Big 12 needs Power Five scheduling rule to be College Football Playoff factor
It was about the numbers for the Big 12 Conference and third-year commissioner Bob Bowlsby this college football season.
The league championed the motto of “One True Champion” after a brand overhaul for the ten-team league over the summer before undoing that phrase by crowning two champions, 11-game winners Baylor and TCU, and ultimately having zero teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff this month.
After TCU and Baylor found themselves as the first two teams on the outside looking in by the playoff selection committee in December, Bowlsby discussed what could be done in the future for the Big 12 to be included as one of the four teams to contend for college football’s biggest prize each January.
Bowlsby touched on the importance of a 13th game for other leagues, which the Big 12 can’t stage a conference championship game with only 10 teams and no available teams after conference realignment that can strengthen the league’s wide-stretching footprint.
Easiest of the possible solutions would be for each team in the Big 12 to schedule a Power Five team each year, but Bowlsby mentioned that task might not be as easy as it sounds on paper.
“The only way we would do that is if our ADs acted to do it,” Bowlsby told reporters Sunday in Arlington prior to tonight’s title game between Oregon and Ohio State. “It isn’t something I’m going to mandate, but it’s something we’ll talk about for sure, absolutely.” While Bowlsby doesn’t want to force a change on his league members, it is easiest and quickest solution to improving the league’s weakness in non-conference scheduling.
Baylor sees the next half-decade of non-conference schedules with a laughable list of opponents set for glorified scrimmages for the Bears in early September matchups at the new McLane Stadium in Waco.
The worst of those opponents on Baylor’s future schedules, the Incarnate Word Cardinals of the FCS’ Southland Conference, which has only been in existence since 2009 and posted a record above .500 just once in 2013.
“I’m sure Coach Briles feels like having a lighter nonconference schedule is the best way to prepare his team to play in the Big 12 regular season. Some prefer something in the middle, and we have some teams in our league that consistently play a really good schedule. It’s not a matter of just refusing to play, it’s about their belief in what it takes to get a team ready to compete for a championship.”
In their defense, you will find a home-and-home series between Baylor and Duke in 2017-2018, but the Blue Devils have been doormats of the Atlantic Coast Conference on the football side of the league for the majority of the last three decades before a nine- and ten-win season the past two years.
Outside of this year’s game with College Football Playoff semi-finalist Florida State, Oklahoma State’s home-and-home with Pittsburgh in 2016-2017 is the only Power Five team on the Cowboys’ future schedules through the 2021 season. Texas Tech and Kansas State also feature just one scheduled series against a Power Five team, a home-and-home Arizona State in 2016-2017 and Mississippi State in 2018-2019, respectively.
Unlike those weaker schedules, there are teams in the Big 12 already bolstering their schedules with marquee out-of-conference games with Power Five teams as the College Football Playoff era begins for college football.
West Virginia has no problem in adhering to a potential scheduling rule by the Big 12, playing at least one Power Five team each year from next season’s home game against the Maryland Terrapins through a 2024 season-opening visit from the Penn State Nittany Lions to Morgantown.
Elsewhere in the league, Texas has a number of home-and-home series with Power Five teams like LSU, Ohio State, USC, Michigan and Notre Dame, while Oklahoma also has set dates with Ohio State, Michigan and LSU plus UCLA and a renewal of the Sooners’ rivalry with Nebraska in 2021-2022.
A push for a requirement for all ten Big 12 teams to play a Power Five team each season would most likely experience some type of blowback from athletic directors who want easier wins in out-of-conference action before league play begins each October.
With more than half of the league’s members already playing tough future schedules, Bowlsby and the athletic directors of schools like West Virginia, Texas and others should rally to make the scheduling rule a permanent statute for the Big 12. Ultimately, it might take another scenario like this season between Baylor and TCU for the league leaders to change the way schedules look in the future.
While those two to three easy victories look good in the win column in September, they do nothing but bring down the strength of the Big 12 Conference in December when a weak resume could leave the league once again looking in from outside at the College Football Playoff.
Featured Photo Credit: WVU Today