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The Mountaineer Retweet: Inaugural CFB Playoff Edition

The Mountaineers weren't part of the discussion (any more) but that doesn't make the day any less momentous. The Twitters were fire and brimstone, so let's dive in and see what all this means for WVU and the Big 12.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It sucked that WVU wasn't involved, especially after it looked like they might be a month ago, but that doesn't make what we watched and are watching any less interesting. With an eye toward the future and a hope that WVU will be involved in one of these days at some point in the near future, let's unpack this baby.

Because we weren't involved, but we still kinda were. You had a WVU team that stood as Baylor's own loss and one of TCU's better wins at the center of any Horned Frogs / Bears discussion. And back when we thought it might matter to compare Bama to anyone we had a WVU team that played them tight and lost by 10. WVU mattered to the discussion quite a bit and that was cool.


They are just the most boring un-compelling dynasty in history. Meh.

This was weird. Starting last night as he worked the Florida State v Georgia Tech game, Herbie was nonstop pimping FSU. To the extent that when he was asked last night and again today which 2 of the last 4 he thought should be in (FSU, Ohio State, Baylor, TCU), he dismissed entirely the notion that FSU was on any sort of bubble and had them as an automatic.

Then today he was pimping Ohio State hard. Now anyone who's watched him for awhile has to know he's been plenty hard on his alma mater in the past - to the point that he actually moved here to Nashville to escape crazy OSU fans - but that was still odd. For a guy who's usually pretty good at making rational cases for all sides, he was surprisingly dismissive of both Big 12 teams. I didn't get that.


I liked the selection show. The difference between this and the NCAA basketball tourney show was amazing though. Ohio State, Baylor and TCU essentially said "thanks but no thanks" for watch parties. With Baylor coach Art Briles putting his own dick-ish spin on things with "this is football, we don't have parties for this stuff." But there's a stark difference between being on the bubble when you have no real chance at a title and being on a bubble when you feel you might very well be the best team in the country. There was a lot more anger associated with this than anything I've ever seen from the basketball side of things.

Also people care about football maybe a tad bit more than basketball. Regardless it made for great television and Rece Davis was his normal great self.

I think this is 100% accurate. I'm not going to jump on the conspiracy bandwagon and say ESPN orchestrated getting Ohio State in ahead of small fanbases like Baylor and TCU (even thought Chris Fowler created an opening a mile wide for this theory with his little rant a few weeks ago) but I do think with a room full of people you get inherent biases. One of those biases is in favor of traditional powers. If I'm comparing Ohio State and their decades of winning tradition against Baylor, tie goes to the Buckeyes. Same with TCU and Florida State. This is why I think we need more computers involved, but I'm getting stuff thrown at me so I'll stop.

(but we totally need computer polls to take a role in this thing)

And related to that, THIS. No way Big 12 gets shut out if it had marquee names involved. Neither of the teams up for the spot playing in a stadium that seats more than 46,000 was a huge disadvantage. Curious that the second best conference of the year behind the SEC has not one but two 11-1 teams shut out of a playoff while the PAC 12 and B1G both got 1-loss teams in.

Damn, Kanell coming off the top rope on Baylor!

First off I'd fire that firm. Second it was interesting to see the differing approaches on this thing by Baylor and TCU. On one hand Patterson was pretty measured in his comments and didn't say anything too outlandish. On the other side you had Briles who basically stole the show Saturday night and Sunday by acting like a total jerk advocate for his team after they beat Kansas State, very publicly and personally calling out the conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby in the postgame conference title awards ceremony:

Briles confronted Bowlsby on stage after the Big 12's trophy presentation and addressed his frustration about being presented as co-champions with TCU during his postgame news conference.

"You know, if you're going to slogan around and say there's 'One True Champion,' all the sudden you're gonna go out the back door instead of going out the front?" Briles said. "Don't say one thing and do another."

"I'm not obligated to [Bowlsby]. I'm obligated to Baylor University and our football team," Briles said. "And we just happen to be a part of the Big 12. And we happen to be the champion two years in a row. So they need to be obligated to us, because we're helping the Big 12's image in the nation."

When asked specifically what he said to Bowlsby during their heated postgame conversation, Briles compared the commissioner's obligation to stand up for Big 12 programs to his own duty as a football coach to support a player who needs help.

