As college football moves into its playoff era this season, Big 12 administrators stressed Wednesday that their league is well-positioned to produce a regular participant in the four-team playoff bracket as well as its share of champions.
None expressed concern about last week’s prediction from Arkansas coach Bret Bielema that the Southeastern Conference would grab two of the four available College Football Playoff berths on an annual basis.
“We feel our path to the playoff is the better path … the right way to decide one true champion,” said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, whose league is the only one of the sport’s five power conferences that does not have a title game at the conclusion of the regular season.
Instead, all Big 12 teams play one another each season, creating a nine-game conference schedule. League officials envision their full round-robin slate carrying extra weight with the 13-member selection committee that will seed playoff teams at the conclusion of the 2014 regular season.
“There won’t be anyone in our league that doesn’t play Alabama, USC or Clemson, like will be the case in the other leagues,” Kansas State athletic director John Currie said.
Texas athletic director Steve Patterson said having Big 12 teams play nothing but conference games in October and November should register loudly with committee members down the stretch when weighed against several Nov. 22 nonconference games played by SEC teams (Auburn-Samford, Alabama-Western Carolina, Florida-Eastern Kentucky, Georgia-Charleston Southern).
“They seem to need a break to rest and relax,” Patterson said of the SEC schools.
Whether the Big 12 scheduling strategy proves advantageous may come down to the quality of the league’s nonconference games. Bowlsby said the issue has been addressed in meetings, although one of the league’s softest nonconference schedules belongs to Baylor, the defending Big 12 football champion (SMU, Northwestern State, Buffalo).
“If you think you’re going to be in the mix, you need to play a representative nonconference schedule,” Bowlsby said, extolling the league mantra.
Notable intersectional games involving Big 12 schools that could register with members of the selection committee this season include: Kansas State-Auburn, Oklahoma-Tennessee, West Virginia-Alabama, Texas-UCLA, Oklahoma State-Florida State and Texas Tech-Arkansas.
Asked about the league’s football future in the playoff era, Texas President Bill Powers said: “Over the next decade, I think we’ll be as well-represented, or more represented, in the semifinals and the championship game as anyone. I think our history proves that. I think we’re very well-positioned.”
Tweaking the tiebreaker
Big 12 officials tweaked the wording in their football tiebreaker procedures Wednesday to adopt the College Football Playoff rankings in lieu of the BCS standings to break multi-team ties in the league standings. Bowlsby said: “All it is is nomenclature. We struck the places where it said BCS and added where it said CFP.”
Although neither man indicated a desire to resurrect the schools’ dormant football rivalry, Powers and Patterson acknowledged many Longhorns will place additional focus on Friday’s opening game of the NCAA baseball tournament against Texas A&M in the Houston Regional. Patterson said the added presence of Rice, the regional host, will trigger memories of Southwest Conference days.
“For some of us with a little gray in our hair, it will be fun to see three old SWC teams duking it out,” Patterson said.
Asked specifically about a matchup against A&M, Powers said: “It’s the first game of the NCAA regional. These are two great programs. It’ll be a great baseball game. We’ll leave the rest until later.”
Oklahoma has been given 7-4 odds to make the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff field by Bovada Sports Book, placing the Sooners among the top six favorites identified Wednesday by the website (www.Bovada.lv). The other five: Florida State (2-7), Alabama (5-4), Oregon (1-1), Ohio State (1-1) and Auburn (7-4). Oklahoma was the only Big 12 school given individual odds.