deal will likely be signed in 2014, the same year that -- gasp! -- college football could be entering a world with a four-team playoff.
Is there any doubt a new Big 12 television contract would be more valuable with the promise of a titanic clash at season's end?
By 2014, the Big 12 would join the Big East as the only major conference without a national championship game, and even that's no guarantee, with the Big East eyeing wholesale expansion and perhaps doubling the size of its league.
Perception is reality, and perception would claim the Big 12 was behind the times. The Big 12 could earn more cash with a Big 12 title game, but the respect from re-instituting it would come with a hefty price of its own.
A Big 12 team has never been thrust into the national title game, but on three occasions, Big 12 teams have lost the conference's title game when a win would have landed them in the national championship.
The Big 12 played for the title seven times, second only to the SEC's nine, but four more appearances than any other league.
Without a Big 12 title game, the Big 12 could have earned back some of that money with conference revenue from an appearance on college football's biggest stage.
Bring back the title game, though? Especially in a world with a four-team playoff?
Big 12 teams would be asked to win three games in addition to a 12-game schedule, after a Big 12 title game, national semifinal and national championship.
That's not easy.
Without divisions like the other leagues with title games, deciding the two participants for the game wouldn't be easy, either.
For now, the Big 12 will move on with 10 teams and no title game. Want to bring it back?
When the new commissioner arrives and a television contract is pieced together, prepare for plenty of debate.
3dDavid M. Hale