"If I'm the commissioner of a league, then these universities are his kids, I would think. And so you love 'em all the same, but sometimes you have to differentiate between who you present as one or two," Briles said. "That was kind of the gist of the conversation. I mean, don't go public and say that we're going to present as co-champs if our bylaws say head-to-head determines who goes into a bowl game if neither one of us are in the top four."

I will say in Briles' defense he was in a pretty frustrating position and gave voice to the frustration of his fanbase. But at some point the coach should be a moderating force of public fan sentiment and he was far from that. Not difficult to see where the second-most penalized team in America gets their lack of discipline from.

This was too funny on Saturday night. My favorite part:

Baylor traveled 1,460 miles to play Buffalo on a Friday night Black Out game coming off a short week of practice.

Seriously Baylor, when you write the eulogy on your 2014 season, that's in the first paragraph right there. If a set of talking points includes making the case that a trip to Buffalo was anything other than garden-variety cupcake gobbling, you've lost the battle and the war. And that's on you my friends.

This was the thing about what Baylor did that gave me no sympathy for them. They've unabashedly scheduled cupcakes for the last several years as they've attempted to build a program. No shame in that. But they've also given a straight-faced defense of this strategy and don't seem to be taking steps to improve their schedule.

And then my buddy Jason was kind enough to send along this link and remind me of what Briles had to say about his nonconference schedule at Big 12 media days earlier in the year. I highlighted the most interesting parts:

Defending Big 12 champion Baylor plays SMU, Buffalo and Northwestern (La.) State in the non-conference. And don’t expect the Bears to beef up their schedule anytime soon. Baylor does not have a game scheduled in the future with an opponent from a fellow major conference.

"The way I've looked at it is, you want to get in the Final Four and win the Big 12 and go unscathed," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "You do that, you go 9-0 in the Big 12, 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. That's a resumé that's good enough to match any other conference."

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he wouldn’t comment on any specific schedule "but everyone has heard me say that if you’re sitting on a No. 5 ranking and you had a weak non-conference schedule, you’ll be in real jeopardy of not making the playoffs. They’ve all heard us talk about that."

Bowlsby said the Big 12 is not likely to set a mandate of at least one game against a fellow major-conference opponent.

Well Art there's a saying about making beds and lying in them that applies here.

Don't forget that you have athletic directors on that playoff committee. Athletic directors who are more and more interested in scheduling attractive matchups that sell tickets and bring fans at a time when it's more and more challenging to do so. Athletic directors who understand that as the haves further separate from the have-nots the cupcakes game will become a dinosaur and TV-friendly matchups more the norm. They were sending a message to Baylor and any team that wanted to follow that template - you can do it, but you have no margin for error.

It just sucks that TCU got caught up in collateral damage. You wonder how the relative strength of the conference would have been improved with just one more decent game on that Bears schedule. Nothing flashing or sexy, just play Iowa or Syracuse or somebody from one of the other major 5 conferences. I'm guessing Baylor AD Ian McCaw was already on the phones by Sunday afternoon seeing who was up for a home and home.

Anyway, enough about Baylor.


Let's move on though and talk about this playoff.

In no way, shape or form. Saturday was crazy. You had 5 games played that all directly impacted who would make the playoff and a 6th on Friday night. And because you had 4 slots instead of 2, they all mattered. Under the old BCS system, we'd have seen Oregon win Friday and Bama win Saturday afternoon and the field basically would have been set. Those games Saturday night would have been about 1/10th as meaningful. I don't know what else you could ask for.

As far as increasing the field to 8, which was what everyone wanted to see by late Saturday night, I disagree. The argument against a playoff was always that it would devalue the regular season. College football is unique because from the very first week you're in a fight to win every game if you want to win a national title. There's no packing it in for week 14 or resting your starters as the regular season winds down. It all matters. The beauty of 4 teams is that you have a small enough number of spots that it doesn't change that at all - in fact as I just said in that last paragraph it makes more games meaningful.

Those games I was just discussing are nowhere near as meaningful if everybody is going to get in. More importantly the debate - the most unique thing about college football - isn't anywhere near as urgent without only 4 spots up for grabs. And roll your eyes all you want, but the debate MATTERS in college football and that's something worth preserving.

