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College Football Random Thoughts From Around the Country: The Big 12 Conundrum

And then there were four, but none from the Big 12.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The College Football Playoff Committee (CFPC) released their seventh rankings on Sunday:

1. ALABAMA (12-1)
2. Oregon (12-1)
3. Florida State (13-0)
4. Ohio State (12-1)
5. Baylor (11-1)
6. TCU (11-1)
7. Mississippi State (10-2)
8. Michigan State (10-2)
9. Ole Miss (9-3)
10. Arizona (10-3)
11. Kansas State (9-3)
12. Georgia Tech (10-3)
13. Georgia (9-3)
14. UCLA (9-3)
15. Arizona State (9-3)
16. Missouri (10-3)
17. Clemson (9-3)
18. Wisconsin (10-3)
19. Auburn (8-4)
2. Boise State (11-2)
21. Louisville (9-3)
22. Utah (8-4)
23. LSU (8-4)
24. USC (8-4)
25. Minnesota (8-4)

Looking at comments and Tweets leading up to the final rankings announcement, a large chunk of the college football world predicted the final four teams correctly, albeit in different orders. I guess it was a surprise to everyone outside of parts of Texas and to Joey Galloway who looked kinda stupid trying so hard to NOT be biased towards his alma mater OSU. [BTW, do we need yet another former OSU player with Kirk Herbstreit, Eddie George, Chris Spielman, and Robert Smith already blabbing up the air-waves?]

As expected, there were some sad/disappointed/outraged bridesmaids who did not make the four-team playoff. Like most fans, I am okay with the creation of an FBS playoff. It is a good and evolutionary step. I always felt that its very existence was because there sometimes seemed to be a third and occasionally a fourth team that maybe deserved a shot at the National Championship. I have NEVER known a time when a fifth team deserved a chance and still do not. I see no good (non-monetary) reason to watering down the game by expanding the playoffs any further at this juncture.

That said, I believe I know what the CFPC was thinking. For several weeks they mentioned that conference championships would factor into their choice-making. What they really were saying is conference championship games would factor into their choice-making. The Big XII thinks they are being clever by scheduling their twelfth and final regular season games on the same day that the other four Power conferences are playing their championship games. Think about that for a moment. Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State just finished traversing through their regular season schedule and now they have to play one more game just to advance to the playoff. Meanwhile, Baylor and TCU are just playing another conference game from a schedule that included 3 bye weeks, by the way. I'd like to see a rule that says aside from the Army-Navy game, all regular season games need to be completed by the last Saturday in November.

But what about the fate of the once mighty Big 12? I won't bore you with a complete history of the conference, but here is a quick recap:

south west conference logo
big 8 conference logo

In the 1980s and into the 1990s, the Southwest Conference (SWC) was rife with scandal including the infamous "death penalty" that was handed down to SMU in 1985. After Arkansas' defection to the SEC in 1991, the handwriting was on the wall. In 1994, four SWC schools (Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Baylor) merged with the eight members of the Big 8 highlighted by Nebraska and Oklahoma. The Big 12 began play in the fall of 1996.

Following the SEC's lead, the new 12-team conference played a championship game from 1996 until 2010. They ceased when Colorado left for the PAC and Nebraska to the Big Ten leaving the Big 12 with ten teams and unqualified for a championship game.

With the conference seemingly catering to Texas and their prized Longhorn Network, Texas A&M had had enough. The Aggies along with Mizzou moved to greener pastures of the SEC. Down to eight schools, the conference scrambled to pick up TCU and West Virginia to get back to ten.

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby inherited this mess left behind by Dan Beebe who ironically was director of enforcement for the NCAA during the SMU "death penalty" case. Bowlsby figured that he would be able to petition for a waiver for his conference to host a championship game but has been denied. As a result, his conference has not even sniffed a BCS National Championship Game since Texas was smothered by Alabama in the 2009 season.

The Big 12 can continue on as a ten-team conference but after the exclusion of Baylor and TCU in the first four-team playoff, Bowlsby has to realize that they must reluctantly pick up another two teams. You can see the dilemma as the pickings are slim.

Go West Young Man!

One option is to look to the west. Although east coasters West Virgina would highly object, Brigham Young and/or Boise State could be an option.

