Saturday we got to watch Baker Mayfield (ugh) and the Oklahoma Sooners beat up on a Gary Patterson/Kenny Trill TCU team that looked like it hadn’t seen a football since last December when they got spanked by Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. While many sports fans might have a different conclusion from today’s game, this is mine: we didn’t need it.
That’s right, we absolutely, 100% did not need the 2017 AT&T Dr. Pepper Conoco Phillips 66 Saltine Big 12 Championship Game Sponsored by Home Depot. The Big 12 recently reminds me of that kid who joins the football team because all his friends are playing football and he doesn’t know what to do after school. Little Jimmy Big 12 doesn’t know what a touchdown is; hell, he doesn’t even know how to hold the football, but he’ll be darned if he doesn’t hang out with his buddies.
The Big 12 Tim Hortons Championship Game brought to you by Zales used to be a necessity, because until 2011, there were 12 teams in the Big 12 (imagine that). There were not enough games in the regular season for each team to play the other 11 members, and thus the conference was divided into two divisions, North and South. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were grouped with the former Southwestern Conference members to create the south, and the remaining 6 teams from the Big 8 created the Big 12 North. The winner of the North division would play the winner of the South division, and thus crown the Big 12 Champion.
But after the great Longhorn Network diaspora of 2011 which saw Colorado and Nebraska leave, followed shortly after by the departure of Texas A&M and Missouri, the Big 12 no longer had (say it with me) 12 teams. They were able to replace A&M and Mizzou with TCU and West Virginia in 2012, but that still left the conference 2 teams short. With only 10 teams, the divisions were abolished, and thus a conference champion could be crowned without playing a game–they all played each other, and unless there was a tie, a winner would be obvious.
Enter the College Football Playoff. In 2014 the NCAA joined the rest of the world in thinking that the BCS was weird and arbitrary, and moved to a 4 team playoff, as I’m sure you all know. The specifics of how you get in are a little fuzzy, but basically just “be good at football” and you might get in. Until last year. In 2016 the CFP committee picked an Ohio State team over a Penn State team that won the B10 Championship Game. This upset many CFB fans, and looked awful for the committee, as Ohio State got blanked 31-0 in the Semifinal Game.
So, the 2017 point of emphasis for choosing the 4 CFP teams became a Conference Championship. Additionally, the 2014 Big 12 Champion was co-won by Baylor and TCU, despite Baylor’s head to head win over the Frogs. These two events combined pushed the Big 12 to vie for a Conference Championship Game. Which brings me back to my point: we didn’t need it.
I’m not saying the Big 12 didn’t need the option to have a Championship Game; of course they did. The 2014 season proves it. But we didn’t need it, this year. Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1) has only one loss, and it was to Iowa State. This would be a problem, except TCU (10-2, 7-2) also lost to Iowa State. The Sooners beat TCU head to head, and thus, finished the season in 1st place. There is no discrepancy here; OU beat TCU nearly 3 weeks ago, yet they were forced to play them again for some arbitrary reason.
Some might say that we needed a Big 12 Championship Game this year in order to firmly establish the résumé of the conference champion. But that is absurd. A win for TCU means that Alabama or Ohio State makes the CFP, not a team from the Big 12. This was a lose-lose situation. Either OU wins, and nothing changes, or OU loses, and no team from the Big 12 makes the playoff.
Oklahoma should’ve been named the Big 12 Champs after last week, and gotten a much-deserved BYE week. We played this game for one reason, and one reason only: Big 12 executives are incompetent, and continue to prove they lack the foresight and ability to logistically make the Big 12 a dominant conference. Maybe it was fun, maybe Sooner fans enjoyed it and TCU fans liked the ability to win a conference championship, but in the end, it was pointless. Your Coca-Cola Belk Wal-Mart Big 12 Championship Game accomplished just as much as its naming rights sponsors did. This was just an exercise in frivolity.