Another word for that is accountability - and that's a good thing. The BCS was frustrating because at the end of the day all you were left with was a scheduling formula and some computer polls. Everyone could just throw up their hands and pretend they had fed everything into some crazy CFB blender and when the results were a little screwy just say "hey, that's the system." Now people have to answer questions. They have to give actual reasons for doing things. More importantly they provide substance with which coaches and athletic directors can make decisions going forward. We don't have to debate on how the scheduling formula treated Baylor's cupcake platter, it's a certainty that it cost them a playoff spot. We don't have to wonder how the Big 12's status as the only major conference without a season-ending championship game hurt their teams - committee chair Jeff Long all but said it cost them. When Rece Davis asked him that about it on ESPN's selection show, he said the following:

"We don't really deal in hypotheticals. Ohio State's performance in a 13th game gave a quality win against a highly ranked team. That allowed them to move up to the 4th spot.

That's about as clear-cut as you can get. After decades of a selection process shrouded in mystery and computer formulas, I'll take transparency and accountability every time.

Now let's turn our eyes to the Big 12:

That's assuming a direct correlation between expansion and a conference championship game that I'm not so sure actually exists.

The only thing keeping the Big 12 from re-establishing a conference championship game (they had one from 1996 to 2010) is an NCAA rule that mandates a conference have at least 12 members to institute such a game. The Big 12 emerged from realignment with 10 members and as such suspended the title game.

Changing that rule would require a vote from the rest of the membership, a vast majority of which includes teams from the SEC, ACC, B1G and PAC 12, which all have at least 12 members and a title game. Those conferences now know their teams have an inside track to a playoff spot and would be crazy to change that.

On the other side of the coin you have a Big 12 that would probably need to add teams like Connecticut or Cincinnati to their membership to get to 12 - teams with decent football programs, but nowhere near the fan draw to offset all the revenue sharing that would now be divided 12 ways instead of 10.

Now here's your wildcard. What's stopping the Big 12 from simply doing whatever the hell they want? Within the context of a much-weakened NCAA structure that has never had a lower level of public trust and also the vote in August to grant the power 5 conferences a level of increased autonomy within the NCAA structure, what's to keep Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby from taking the podium tomorrow and saying "we're having a title game next year." It would most certainly generate a truckload of money and at this point would seem a necessity for getting teams into a playoff. You're telling me someone's going to say no to that?

This is one of those cases where it's better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. Hell, let Briles make the announcement.

Well now you know, and knowing is half the battle. Now go get your big boy pants on Bob and fight the other half

I'll wrap up with the most eerily prescient thing you'll read all day. David Ubben talked to Bowlsby about the conference title game question back in May as the conference coaches got set to meet. You should read the whole thing, but here are the pieces that should haunt Bowlsby like the Ghost of Christmas Past (again, I highlighted phrases that provide maximum hindsight hilarity):

The Big 12 began playing nine games in 2011 after Nebraska and Colorado's exit made the Big 12 a ten-team league. A round-robin schedule gave the conference the ability to crown what it won't stop calling "one true champion" for the first time in its history.

"I don't think there's anybody prepared to argue that isn't the truest way to determine your champion," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Fox Sports Southwest on Monday morning. "I think that will serve us well in consideration with the championship and the playoff."

Take it easy Champ. Why don't you try not talking for awhile.

"We like our path to the playoff. I think it's a good thing we don't have our two best teams playing each other on the last date of the season," he said. "One of them's going to lose, and sometimes it's not the right one."

Ouch. There's blame to go around, though:

Don't blame Bowlsby. His job isn't to push legislation his members don't want. He wouldn't be commissioner long if he did.  If the league members wanted a title game, they'd have one, even though the rules don't (yet) technically allow a league with fewer than 12 members to hold one.

I'm guessing they've changed their tune. Might be time to call around for a re-vote, Bob.

I'm going to hit the future of the Big 12 later this week, but if you want a little history lesson check out this piece I wrote a couple years ago contrasting the conference title games of the Big 12 and SEC. I've given Bob a hard time here, but his decision was made within a historical context that taught him conference title games are dangerous.

That's all we've got for now. It will be a juicy month of gossip and hey, West Virginia has a Liberty Bowl to get ready for against the Tennessee Volunteers Texas A&M Aggies, don't think we forgot about that. So stay tuned and let us know what you think in the comments.