BYU - In 2011, this private university owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made an odd move, seemingly leaving the Mountain West to follow the outdated Notre Dame business plan by going independent. I am not certain that has worked out so well but then again, it is hard to know what their goals and expectations are.
Advantages: Moderate size fanbase, Salt Lake City 33rd US TV market, good tradition.
Disadvantages: Distance to other schools, reluctance to lose the TV rights on BYUtv (available on U-verse, by the way).

Boise - The Smurfs have bounced around conferences (Big Sky, Big West, WAC, MWC) and almost joined the dying Big East Conference in December 2011 but wised up.
Advantages: A young but good football tradition.
Disadvantages: Distance, 112th US TV market, cold as a mutha, stupid blue field.

Other west teams to consider: Colorado State (#18 Denver TV Market), Utah State (SLC), San Diego State (#28), Fresno State (#55 but could carry some Bay Area eyeballs).

Right Under Your Nose

In a strange turn of events, Rice and Houston were two SWC teams who were left behind after the merger. The two schools coexist in the same Texas town. However, the Big 12 probably has that market covered.

Rice - Formerly a member of the Western Athletic Conference, they moved to a patchwork Conference USA in 2005.
Advantages: Close to other member schools, TV market, good baseball team, 47,000 seat stadium expandable to 70,000.
Disadvantages: Kinda bleh in football, not very good in other sports (men's basketball is 12-49 over the last two seasons), is it too close in location?

Houston - The Cougars have been on a pub crawl of conferences over the years. They currently reside in the American Athletic Conference.
Advantages: A decent football tradition (Andre Ware, David Klingler, Case Keenum, coaches Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin), TV market.
Disadvantages: Closeness, TV market, is it too close in location?

Other close by teams to consider: Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss

Head East?

Cincinnati of the AAC is a possibility.
Advantages: It would give WVU a playmate and open the conference up to Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky area. Head coach Tommy Tuberville, former coach at Auburn and Texas Tech, could catch some headlines.
Disadvantages: Apathetic fanbase, not much history, distance - but it's closer than Morgantown!

Central Florida - also of the AAC.
Advantages: The Florida market, renovated stadium, hungry fan base, George O'Leary has built a nice little program in Orlando.
Disadvantages:Long distance, first season in FBS (Division I) was in 1996, O'Leary will be 69 next August.

East Carolina - also of the AAC.
Advantages: A decent team, Carolina market, also a team close to WVU, decent fan base and stadium.
Disadvantages: Long distance, not much tradition.

Thou Shalt Not Steal, (Unless They Wanna Be Stolen)

Another option would be to pilfer from another Power 5 conference. Other potential thefts:

Nebraska -  There is some sort of sea change going on in Lincoln right now. Could they be swayed back?
Iowa - I think they are loyal to the Big Ten but it would link them to Iowa State. Money talks, so ya never know.
Louisville - They just now made their way into a Power 5 with the ACC. But then again, look who their coach is.
Mizzou or Texas A&M - nope.



#1 Alabama Crimson Tide

Record: 12-1
Last Game: Alabama 42  Missouri 13 - 21 fourth quarter Tide points buries the Tigers.
Next Game: vs. Ohio State, Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, Jan. 1.
Resume: SEC Champ. Nuff Sed.
Odds: Run stuffers, dynamic offense, Nick Saban, one of the top punters in the land. If they can stop the big pass plays, that makes a pretty darn good combination.

#2 Oregon Ducks

Record: 12-1
Last Game: Oregon 51 Arizona 13 - Somebody at Fox had to have gotten fired over this debacle. Fox is trying so hard to dethrone ESPN as the CFB sports leader but it doesn't help when your marquee game is played in front of a lifeless half-empty stadium.
Next Game: vs. Florida State, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Jan. 1.
Resume: Pac-12 Champion.
Odds: It wasn't fair what Marcus Mariota did to the Pac-12 this year. He should've been playing Sundays this fall. Add in an improved defense and they are one tough cookie.

#3 Florida State Seminoles

Record: 13-0
Last Game: Florida State 37 Florida 35 - The Yeller Jackets gave the 'Noles all kinds of trouble but as usual, FSU eked out a win for the thirteenth straight time.
Next Game: vs. Oregon, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Jan. 1
Resume: ACC Champion.
Odds: They have been playing on egg shells all year. Those eggs are likely to crack against the Ducks.

