The Big 12 should either be forced to play a conference championship or every other conference should quit feeling threatened by the conference’s lack of a championship game, depending on whom you ask. The debate is one that may not have a definitive answer and should be one to pay attention to during the dawn of the College Football Playoff era.
Since dropping in membership from 12 to 10 after multiple realignment changes in recent years, the conference lost the ability to play a conference championship game under NCAA guidelines. The conference’s membership has been in unison in its stance by saying the Big 12 is perfectly fine not playing a conference championship game and selling the idea of a true conference champion with a nine-game conference schedule that pits every school against one another. While the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will host conference championship games this season, the Big 12 is hoping the overall quality of depth in the conference will be enough to convince the playoff’s selection committee to strongly consider the Big 12 champion for the four-team playoff.
“The only thing that you really have to do after adopting ‘One True Champion’ as your moniker is you have to go out and win some games,” Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a story from the Associated Press. “We want to win national championships.”
Will the non-existence of a conference championship game continue in the Big 12 in the long run? Odds are it will change at some point, whether by expansion or receiving permission from the NCAA to hold a game with 10 members. The idea has been discussed and once it is determined having a championship game gives playoff candidates an edge over a Big 12 contender, the push from the Big 12 membership to return to a championship game will be vocal. I have thought that for a while, and Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com today agreed with that premise in his mailbag post today.
“Certainly if that happens you can count on the Big 12 bringing back its championship game as soon as possible,” Mandel said when asked about this very topic.
If you are wondering just how much of a big deal this conversation can be, you need to look back to the end of the wild 2007 season.
Ohio State, in 2007, ended its regular season ranked fifth in the country after beating rival No. 24 Michigan 14-3 in the final game of the season. With no conference championship game at the time, Ohio State was sitting on the outside looking in on the BCS Championship race with no more opportunities to make a dent. As it turned out, not having to play a 13th game may have served Ohio State well. In the time since Ohio State wrapped up its 2007 regular season, everything that needed to happen for the Buckeyes to play for the BCS championship seemed to fall into place.
A week after Ohio State edged Michigan, top-ranked LSU lost a shootout against Arkansas, knocking the Tigers out of the pole position for the BCS Championship Game. West Virginia, the following week needing a win to likely clinch a spot in the BCS Championship Game, was upset by Backyard Brawl rival Pittsburgh, 13-9. That same day saw Missouri playing for the Big 12 championship needing a win to clinch a spot in the BCS Championship game. The Tigers lost to Oklahoma. In the SEC Championship Game, LSU was given a chance to get back in the hunt with a win against Tennessee. Ranked fifth in the AP poll, LSU beat the Vols by a touchdown. LSU and Ohio State advanced to the BCS Championship Game as a result of all of this madness.On this day the college football world saw the benefits and risks of playing a conference championship game, as well as the benefit of not playing one (Ohio State).
Should the Big 12 bring back a conference championship game? Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments below.