It’s time to disband the Big 12, at least in its current form, with the current divisional playoff system. Readers may remember that the Big 12 was formed by a combination of the Big 8 and the (then) stronger teams remaining in the old Southwest Conference after the defection of Arkansas.
But time and again, the best teams in the league are shut out of the biggest bowl games, including the national championship, because of the divisional playoff game. This year, the national championship game really ought to be a rematch between two teams in the same division in the same conference.
Sorry, Florida, but you lost to a good quarterback who couldn’t make the grade at Texas. The former Texas 2nd string quarterback picked you to pieces once he transferred to Ole Miss.
Sorry, Alabama, but until Florida, you haven’t faced a tough opponent this year. Even a victory would only mean that you could beat one tough team. The best two teams in the country are Oklahoma and Texas.
This isn’t the first time that the Big 12 structure has held great Big 12 teams back. The first team to roil the waters was actually Texas, a weak team at the time who knocked off then-powerhouse Nebraska in 1996.
Nebraska returned the favor in 1999 after Texas had already beat Nebraska earlier in the year. A strong Texas was burned again in 2001 by Colorado, a team they had beaten handily earlier in the year. Oklahoma’s turn came in 2003, when they were knocked off by Kansas State after 16 consecutive weeks as a consensus No. 1 in the country.
Why does the Big 12 do this? What other competitive 12 team BCS conference has a playoff structure like this? This year, at least, the ACC doesn’t count, so the answer is “none”. The Big East only has eight teams, the Big 10, eleven (somebody can’t count).
The Big 12 South has four teams that could be champions of either division of most conferences in the country. But BCS rules send one of them to play an extra game against the weaker North and shuts out two of them automatically from a BCS bowl.
Perhaps the answer is to resurrect the Southwest Conference. Arkansas would have to be replaced, but TCU might want back in, and Rice and Houston might want to rejoin as well (maybe not SMU). The North could return to being the Big 8 (moving Oklahoma and Oklahoma State into the North Division to round out the conference to eight teams).
Perhaps the answer is to simply eliminate the conference playoff game. It couldn’t possibly require more tiebreakers than this year to determine who automatically represents the conference in a BCS Bowl. But we obviously need a better tiebreaker than we had this year—a tiebreaker that is unique to the Big 12.
Whatever the answer, it isn’t “status quo”.