College football’s version of the NCAA Final Four has officially arrived. The College Football Playoff is ready to debut in 2014, which is creating quite the buzz at the Big XII Conference Football Media Days in Dallas.
A playoff is something that has been in the works for quite some time, but the road to a playoff berth is a completely different topic up for discussion.
If you ask Big XII Conference coaches, they believe the league winner should earn a trip to the playoff, especially if that winner goes undefeated.
“The way I've looked at it is, I mean, you want to get in the Final Four and win the Big XII and go unscathed,” Baylor Head Coach Art Briles said. “You do that, you go 9-0 in the Big XII, you're going to be in the Final Four because you're going to beat probably two top 10 teams, probably two others in the top 20, and maybe another top 25, which is what we faced last year.”
“We’re the only conference where everyone plays everyone. I mean, I think that’s an easy one,” Kansas Head Coach Charlie Weis said. “I think whoever wins the conference, whether they go undefeated or not, should be in it. When you look at our conference, there are 10 teams in the conference, and you have to play everybody. There’s no ‘well we’re in this division’ and ‘who are our other division opponent games’ – to win this conference, you’re going to play nine games.
One year, you’re going to have four home games and the next year you’re going to have five,” Weis added. “That’s the way it’s going to be. That means you only have three non-conference opponents. If you come out of the Big XII as the winner of the conference, then the odds of you being in that final four are very, very high.”
Oklahoma and Baylor are the two favorites to potentially run the table in 2014, and it just so happens that the two programs were picked number one and two, respectively, when the league’s preseason media poll was recently revealed.
Baylor won the Big XII Conference Championship last year, and looked rather impressive doing it. When it comes to running the table in conference play, Briles did his homework, and understands just how difficult of a task it really is.
“I wasn’t really sure when the last team went undefeated in the Big XII. Well, it’s been since 2005,” he said. “So that shows you how hard it is to do in this league because there’s a lot of good football teams here. We aren’t mixing and dodging, catching some during some years and catching some not – we’re playing them every year. So if you mess around and go undefeated; if you go 9-0 in this conference, then you can put your tag on number one or two going into the final four, in my opinion. I don’t think it’s even a question.”
Although the Big XII coaches overwhelmingly believe that the league winner will earn a spot in the college football playoff, it becomes a bit more complicated once you mix in the champions of the rest of the power conferences.
It seems as though it’s a foregone conclusion that the SEC champion will earn a spot. That leaves three openings which are left for the Big XII, Big Ten, ACC and PAC 12.
That means one conference champion will be left out. Not to mention, if the SEC runner-up finishes with a single loss, then that team will begin to garner praise from the national media as well.
Kliff Kingsbury has played in the Big XII, and is now coaching in the league. The Texas Tech head coach was not too specific, but rather concise about his view of the debate.
“I do,” Kingsbury said, referring to his belief in the Big XII champion earning a spot in the playoff. “I think our schedule and our league is going to be strong as a whole this year. So I think whoever comes out as a Big XII champion is going to have one of those four spots.”
The uncertainty of a Big XII program holding a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff is what fuels the entire debate. There are five power conferences and only four spots. That translates to a league champion standing on the outside looking in.
For TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson, the specifics in his response were not telling. But his tone of voice in his reply painted the entire picture of his stance.
“Yeah,” Patterson said, responding quickly and authoritatively.
How about a one or two loss Big XII team?
“Yup,” Patterson replied. “If you’re the winner of this conference; yes.”
It may be that simple for Patterson, but Briles retracted on his response in terms of a one or two loss Big XII champion, and rightfully so. It’s really not that easy.
“Well, it depends on when that loss is and who it’s to,” Briles said. “If you jump out there and lose one in the non-conference and then you lose one in-conference, then you’re 10-2. I think it just depends on how things play out across the nation. We can sit here and throw out the scenarios, but who knows. To me, it’s all determined by what everybody else does, along with yourself because who’s to say that someone is going to go undefeated in the SEC or the PAC 12.”
The vagueness that comes with attempting to predict how a season will transpire is about as cloudy as a rainy day, but the debate is one that is healthy in regards to college football and its advancement in the inaugural playoff.
The point is, a conference champion will be left out. However, Big XII coaches seem to have a reason to believe that if their team wins the conference, then their name will be called, having a chance to compete for a National Championship.
After all, a chance is all any college football coach asks for.