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Mac Engel: Baylor beware of using that head-to-head argument

Art Briles is not the most popular man in Fort Worth, but don’t call the man a liar, or a hypocrite.

Both he and his Baylor Bears are at the center of a wonderfully heated, nasty, irrational and increasingly personal debate between the Baptists of Baylor and the Disciples of Christ of TCU.

Bias is clouding whether the Bears should be ranked ahead of the Froggies because of their head-to-head meeting, and whether that criteria should settle this debate.

I asked Briles why in 2008 he voted Oklahoma ahead of Texas in the final coaches’ poll despite the fact the teams had the same record, and UT won the head to head.

In light of Baylor still trailing TCU in the polls despite BU’s three-point win in October, his ballot is regarded as the height of hypocrisy from Froggie nation.

“I’ve never been asked this publicly, but I’ve been taught to tell the truth,” he said. “I actually didn’t know. I passed [the ballot] to someone else in the office. That’s the truth.”

Do yourself a favor and believe him.

And I asked him if head to head should be the primary criteria to determine this raging debate.

“I didn’t know there was a raging debate going on to be honest with you,” Briles said “I don’t know. There’s a bunch of criteria.”

The Baptists are convinced BU’s 61-58 win over TCU should be the deciding factor if both teams finish 11-1 and are co-champions of the Big 12 Conference. They believe that win should put the Bears ahead of TCU in the College Football Playoff rankings.

When the latest rankings are released Tuesday night, Baylor should be nervous. Relying on head to head is dicey. Ask Texas. Head to head only matters when the time is right, and more important, when it is convenient to the argument.

If you don’t recall, back in 2008, both Texas and Oklahoma finished the regular season with the same record.

Briles voted the Sooners No. 1 in the final regular-season poll. He voted the Longhorns fifth. This is a clear violation of the sacred head-to-head factor Baylor nation continually points to.

What we know now is that Briles actually didn’t fill out the ballot, but someone in his office was trying to stick it to Austin.

Lord, I do love this stuff.

The Sooners’ only loss that season was to Texas by 10, on a neutral field.

For fun symmetry, UT defeated OU on Oct. 11, 2008. Baylor defeated TCU on Oct. 11, 2014.

If the Baylor-ites are going to scream “head to head” to support their case, why was the same standard not applied for Texas over Oklahoma in 2008? Because it wasn’t convenient, and someone at Baylor just doesn’t like Texas.

UT’s only loss was the miracle Graham Harrell-to-Michael Crabtree touchdown in the waning seconds at Texas Tech, and a strong argument can be made that the Longhorns were superior to the Sooners.

But a number of voters didn’t think head to head mattered as much as other factors, likely up to and including personal bias. The Sooners were put into the BCS title game. Texas went to the Fiesta Bowl.

What we have found in any age and any system of college football is that timing, the score and convenience are also great deciders. There is nothing fair about this, and double standards reign.

Baylor’s win against TCU was in early October, meaning by the time the final regular-season rankings are released that victory will be two months old.

Baylor ultimately may jump TCU in the college football rankings, and the move can easily be justified. But to rely on the head-to-head argument guarantees nothing.

It should not come as a total surprise if both TCU and Baylor are jumped and left out completely. We should not even be surprised if Texas upsets TCU on Thanksgiving, or Kansas State makes life miserable for Baylor.

Whatever happens, this debate is wonderful theater and this has been a fantastic season for both schools. Consider this — from the great state o’ Texas, the top two candidates to enter college football’s first playoff are not Texas or Texas A&M, but Baylor and TCU.

There will be no less than a dozen other factors that the committee will consider to settle this debate, and while head to head should be at the top, what we have seen is that it’s not.

I would say just ask Art Briles, but since he didn’t actually fill out that ’08 ballot, just ask someone at Texas.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac blog at star-telegram.com/sports/

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