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Why A 13th Game Might Not Help The Big 12 At All



The Big 12 has some problems. Well, either that, or its July. Or both.

As you know, the league has already petitioned the NCAA to be able to host a conference championship game despite the fact that current rules state that you must have at least 12 teams to do so.

This exemption the Big 12 is looking for, and will probably receive, will serve two purposes. The first, is that it will generate a lot of money. For a conference that is apparently swimming in cash, that would appear secondary to the second reason:

Another potential notch in the belt of a College Football Playoff contender.

Last year, the thinking goes, TCU or Baylor could have gotten into the Playoff if there’d been a conference title game to settle their “split Big 12 title.” This would have represented a 13th game for both squads.

Shockingly, playing 13 games is considered better than playing 12. Or so says CFP committee chair Jeff Long:

“What we heard is if we don’t go to a championship game we’re at a disadvantage,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “All things being equal, 13 games are better than 12 games. That’s what we heard. So that gives us clear enough direction that we’re coming in at least at a modest disadvantage. We need to do whatever we can to mitigate that.”

This is nonsense, though, because all things are not equal.

I disagree with what Berry Tramel wrote recently about a conference whose teams play 13 games having a definite advantage.

There are two reasons why. The first is that playing fewer games means there are fewer opportunities to lose. Losing one game hurts you more than winning one helps you when you’re trying to get into the playoffs. As the Big 12 proved three different times when it had a playoff, that last one is often the toughest to put away.

The second is something that’s unique to the Big 12 — and the Big 12 spent a lot of money to make sure it repeatedly beat into our collective psyche — everybody already plays each other.

When Ohio State beat Wisconsin in December, the teams hadn’t played each other all year.[1. Note: This won’t always be the case.] That was a benefit to Ohio State. What if Baylor had beaten TCU again in a title game? What would that have proved? Baylor still wasn’t getting in. Baylor could have beat TCU 50 times and it wasn’t going to get in. And if TCU had won? That probably would have made things worse for the Big 12!

Plus, as I pointed out last year and Tramel wrote about again over the weekend, the Big 12’s real problem is its big-name teams (Texas and OU) are lousy these days. I’m not sure anyone thinks a 11-1 Texas or OU would have been left out of the playoff. Those teams might have gotten in over Florida State!

Thankfully, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby sees the pitfalls.

So no, the Big 12 should probably not expand its league and it definitely should not expand its schedule to include a conference title game if the reason for doing so is specifically to position itself for the College Football Playoff.

As had been pointed out ad nauseam, the Big 12 was a Florida State loss (that almost happened five times) and Alabama or Ohio State upset from owning half of the College Football Playoff.

That’s no reason to blow that up now.

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