Sunday, December 7, 2014

How Wisconsin saved the Big Ten (and more college football madness)

By losing 59-0 to Ohio State, the Badgers made the Buckeyes look so good that “the committee” leapfrogged them over TCU and into college football’s field of four “playoff” teams.  Meanwhile, both TCU and Baylor — the so-called “co-champs” of the Big 12 — got left out of college football’s “little dance.”  In some sense this is unjust, given that the Big 12 is a stronger conference than both the Big 10 and the ACC.  But in addition to blaming Wisconsin, the two Texas teams from the Big 12 can also blame their own conference. 

According to ESPN, the Big 12’s bylaws state that, because there is no conference championship game, when two teams are tied at the end of the year their head-to-head outcome will serve as the tiebreaker.  In that case, Baylor was the clear champ; they shared an identical record with TCU, and beat the Horned Frogs when they squared up in Waco.  But the conference commissioner didn’t declare a champion.  Why he didn’t do so is speculation, but here goes. 

Ideally, the commissioner would have liked both teams to get into the playoff.  But his fear was probably that crowning Baylor (ranked sixth by the committee) as the champ could keep TCU (ranked third by the committee) out of the four-team playoff.  So the Big 12 commissioner — in violation of the conference bylaws? — declared the two teams to be “co-champions.”  And because a team’s status as conference champion was one thing that the committee allegedly considered, and the Big 12 couldn’t identify one, it now seems like a bit of “just deserts” — at least for the waffling conference — that both teams got left out.

The commissioner, of course, should have just followed the bylaws and declared Baylor the conference champ because those were the rules — at least according to ESPN.  And, in hindsight, that would also have been the best chance of getting a Big 12 team into the playoff.  Why?  Because the committee jumped Baylor to fifth (the first team out), and dumped their previous golden boy TCU to sixth (from third), even though TCU won their last game of the year by about 50 points.     

In any case, nearly one year ago I predicted all of this chaos (though admittedly I wasn’t accurate in all of the fine points).  And while I hate to agree with Lou Holtz at the expense of the far superior college football analyst Mark May, the only viable solution to this chaos is an eight team playoff — one that includes the five major conference champs and three wildcards.  This would allow five teams to earn their playoff births during the regular season, as it should be.  This would also limit the committee — or, possibly, a more objective system — to selecting the three wildcards.  But we’re not at that stage yet.  So here are The Dog’s major bowl game predictions, which include the three games that make up college football’s “little dance”:

Mississippi over Horned Frogs in the Peach Bowl

Baylor over Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl

Zona over Boise in the Fiesta Bowl

Bulldogs over Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl

Bama over Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl

Ducks over Noles in the Rose Bowl

Ducks over Bama in the National Championship Game

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