A majority of Big 12 football coaches said Tuesday they would favor resurrecting the league’s conference championship game, even with a guaranteed rematch between teams, if that would enhance the opportunity to land one of four spots in the College Football Playoff.
“If that extra game means that much, then I would be in favor of playing it,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said, summing up the majority viewpoint during a teleconference with league coaches.
TCU and Baylor, the 2014 league co-champions, were omitted from the playoff in favor of Ohio State last season. Members of the CFP selection committee elevated the Buckeyes into the No. 4 spot following a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and cited the fact that Ohio State played a 13th game during the regular season, while TCU and Baylor played only 12, as a key component in deliberations.
As a 10-member league, the Big 12 is prohibited from holding a football championship game. NCAA rules allow football championship games only in leagues with 12 or more members.
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But there have been strong indications the NCAA will loosen that restriction for the 2016 season, thereby allowing the Big 12 to hold a championship game in football at the end of the regular season. League administrators will discuss the issue in May, with coaches offering input to administrators who do the voting.
Also on the agenda will be the possibility of strengthening existing bylaws to present only one co-champion for consideration by CFP officials. Unlike in larger conferences, Big 12 teams already face each league opponent in round-robin play during the regular season. Some administrators, as well as Texas coach Charlie Strong and Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, believe the existing nine-game league schedule is sufficient.
But most of the coaches who addressed the issue Tuesday acknowledged that CFP discussions about the importance of a 13th game resonate with them. Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said adding the title game might be a “necessity” to keep pace with champions from other Power 5 leagues that hold such contests.
“Based upon what happened last year, it’s not as much about being for it or against it. It’s a matter of getting another quality game for our teams to keep up with the other Power Five leagues,” Kingsbury said.
TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose team dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in the final CFP rankings despite a 55-3 victory over Iowa State in its regular-season finale, embraced the potential change.
“If it makes a difference if we could get into the playoff, yes,” Patterson said. “If that’s important to our conference, then do it.”
The unanswered question at this point is whether members of the CFP selection committee will consistently side with a champion that played a 13-game schedule over one that played 12 games if both schools have only one loss, which was the case in 2014. That gray area caused Stoops to suggest that league administrators “reserve final judgment” until they see how the Big 12 champion is treated by committee members this season.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy predicted that the playoff field will expand from four to eight teams “before too long,” thereby creating a spot for every Power 5 champion in the playoff mix. Until that happens, there will be only four playoff spots each year. Gundy cautioned against the danger of eliminating a playoff-caliber team in a rematch of a regular-season contest simply to provide a 13th game for playoff hopefuls.
Baylor coach Art Briles, whose team finished No. 5 in last year’s final rankings, said the burden falls on the champion to post an undefeated record in league play. The Bears missed that chance by following last year’s 61-58 victory over TCU with a 41-27 loss at West Virginia.
“If you can go undefeated in our league, you’ll be in the College Football Playoff. That’s just the bottom line,” Briles said. “Let others figure it out and we’ll roll with it.”
Texas QB situation
Texas coach Charlie Strong made it clear he would be fine with Jerrod Heard, a redshirt freshman from Denton Guyer, becoming his starting quarterback next season if that is how things shake out in fall drills. “I have no fear at all of playing a redshirt freshman. If he earns it and ends up being the starter, I’m good with that,” Strong said.
Tech defensive progress
Kingsbury said players made significant progress during spring drills under new defensive coordinator David Gibbs. He said linebacker Micah Awe, a senior from Mansfield Summit, “leads the list” of defenders who had breakout performances this spring.
Briles said he is satisfied with the dimensions of tight end LaQuan McGowan (6-foot-7, 410 pounds), who ended spring drills as a co-starter at the position. “His skill level does not match his body weight. He’s got the skills of a 170-pound guy. As long as he’s at 420 pounds or below, I’m good with that,” Briles said.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760