For a second time in three years, the Big 12 Conference was left on the outside looking in on Sunday when the College Football Playoff committee announced the four teams that will compete for the national championship.
But that wasn’t the biggest issue for commissioner Bob Bowlsby and his bumbling, stumbling, laughingstock of a conference.
No, the biggest issue was the fact that the committee placed the Ohio State Buckeyes as the No. 3 seed, even though Urban Meyer’s team didn’t win the Big Ten. In fact, the Buckeyes didn’t even win the East Division.
So Bowlsby has questions, which he conveyed to ESPN.
"Obviously I acknowledge the difficulty of the task, but I'm not sure what I advise my members right now, because we've been telling them that non-conference schedules matter, and one of the four has an exceedingly weak non-conference schedule," Bowlsby said.
As Bowlsby and ESPN noted, the Pac-12 champion, Washington, played Rutgers, Idaho, and Portland State as the Big 12 now requires teams to schedule at least one so-called Power Five opponent.
“Schedule strength is a key component in CFP Selection Committee deliberations,” Bowlsby said nearly one year ago. “This move will strengthen the resumes for all Big 12 teams. Coupled with the nine-game full round robin conference schedule our teams play, it will not only benefit the teams at the top of our standings each season, but will impact the overall strength of the conference.”
Apparently that doesn’t matter as much as the Big 12 thought it did.
Or maybe it does — Ohio State made it into the playoffs in no small part because of a resounding road win over Oklahoma early in the season.
Who knows? Not Bowlsby.
And what about the so-called 13th data point of a conference championship game, which the Big 12 will institute once again in 2017 despite having only 10 teams?
Bowlsby wants some answers about that, too.
"And we've been telling them the 13th data point matters, and we added a conference championship game because of that,” Bowlsby said. “We've always heard that conference championships matter and division championships matter, and now it's confusing."
In fact, the conference decided to bring back the championship game in part because Navigate Research gave the Big 12 a presentation that indicated a 13th data point would increase the odds of making the playoffs by 14 percent.
And yet, Penn State was left out despite beating Ohio State and staging an impressive comeback to defeat Wisconsin on Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game.
Additionally, the Big 12 faces another obstacle — playing a round-robin schedule that will require a rematch in the conference championship game, increasing the potential that the higher-rated team could suffer a loss that would keep it out of the playoff.
“Does the 13th data point make a difference, or does it not? Does the conference championship game make a difference, or does it not? Are they only used as tiebreakers, or is it other metrics?”
Once again, the Big 12 is asking serious questions and doesn’t have any answers.
College Football Playoff committee executive director did provide one answer on Sunday.
“They did the right thing by adding a championship game,” he said of the Big 12.
But will that really be the case next season when the championship game returns?
What seems increasing apparent, however, is that there are truly four power conferences in the country and the Big 12 is just trying to hang on until Oklahoma and Texas decide to blow it all up when the grant of rights expires in less than a decade.