HOW TI­TLE GAME COULD BITE BIG 12 ONCE AGAIN

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Lyt­tle klyt­tle@states­man.com

When the Big 12 de­cided to res­ur­rect its cham­pi­onship game, the big sell­ing point was the “13th data point” it would give the league in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off de­bate.

Well, that ex­tra data point could short-cir­cuit the Big 12’s chances of se­cur­ing a spot in this sea­son’s four-team field.

Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) wouldn’t need a 13th data point to make the play­off. If the Soon­ers beat Kansas and West Vir­ginia, they’d be go­ing to the fi­nal four, join­ing the SEC and ACC champs and ei­ther Wis­con­sin or an SEC/ACC run­ner-up.

But now the Soon­ers, who will win the reg­u­lar-sea­son ti­tle, will be asked to beat a good team a sec­ond time — never an easy task. The odds are on TCU to join OU in the Big 12 ti­tle game Dec. 2 in Ar­ling­ton, al­though Oklahoma State and West Vir­ginia re­main in the run­ning.

“We haven’t hit our peak yet,” Soon­ers quar­ter­back Baker May­field told re­porters Mon­day. “We’re get­ting bet­ter at the right time of the year, and that’s pretty scary for the other teams out there.”

For the Big 12’s sake, let’s hope May­field, the ob­vi­ous Heis­man Tro­phy fa­vorite from Lake Travis, is cor­rect.

The league’s ti­tle game his­tory from 1996-2010 shows plenty of ex­am­ples of the un­der­dog bit­ing the fa­vorite, start­ing with the 1996 de­but, when quar­ter­back James Brown and un­ranked Texas, 20½-point un­der­dogs, popped No. 3 Ne­braska 37-27.

Two years later, sec­on­dranked Kansas State ap­peared bound for the in­au­gu­ral BCS cham­pi­onship game when the Wild­cats were cut down by 17-point un­der­dog Texas A&M, 36-33. The Big 12 ti­tle game also cost the league BCS spots in 2001 (Colorado over Texas) and 2007 (Oklahoma over Mis­souri).

On the flip side, none of those 15 ti­tle games lifted the league into na­tional cham­pi­onship po­si­tion.

Back then, at least there was a le­git­i­mate rea­son to have a ti­tle game be­cause the Big 12 had 12 teams, two di­vi­sions and not every­one played every­one. Now, with a 10-team, no-di­vi­sion, full round-robin for­mat, there’s no need for the reg­u­lar-sea­son cham­pion to prove it­self again.

It’s true that the lack of a ti­tle game in 2014 hurt Bay­lor’s and TCU’s chances of mak­ing the CFP.

Yet his­tory shows ’14 was clearly the out­lier, and a lot of peo­ple think that had it been Texas or Oklahoma, they would have made it.

So Oklahoma will just have to nav­i­gate Gary Pat­ter­son’s TCU de­fense a sec­ond time on the much more Frog friendly turf of Ar­ling­ton rather than Norman.

Or the Soon­ers will have to sur­vive Bed­lam II af­ter a 62-52 shootout in the orig­i­nal.

Did we men­tion the ti­tle game will make a lot of money?

A look at the three teams

aim­ing to join OU at AT&T Sta­dium on the first Satur­day in De­cem­ber: TCU: The Horned Frogs have the sim­plest path — beat bot­tom-feed­ers Texas Tech and Bay­lor and they’re in be­cause they hold the headto-head tiebreaker ad­van­tage over Oklahoma State and West Vir­ginia. Note of cau­tion: TCU is 1-4 in its last five trips to Lub­bock.

Oklahoma State: The Cow­boys fin­ish at home against Kansas State and Kansas. That shouldn’t be a prob­lem. How­ever, they also need TCU to lose one game. That’s a prob­lem.

West Vir­ginia: The Moun­taineers are a long shot. They have by far the tough­est re­main­ing sched­ule: home to Texas and at Oklahoma. They also are 0-2 in headto-heads against TCU and Oklahoma State.

May­field isn’t con­cerned about data points or what­ever re­match the Soon­ers have on Dec. 2. “You’re go­ing to get everybody’s best shot this late in the year, so we’ve got to be ready to bring ours, too,” he said.

Even if it’s once more than nec­es­sary.

Quar­ter­back Baker May­field says Soon­ers “haven’t hit our

peak yet” and are surg­ing at the right time of the sea­son.

SUE OGROCKI / AP

TCU and coach Gary Pat­ter­son have the inside track to the Big 12 cham­pi­onship game against Oklahoma: They can get in by beat­ing Texas Tech and Bay­lor.

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