The Big 12 has decided on a championship game format. On Friday, the conference announced that next year, when the championship game will be implemented, that the conference will not split into two divisions. Instead, the Big 12 will keep the round-robin format and starting in 2017, the championship game will be between number one and number two.
“There are a number of advantages to matching our top two teams,” Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “Given our round-robin, nine-game scheduling model, it is expected the Big 12 champion will be uniquely positioned for College Football Playoff consideration. I would argue there will be no path more difficult than our champion’s, where it will have played every team in the Conference, faced at least one Autonomy Conference non-conference opponent, and then plays in our championship game. The guaranteed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup will be a great game for our fans, and it’s hard to imagine a stronger position for a conference champion.”
The Big 12 was somewhat forced into this position. its television partners were against expansion, yet the College Football Playoff committee has made it clear that a conference championship, or 13th data point, matters. The conference is trying to make the best hand from the cards they have been dealt.
The downside of this is that the conference championship is guaranteed to be a rematch, and there is a possibility the rematch could be in consecutive weeks, which would be odd. However, that’s really more of a perceived downside than anything else. Meaning, the Big 12 will be ridiculed by Twitter and any journalist desperate for a few clicks, but while the Big 12 was forced into this position, it’s not a bad position to be in.
The first positive is obvious, the Big 12 now has that greatly coveted 13th data point. However the downside to a conference championship game is that there is the potential for a 3-loss team to knock the conference favorite from a playoff spot. By making the matchup number one versus number two, you’ve guaranteed that even if the underdog wins, they’ll have an argument for the playoff.
It also means the Big 12 winner will have a ridiculous strength of schedule. First the round-robin, everyone playing everyone, guarantees Big 12 members have a strong SOS. Even Baylor, known for their cupcake non-conference has finished the last two seasons with a good SOS. However, Big 12 members are now obligated by the conference to schedule at least one non-conference game against another Power Five member, which will take the Big 12’s SOS from decent to great. Now, by adding the conference championship game as number 1 vs number 2, the champion is guaranteed a strength of schedule unparalleled by any other conference.
A two-loss champion, which would be out of the playoff in today’s format, will at least have an argument in 2017. A one-loss or undefeated champion should be a lock in that format. No other conference, no other team will have gone through the gauntlet the Big 12 Champion will have.
Show Them The Money
There’s also another side to this, and that’s money. It always comes down to money. The conference is in negotiations with its television partners, and our sources tell us, it will bring in an additional $35-$50 million each year. That’s for two things: the addition of the conference championship game, and to do away with the pro-rata clause. The 1 vs 2 format guarantees the best possible game, and give the conference that much more leverage as they finalize the new network deals.
It might not have been their choice, but the Big 12 is well positioned contend today, and adapt for tomorrow. And besides, who doesn’t want to see a Bedlam rematch, or Baylor go at TCU again?