In case you missed it, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 basically came up empty in marquee games over the weekend, which damaged the short term, if not the long term, playoff options for those leagues.
The SEC West (what a surprise) and the upper echelon of the Atlantic Coast Conference also showed up for their big games.
And, so did the top half of the Big 12. And that, folks, is worth examining in more detail.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Let's start with a quick glance backwards. The Big 12 is the only conference among the Power 5 leagues that looked at and rejected expansion--a few times. And it wasn't that long ago, that the Big 12 looked like a fire-sale outlet for conferences looking to expand.
The Big 12 is a 10-team league, which means it is the only conference that is able to play a complete round robin schedule.
That has its benefits--and its weaknesses. The primary drawback being that without division play the Big 12 holds a championship game between it's first and second place teams. which means a rematch game, which this year could be a back-to-back meeting between Oklahoma and West Virginia.
If that happens, good luck for the winning coach in motivating his team for a game against a team it had just beaten.
The problem that the Big 12 has had in the BCS--CFP era is that in recent years, there has been no sense of conference tradition. That’s a drastic change from the good old days when Oklahoma and Nebraska ruled the old Big 8, with occasional appearances by Colorado and Texas.
Nebraska jumped to the Big Ten for the money and Colorado went to the Pac-12 for the same reason. Two other members, Missouri and Texas A&M, moved to the SEC with $$$ signs in their eyes.
If there is going to be another round of conference expansion, the Big 12 will be the league which is raided again.
On the field, the Big 12 has not thrived in the BCS--CFP era. In the 15-year history of the BCS, Big 12 teams made six appearances in the championship game, winning two national championships, Oklahoma in 2001 and Texas in 2006.
In the current 4-team CFP playoff system, which is now in its fifth season, the Big 12 has made only two appearances, Oklahoma in 2015 and last season. The Sooners lost both semifinal games.
""Our league has been in twice and left out twice,'' said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who conceded that any plans for expanding the CFP system to 6 or 8 teams would probably be looked at favorably by the Big 12.
""An expanded playoff would enhance our opportunity to get in,'' said Bowlsby.
What was encouraging for the Big 12 after last week's games were the performances of Oklahoma--which had rolled to easy wins over Florida Atlantic and UCLA, before beginning its conference season with a road win over Iowa State, and Oklahoma State, which crushed the playoff hopes of Boise State with a surprisingly 44-21 win.
Even Texas, which had begun the season with a road loss at Maryland, showed signs of life by crushing USC 37-14.
If you count those three teams and add unbeaten West Virginia, which had its game at North Carolina State on Saturday cancelled because of Hurricane Florence, and TCU, which slugged it out with Ohio State, before losing by 12 points in the final minutes, the Big 12 is more than thriving.
It came out of the weekend with a 19-7 non-conference record and is now set to jump into league play.
Oklahoma remains the most likely team to make it into the Final Four, although it will have to beat West Virginia in back to back weeks to get into the discussion.
But if you look at what is left in the Pac-12--nobody really at this time, the Big 10--Ohio State and maybe Penn State, and the ACC--Clemson, the Big 12 should feel good about itself, even if the SEC continues its practice of placing two teams in the Final Four.
It will be interesting to see how the ACC handles the cancellation of some of its games last weekend because of Hurricane Florence. Teams like Virginia Tech (against East Carolina and NC State (against West Virginia) might need to play those games to reach the minimum six-win requirement for bowl eligibility.
Boston College, which won its third straight game last week against Wake Forest moved into the AP Top 25 (23) for the first time since the end of the 2008 regular season. The Eagles travel to winless Purdue on Saturday.[/membership]