The Big 12 Conference clearly didn’t think this one through.
Perhaps the conference heads didn’t really think a fifth tie-breaker would be needed, and just tossed it in there to have one.
Perhaps it never occurred to them that the South division would have three teams, tied with each other, and each in the BCS top 10.
Perhaps it never occurred to them to see what other conferences use for tie-breakers.
Whatever the reason, the Big 12 hooked the Longhorns right out of the conference championship game, by allowing a conference tie-breaker to be decided by non-conference voters and eliminating on-the-field results.
So, what should the Big 12 have done to make it right? There is no easy answer with a three-way tie, but taking a gander at the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast Conference tie-breakers would have been a good start.
Both the SEC and ACC use the BCS rankings as a guide, but instead of allowing the rankings to be the deciding factor when the top two teams are ranked within five spots or less, as Texas and Oklahoma are, any head-to-head matchup between those teams determines who advances. This allows the tie-breaker to be decided on the field.
Sounds easy enough, right? Not so fast, my friend.
It turns out that Texas Tech is also within five spots of both Texas and Oklahoma in the BCS rankings. So, what now?
All of the other tie-breakers for the Big 12, as well as the ACC and SEC, include records against common opponents which precede using the BCS rankings. So, naturally the next tie-breaker is records against non-common opponents, starting with the highest-ranked opponents in conference and then outside of the conference.
If we used this tie-breaker for the three teams on top of the Big 12 South, here’s what it would look like:
Texas defeated No. 11 Missouri, a conference foe. Neither Oklahoma nor Texas Tech played Missouri.
The Sooners' only ranked non-common opponent was No. 24 TCU, who they defeated 35-10 in September. Neither Texas nor Texas Tech played the Horned Frogs.
Texas Tech did not play any ranked non-common opponents.
If we use this formula, Texas would advance to the Big 12 Championship because of their win over highly ranked Missouri. Texas Tech is eliminated because they did not play any ranked non-common opponents. Oklahoma is eliminated because their highest-ranked non-common opponent was TCU at No. 24.
Many people will say that such a tie-breaking system is not fair, because conference schedules are often outside of a team’s control. But non-conference opponents are solely within each team’s control, and a tie-breaker such as this would guarantee that the team that played the tougher schedule successfully would move on. It would also guarantee that on-the-field performances would be the final factor.
And taking care of business on the field is how ties should be broken every time.