#4 Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 13-1
Last Game: Ohio State 59 Wisconsin 0 - The horrific showing by the Badgers was an embarrassment to the conference.
Next Game: vs. Alabama, Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, Jan. 1.
Resume: B1G champ.
Odds: The third string quarterback did pretty well. The defense stuffed Wisky's Melvin Gordon. However, Alabama will by far be the best team the Buckeyes have faced all year. The same cannot be said about the Crimson Tide



Baylor and TCU. See above.



84 teams are now bowl eligible including Oklahoma State and Temple who became eligible by winning their final game of the season. Temple (6-6), however, did not get an invitation to the dance. Neither did UAB (6-6), Middle Tennessee State (6-6), Ohio (6-6), Old Dominion (6-6), or Texas State (7-5).



Heisman Hype

And then there were...THREE!

  • Marcus Mariota: still looks like the favorite but you never know. 25/38, 313 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INT.
  • Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon laid a big fat egg: 26 carries for 76 yards, 0 touchdown, 2.9 ypc. On Wednesday, he told the Dan Patrick Show that he will enter the 2015 NFL Draft.
  • Bama's Amari Cooper had 12 catches for 83 yards, 1 run for 9 yards.


Extra Points

  • The Alabama/Missouri SEC Championship Game drew a 7.7 overnight rating on CBS Saturday afternoon. Alabama’s win drew the season’s largest SEC overnight rating. The previous high was a 7.2 for the Auburn/Alabama Iron Bowl on ESPN the previous week. The Tide played in three of the five highest rated games in the metered markets. The ACC Championship Game on ABC ranked a fairly close second, with a 6.9 overnight.
  • Georgia Southern finished 9-3 but are not eligible for a bowl during their transition to FBS. They applied for a waiver but the NCAA with yet another obtuse decision said "no". The Eagles won the Sun Belt Conference winning all 8 league games.
  • The crazy season has started early when in a surprise move, Nebraska hired former Bama player and Oregon State coach Mike Riley. But it didn't end there as the Beavers snatched away Wisconsin's Gary Andersen who was in his second season in Madison. You may recall two years ago Bret Bielema surprised Wisky by bolting for Arkansas and AD Barry Alvarez named himself interim coach collecting a nice fat check for losing the Rose Bowl. I have no proof, but methinks the problem is Alvarez and his ego.
  • Michigan is sniffing around LSU's Les Miles again. There are reports that they have contacted his agent. Stay tuned.
  • Ohio State is "gathering information" on a late Tuesday domestic incident in which police were reportedly called to the Columbus apartment of Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett. A police report, states that the woman involved told officers that Barrett "choked her on the bed" in his bedroom with his forearm, with Barrett telling police she had struck him earlier in the confrontation. No arrests were made and no charges have been filed.



Krazy Kristi's "SHUT UP!" of the Week goes to the Big 12. Baylor & TCU shut out of the playoff and Oklahoma loses at home to rival Okie State.



  • Alabama playmaker extraordinaire Kenyan Drake is happily out of his walking boot. He still will not play until spring but a good sign.
  • Denzel Devall has missed the Crimson Tide's past three games, including Saturday's 42-13 win over Missouri in the SEC Championship Game, due to an ankle injury. However, he expects to be ready in time for Alabama's Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl date with Ohio State.
  • No other serious Alabama injuries to report: WOOHOO!
  • Florida State RB Karlos Williams (concussion) and  LB Terrance Smith (knee) are questionable vs. Oregon.
  • Oregon center Hroniss Grasu (foot) and RB Thomas Tyner (ankle) are questionable vs. FSU.



Need a college football fix? There are some FCS Playoff games.

Chattanooga at New Hampshire 7pm/8pm ESPNESPN2

Coastal Carolina at North Dakota State 11am/12pm ESPNESPN
Sam Houston State at Villanova 12pm/1pm ESPN3
Illinois State at Eastern Washington 3pm/4pm ESPN3

Navy at Army 2:00pm CT / 3:00pm ET - CBS

Nothing else really worth mentioning, except...

Williams Roll Tide


Alabama vs. Ohio State 7:30pm CT / 8:30pm ET - ESPNESPNBrad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe-Rowe-Rowe Your Boat

New Orleans, LA