Monday, August 8, 2011
Expansion and the Big 12's title chances
By David Ubben
The Pac-12 added a pair of teams. The Big Ten added its 12th.
No championship game in the Big 12 provides an easier path to the BCS title game for teams like Bob Stoops' Oklahoma Sooners.
The Big 12? Well, it was the only major conference to lose members in the past year. What the league lost in general respect and bad publicity, however, it might gain in its road to a national title.
The early December roadblock has become all too familiar for teams in the Big 12.
Three times, the neutral site Big 12 Championship game has prevented a Big 12 team from playing for a much bigger trophy, most recently in 2007.
A Missouri team toting a No. 1 ranking into the Alamodome in San Antonio was muscled out of a title opportunity by three touchdowns to Oklahoma.
Two seasons ago, Texas needed a controversial extra second and a 46-yard field goal as time expired for a 13-12 win and a date with Alabama in the Rose Bowl.
The Big 12's coaches have long opposed the game, if for no other reason than national championships look nice on a resume and do wonders for job security.
Finally, in 2011, they'll get their wish. And the Big 12 might find it easier to reach college football's grandest stage.
The departures of Nebraska and Colorado will and have cost the Big 12 plenty, chief among those costs the fear that every problem inside the conference will result in a fiery demise. For all the Big 12 got in its recent 13-year, $1.1-billion television deal from Fox for its second-tier television rights, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't be more if the Huskers were still in the fold, rather than gearing up for a fall filled with smashmouth Big Ten football while the temperatures flirt with the teens.
For the teams at the bottom of the league, the new configuration will only make life more difficult. Instead of a fourth nonconference game, perhaps against the cutest of cupcakes, they've added a game against a loaded team from the former Big 12 South, which put five teams in bowl games in 2010 ... and Texas wasn't one of them.
But for teams like Texas and Oklahoma that have proven capable of contending for a championship and showing up in Big 12 title games, that ninth Big 12 game is no longer guaranteed to be the Big 12 North champion.
In the long run, that might pay off for the Big 12. Despite its failures in the championship game (2-5 all-time, including a loss by Nebraska), the league is still tied with the SEC (yes, SEC. We know. You're 7-0.) for the most appearances in the BCS title game.
The Big 12 might have added another title if those three teams were given a shot, rather than stumbling at the final hurdle for a chance at history.
And even if all three lost, 10 BCS Championship Game appearances since 1998 is an eye-popping stat.
And a non-existent one, thanks to the Big 12 title game.
What will the future hold for the Big 12? Recent events have created, to quote a bow-tied decision-maker in College Station, "uncertainty."
But as long as the Big 12 is together and not playing a championship game, it might get plenty more cracks at bringing a crystal football to the conference.