There is only ONE Oklahoma

Monday, December 01, 2008

All roads in the Big 12 South lead to.........

Three teams tied for the Big 12 South Division Championship in 2008. Shiny, new trophies now reside in Norman, Austin and Lubbock. Lubbock? Yes Lubbock, where Texas Tech claims just as much of the crown as Oklahoma and Texas. All are 7-1.

You remember Texas Tech. After 10 games and back-to-back wins over Oklahoma State and Texas, the Red Raiders were 10-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation. The college football world was all awash with Tech's high-powered offense and obviously improved defense, and for good reason.

Then OU happened. Tech ran into a buzz saw on Owen Field and lost by 44 points. Mike Leach's program went from belle of the ball to the alternate at an eight-year-old's birthday party. Talk of Tech vanished faster than Michael Crabtree's short jaunt into the end zone, and the reasons for that aren't pretty.

Yet call up Big12Sports.com and there Tech remains, tied atop the Big 12 South and part of this triangle that has everybody's diastolic number well north of 100. PR campaigns aside, Tech is and must be part of the discussion. Tech is just as tied as Oklahoma and Texas.

Ties in sports were made to be broken, NFL games and at least one past MLB All-Star game notwithstanding. When available, the best way to break ties is through head to head match-ups although a quick look through the NCAA basketball bracket will reveal teams in the tourney that were beaten by teams that were left out. Still, head-to-head works pretty well until three teams tie, and each of the teams can claim a victory over one of the other three, but not both.

So here we sit, trying to find a South team to go to Kansas City for the Big 12 title game, and staring squarely into the eyes of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Let's talk about the BCS as a tie-breaker.

You can hate the BCS if you choose and Lord knows a lot of people do. But the fact remains that the BCS is the system we use to determine the participants for the national championship game and the most lucrative bowls.

When each college football season commences, the six BCS conferences have two clearly defined goals: 1) Get two teams into BCS games and, 2) Get one of the teams into the national championship game.

And that is why the Big 12 Conference implemented a tie-breaker plank that includes the BCS. Some want to argue that it doesn't belong, but like most arguments against the BCS or even a playoff, it is impossible to look at the circumstances in any one particular year, and think that a remedy for this season would necessarily work in subsequent years. Here's why.

Let's say that OU, UT and TTU all were tied just as they are now, but that instead of OU and UT holding down the Nos. 2 and 3 spots in the BCS they held down Nos. 2 and 4, respectively, with USC sitting at No. 3.

Now, if you're the Big 12 and you're in that scenario, which tie-breaker makes the most sense? Do you want to dislodge Oklahoma and forfeit a potential spot in the national title game? Of course not.

But ignoring precedent we're now getting a plethora of other tie-breaking suggestions, including one that recommends a point differential. For Heaven's sake, in the attempt to perfect a system let's not forfeit sportsmanship.

Remember the fallout from Oklahoma's 77-0 win a few years ago. What if that score had been 90-0 in the interest of breaking a tie? Think for a moment about the ugliness of a road team, already up by four or five touchdowns, punching in another as time expires.

And what about teams that win with defense rather than a high-powered offense. Is 60-20 more valuable than 35-0? I guess a point differential could be capped ala the NFL, but in college ball would that really solve anything?

Question the BCS all you want, but as long as the BCS is here, you can't question tie-breakers that are pointed in that direction.

Now, what you can question is posturing, politicking, etc. As an Accounting professional, I am all for advocacy and holding a standard while putting the best foot forward, and to be sure, OU did those things. But when one team goes to a rival's stadium to face a rival that is unbeaten at home and ranked No. 11/12 nationally, and wins by 20 points, then falls in the human polls, the human element has taken a turn that raises a lot of questions.

Tell you what, get on Google and find me the instances in which a ranked team has beaten another ranked team under those same circumstances and then dropped in the polls. It's not unprecedented but it is rare on rare.

Bottom line is this … three teams tied for the Big 12 South championship. Three. That tie is being broken in a manner that best maximizes a system, whether it's flawed or not, that determines college football's highest honor.

Here's to hoping that the process can play out with professionalism and the high road still intact.


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