Okay for those of you that missed it on Monday night, my first takeaway is that Nick Saban looked like an Aggie cheerleader. Maybe he got some fashion tips during his trips to College Station over the past few years since the Aggies joined the SEC. Either way, it just confirmed my original inclination to go with the Tigers over the Tide.
The 2005 game was a great game! It will forever be enshrined in college football history as one of the best. Monday’s game was a great game! It will forever be enshrined in college football history as one of the best. Raymond James Stadium is not the Rose Bowl, but other than that, there is really no point in comparing the games. They were both so good, I don’t know how either one could be beat by any other bowl game, but I am sure another similar game will happen in my lifetime.
The College Football Playoff got it right. We can debate the placement of Ohio State and Washington in the games, and complain that the Big 12 was left off of the slate, but when it comes down to it, Alabama and Clemson were the two best teams in the nation, and it showed last night.
Oklahoma would have lost to either of those teams, had they been invited to the dance, so there is really no reason to argue their merits. The end result was perfect. The fans got what they wanted — a historic game that had most of us walking through this Tuesday like zombies, like euphoric zombies still reliving the happenings of the previous night as if it were our first date.
The ACC was the best conference in college football this year. They were a convincing 9-3 in their bowl games, including last night’s game. This is by far better than any other Power Five Conference.
For comparison, the SEC was 6-6, the Pac-12 3-3, and the Big Ten was 3-7, with their wins coming from Utah, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Wisconsin was the only team to beat a ranked team in their bowl, beating an undefeated Western Michigan team, that while ranked No. 15, did not beat a ranked team all season. With that said, the SEC and Pac-12 seemed to have average performances with the ACC being dominant and the Big Ten being...unimpressive.
So where does that leave the Big 12? The Big 12 has become the laughingstock of the Power Five over the past few years, and their bowl performance hasn’t helped. Big 12 teams had a combined 8-12 record in bowl games over the three-year period since the start of the College Football Playoff leading into the 2016 bowl season, with an embarrassing 2-5 record in 2014 representing a solid black eye on that mark.
The Big 12 was 4-2 in their bowl games in 2016, with the only losses to a Georgia team who figures to be ten win team in 2017 and could sneak into the top ten behind the two headed monster of Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel and to an up-and-coming Miami team who is my way too early pick to win the ACC in 2017, yes, even over Florida State, and yes despite having to replace starting quarterback Brad Kaaya. While both losses are indeed losses, they are quality bowl losses that shouldn’t reflect negatively on the conference.
So, is the Big 12 back? Well, I wouldn’t say they’re back, especially considering they only placed six teams in bowl games and this success is a single point factor after a series of average to less than average performances in bowl season. The 2014 performance was embarrassing, but other than that, the conference was within one game of an average .500 performance in each year from 2012 through 2015.
That’s not indicative of a conference that is struggling to compete with the college football elite. Sure, the Big 12 has won some and has lost some, but lets assume 46 Power Five teams made bowl games, and for the sake of argument all teams only played other power five teams in these bowls. Their record would be 23-23 combined. If each conference were evenly matched, the wins would be spread evenly throughout each conference, resulting in a series of about .500 records within each conference.
Working on that logic, a .500 record, or being within plus or minus one of .500 is about average for a bowl performance. That’s the standard for a standard conference. The Big 12 has met this standard each of the last five years, with the exception of 2014. Sure, Oklahoma lost to Texas A&M in the 2013 Cotton Bowl, but Oklahoma also beat Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. The conference was performing to the average standard throughout this time, with the exception of one poor season.
Because of this, I firmly believe that the Big 12 was never gone. It does and always has deserved to be a Power Five conference. The conference is competitive, 1-8, with teams having typical down years from time to time, but each team in the conference, save Kansas and Iowa State can compete with any other team in the conference.
Texas will be back. TCU, Baylor, West Virginia, and Kansas State will have their share of 10-win seasons and their share of eight-win seasons, just like many Power Five schools do. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State continue to pound out 10-win seasons on a pretty much annual basis. And then there’s Texas Tech....which is off somewhere in its own world.
That’s the way the Big 12 works. That’s how the Big 12 has worked since the conference realignment. That’s the way it will continue to work for the foreseeable future, and that is just fine. The Big 12 is a legitimate Power Five conference, and it proved it with its bowl performance in 2016.
That should begin to garner some attention with media personalities, but it wouldn’t hurt to have similar performances and maybe a playoff appearance awarded in the next few seasons to really get the credibility of the conference back where it used to be.