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5 Thoughts - Cleaning Up The Big 12's Mess
Posted Nov 30, 2008

Does Oklahoma really have a legitimate case to be in the Big 12 title game over Texas? Should Texas play for the national title if Missouri beats the Sooners? Who should be the coach of the year, and stumping for Boise State over Ohio State in this week's 5 Thoughts.

5 Thoughts ... Dec. 1

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Part One: 45-35 (a.k.a. Eh, screw it. Put in USC.)

By Pete Fiutak   

1. You can spin it, massage it, and lobby it any way you want, but there’s one simple reality involved in the Big 12 South debate: Oklahoma doesn’t really have a case. (Before you fire off that angry e-mail, full disclosure, the fan in me is actually happy about how this shook out. For fun's sake, I really do want a Florida – Oklahoma national title, even if it offends my sense of justice. One other item of note, by the CFN Season Rankings, our formula that’s all about the strength of schedule, Oklahoma wins this debate by a HUGE margin thanks to the wins over TCU and Cincinnati.)

Had the situation been reversed, we would’ve had the mother of all hissy fits on our hands. Bob Stoops would’ve gone ballistic … ballistic. You wouldn’t be able to get him off the TV because he’d be screaming and lobbying to anyone who’d listen, and everyone who wouldn’t. Politicians would’ve gotten involved, just like they did in the embarrassing aftermath following the 2006 instant replay controversy at Oregon, and you’d hear screaming and yelling all across Oklahoma about how the Sooners beat the two teams playing in the Big 12 title game.  

Instead, OU has to hide behind the weak, “well, you have to count Texas Tech” argument, which has nothing to do with the Texas vs. Oklahoma debate. The one thing Stoops is going by is that his team throttled Tech, but when asked to give the pro-Texas argument, he started out by mentioning that the Longhorns beat his team head-to-head ... done. Over. Texas beat Oklahoma. Texas beat Oklahoma. Texas … beat … Oklahoma. If you want to make this a Texas Tech over Texas debate, let’s roll, but if this is just about Oklahoma and Texas right now, which it is, then it’s over.

If you still want to bring up the Texas Tech side, then at least use your head and be rational about this. It took a dropped interception with 11 seconds to play, and the greatest pass play in the history of Red Raider football, to beat the Longhorns with one second to play. Remember, that was in Lubbock. (You know, the place where Oklahoma lost last year.) That was worse than losing by ten on a neutral field? Also remember that in the three-team equation, Texas didn't get a home game.

So what’s the answer, point differential? So what if a team tacked on a garbage time touchdown or two? Oklahoma is better than Texas because it scored 61 on Oklahoma State rather than 54? If that’s the case being made, then why not go by the Kansas game? Oklahoma beat KU by 14 at home, and Texas won in Lawrence by 28. Why not go by Texas A&M? OU beat the Aggies by 38, and Texas beat them by 40. You can’t do it because it’s silly. You don’t need to go by a third standard when you have one iron-clad tie-breaker when we’re breaking down two teams … 45-35.

So really, what is the answer? In a case like this, bring in the Big 12 athletic directors and commission to make a ruling. If you're going to use opinions for the tie-breaker, use the people in the know rather than coaches and Harris types who don't know the difference between a Joe Ganz and a Robert Griffin.

No, Oklahoma isn’t playing better than Texas right now (remember, defense and special teams are part of the game, too); Texas has won its last three games 129 to 37. Yes, Oklahoma's offense is putting up ungodly stats, but that's partly because it has to thanks to its mediocre defense. No, it isn’t a given that Oklahoma would beat Texas in a rematch. And yes, sadly, the season is now tainted.

In the end, Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field. All the bells, all the whistles, and all the 60 point performances can’t change that Texas was the better team on that day on the field. If you’re arguing for anything else, and if you’re going to debate me on this, then you already know what the answer is.

Part Two: 39-33 (a.k.a. Eh, screw it. Put in Utah.)

By Pete Fiutak   

2. Alright, now let’s take this one step further. What if Missouri beats Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game?

Texas will go off to the BCS championship, sliding up from the No. 3 spot, because bleeding hearts like me who bitched and moaned about how the system screwed things up will be heard just enough to make it acceptable for a Longhorn – SEC Champion national championship, even if UT didn’t win its own division. After all, Texas lost out because of an opinion, while Georgia last year and Michigan two years ago lost out on the field. However, Texas playing for the national title wouldn’t make any more sense than Oklahoma playing in this year’s Big 12 title game.


If Oklahoma loses to Missouri, then there will be a real, live, clear-cut tie-breaker that doesn’t exist now between the three teams in question. If OU loses, then it’s a pure two-team argument and not a theoretical three-team discussion: Texas Tech wins, and there’s no debate.

If you’re going to accept the premise that the Big 12 screwed up by using the BCS rankings to break a tie, then you have put aside your memory of the 65-21 Tech loss at Oklahoma and go by what actually happened on the field. Should Texas Tech play for the national title if Missouri beats OU? I don’t think so, I’ll probably argue for Utah or even Penn State, at least as far as the deserve factor, but in a two-team battle, Texas shouldn’t be in the BCS Championship any more than Georgia of last year because of the head-to-head, 39-33 loss in Lubbock.

The only way Texas should be allowed to play for the title is if Oklahoma beats Missouri in a close game. The uglier, the better for Longhorn purposes. Considering the way Texas blew away the Tigers 56-31 in a game that wasn’t really even that close, then the voters might consider moving Texas higher in the rankings. As I’ve mentioned before, the computer formulas still have to take into account the whole season and could change around at the end meaning the gap could close there, too.

No matter what happens, there will almost certainly be a “yeah, but” attached to this season in some way.

And Rich Rodriguez couldn't make his system work, why?

