Some fans and OCD-types in the media have already awarded the conference championship, and perhaps even a contender spot in the national championship picture, to the Baylor Bears, who are playing at a dominant level head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in the Big 12 this season.
For those of you who buy into that line of thought, I caution you, much like ESPN “GameDay” college football analyst Lee Corso might do, “Not so fast, my friend.”
Let me take you back five years and remind you of what happened in the 2008 season when we had a logjam at the top of the conference standings. Only then the Big 12 was divided into two geographically configured divisions – a North and a South division – and the gridlock was in the South. Around this same time of year in 2008, Texas was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country and headed to Texas Tech for a Nov. 1 date with the Red Raiders, who were also undefeated and 4-0 in the conference.
Oklahoma was a game back that season, having lost its annual Red River Rivalry game to Texas (when the Lognhorns’s Colt McCoy outdueled Sooner QB Sam Bradford, the Heisman winner that season). To make a short story even shorter, Texas Tech came from behind in dramatic fashion to defeat its in-state rival from Austin, remain unbeaten and take over the top roost in the South. Three weeks later, at Oklahoma, however, the Red Raiders’ season dream came crashing down around them in the wake of a 65-21 Sooner blowout, which forged a three-way tie for the South Division title.
Because of the tiebreaker rules that were in place that season, Oklahoma emerged from the three-way tie as the South champion, despite having lost to
Texas head-to-head, in a highly controversial ruling because the Sooners were the highest ranked of the three teams in the BCS points standings. The Sooners rolled over North Division champion Missouri, with a 5-3 conference record, in the conference title game and went on to play Florida in the BCS Championship game that year.
What happened back in 2008 could happen again this season, especially with five conference teams within one game of each other and with four or five games remaining for each team. Of the 10 games on the regular-season schedule between the five contenders, only two have been played to date (Oklahoma has been involved in both of them: losing to Texas and defeating Texas Tech).
That leaves eight games between the top teams in the league over the final five weekends. And, yes, anything can and probably will happen. Count on it.
That being the case, it is entirely conceivable to have a tie at the top. There is no conference chanpionship game involved this time, but the BCS automatic-qualifier bid clearly is at stake.
Earlier this week, I broke out the remaining schedule for the five top teams and pointed out that the month of November is likely to be one of the most dramatic finishes in Big 12 history.
Baylor (7-0, 4-0) and Texas (5-2, 4-0), the two remaining unbeaten teams in league play, both have control of their own destiny as far as the conference crown is concerned. If either team wins out, nothing else matters, It will be all over. In case you are looking ahead, Baylor and Texas meet in Waco on the final weekend of the season.
Oklahoma State (6-1, 4-1) and Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1) meet this weeekend in Lubbock. The loser of that game, in all probability, will be out of the race. And Oklahoma State has another factor working against it. The Cowboys’ one Big 12 loss is against a team (West Virginia) in the lower half of the conference, which makes it almost impossible to come out on top in the event of a first-place tie.
With one conference loss already, defending co-champion Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1) is looking up at the leaders, but a win over Baylor next Thursday night would would change everything, and put the Sooners back in semi-control of their own destiny, with games against Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State all they have remaining.
When all the dust settles, should there be a tie involving any of the aforementioned schools, here is the resolution criteria:
- First tiebreaker consideration is the record of the teams involved against each other.
- Team records against the next highest-placed teams in the conference standings (third, fourth, fifth, etc.).
- The highest ranked team in the BCS standings, unless two of the tied teams are within one position of the other. (In that case, the head-to-head outcome will determine the conference BCS bowl representative.)