Richard Cirminiello   

3. When Paul Johnson was hired to replace Chan Gailey a year ago, he was reminded that beating Georgia, which hadn’t happened since 2000, needed to be near the top of his to-do list in Atlanta. Johnson knew it. Heck, he’d spent the last few seasons coaching in Annapolis, so the importance of a rivalry game didn’t escape him.

On Saturday, the rookie head coach engineered a statement upset of Georgia that will resonate throughout the state, especially during recruiting time. Hey, the Dawgs still have the edge in these parts, but the Yellow Jackets’ 45-42 victory in Athens sent a resounding message that the pendulum has slowly begun to shift. For teenagers in the region, going to Georgia Tech no longer means choosing a Plan B, especially if you’re a multi-dimensional quarterback or a bruising B-back. The other truth coming out of Atlanta is that you can win in the ACC—or the SEC—by running the option. Over the last two weeks, the Yellow Jackets have gashed Miami and Georgia, a pair of pretty good defenses, for 881 yards rushing and 86 points. Oh, and also two important wins that could be launching points into the bowl season and beyond.

When Coach of the Year discussions pop up, Johnson’s name gets drowned out by the likes of Nick Saban, Mike Leach, Joe Paterno, and others. Too bad. He’s done a marvelous job of inheriting less-than-ideal players for his system, and quickly molding them into a dynamite ground game and a nine-win team. There’s finally some life back in the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry, thanks largely to the arrival of Paul Johnson to the Yellow Jacket program.

Have you seen the last two BCS Championships? (Part one)

Richard Cirminiello   

4. I fully understand what motivates bowl games and the committees that run them. Sexy match-ups. No empty seats. Plump television ratings. Like all of us, the balance sheet cannot be ignored by bowl games, which also have bills to pay. Yet, despite being armed with all of that knowledge and a glimpse of what’s likely to happen seven days from now, I’ll still spend the next week imploring the bowls to step up and make the right decision when it comes to the last true opening among the at-large berths. In other words, do the unconventional and select 12-0 Boise State over 10-2 Ohio State. 

Yeah, Ohio State brings instant recognition and a bigger fan base, but it’ll also bring a couple of losses and a vanilla program that’s been dressed down in its last two BCS bowl games. Boise State is not your typical mid-major, having given the sport one of its most memorable bowl moments ever in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Wouldn’t it be fun to see if they could do it again against another national powerhouse, like Texas. Or better yet, how about Boise State versus Utah in the only postseason game pairing a couple of unbeatens. Tickets will still sell. Viewers will still tune in. Honest, if you didn’t get your degree in Columbus, wouldn’t you much rather see the Broncos try to knock off the No. 3 ‘Horns rather than the Buckeyes get rewarded for a two-loss season?

Boise State is ranked higher than Ohio State in the BCS rankings. The Broncos are one of just four schools without a loss this season. Their win at Oregon is more impressive than anything on the Buckeyes’ 2008 resume. They’ve earned the right to play in one of the five BCS bowl games, even though Utah has already locked down a seat at the table. Now, all it’s going to take is one bold committee willing to, er, buck the trend, and extend an invite to the more deserving school. Trust me, you’ll be rewarded with a ton of positive publicity from parts well outside of Idaho for such a pioneering decision.

You did see the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, right? (Part two)

By Matthew Zemek

Now that Oregon State has lost and given someone else a chance to step into a BCS bowl, it's time to plead for justice in the college football world.
Fiesta Bowl honchos and Sugar Bowl execs, you need to work together to do the horsetrading necessary to satisfy both the little guy and the appetites of the fans who will fill your ballparks, University of Phoenix Stadium and the Louisiana Superdome, in early January.
First, put Boise State in over Ohio State for the last remaining at-large slot.
Second, have Boise State and Utah play in each of your bowls, instead of putting the two teams together in the Fiesta.
The first decision is more important than the second one. A team that goes 12-0, even in the WAC, deserves special consideration for a premium postseason prize. A 10-2 year is a fine year, and the Capital One Bowl (against Georgia) represents a reasonably high-paying bowl for Jim Tressel's Buckeyes, who should relish the chance to play an SEC team and gain some respect for the Big Ten. Ohio residents should have a great time flying down to Orlando. It's not a bad destination for that program.
Boise State might come from a lightweight conference--no one can deny how brutally Georgia destroyed Hawaii last year--but the Broncos, after all, are the team that delivered the goods in a BCS bowl, justifying the decision to expand the BCS bowl pool in the first place. If any of the "little guys" in FBS competition deserve a nod in the still very much politicized and tourism-driven world of the bowls, it's Boise State. And if the Broncos get bucked by the SEC runner-up or the Big 12 runner-up, then the WAC will have to go to the back of the line in future years when its unbeaten champion is being considered for a showcase game. For now, Boise State deserves the benefit of the doubt.
On point number two, it's almost as important (not quite, but almost) for Utah to play someone other than Boise State. The Utes, after all, were rightfully steamed when, at the end of the 2004 regular season, Urban Meyer's ballclub drew a weak Pittsburgh Panther squad for the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. When America wanted Utah to play Auburn in a super showdown (while USC and Oklahoma battled for that year's controversial national title), the Fiesta Bowl failed to serve the interests of its paying customers in Salt Lake City. This year, Utah--back in the BCS derby--deserves to play a name school. Coach Kyle Whittingham will privately fume if his team has to play Boise State, and not a Big 12 or SEC team, in Glendale (or, perhaps, New Orleans).
It's up to you, John Junker (Fiesta Bowl godfather). The ball's in your court, Paul Hoolahan (Sugar Bowl CEO).
Do the right thing. As the BCS system itself proves--along with the horrible (non-)leadership of college football's university presidents and conference commissioners--the right thing isn't usually done in this sport.