In the first year of the College Football Playoff, it was pretty clear for College Football betting lines fans that the lack of a championship game in the Big 12 cost TCU or Baylor a shot in the final four positions. Baylor beat TCU during the 2014 season, but then West Virginia beat Baylor. The Big 12 had marketed its round-robin format (with ten teams, the conference was not large enough to host a championship game) to produce their motto “One True Champion.”
An NCAA Football Odds Analysis On How should the Big 12 Expand?
Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby says expansion will be considered if conference championship deregulation doesn’t pass. https://t.co/WTac2BX7nv
— Brandon Helwig (@UCFSports) December 7, 2015
As the 2014 season came to a close, the fact that TCU was ranked higher in the CFP standings motivated the Big 12 to crown the TCU Horned Frogs the Big 12 co-champions. Later that afternoon, the other “co-champion” was Baylor who beat Kansas State. However, the original terms of the conference schedule still meant that Baylor would have been the champions by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker. The nonsense that the Big 12 made out of this was likely one reason why the CFP put both TCU and Baylor out of the top four and added Ohio State — who ended up winning the whole thing.
This year, the fact that Oklahoma managed to make it through the three-game gauntlet of TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State with three consecutive wins made the Big 12 champs a relatively easy pick to get into the top four, particularly since the Pac-12 champion, Stanford, had two losses on the season. However, if the Pac-12 champion had only had one loss, that could have caused a real stir, as you would have had all five conferences with champions with zero or one loss — with only four spots to fill. This is why there are calls every year for the Big 12 to expand to an actual 12 teams, so that the conference can host a championship game and give its winner that extra win — and another quality win to impress the CFP committee.
So who should the Big 12 add?
Here are some suggestions that would get the Big 12 large enough to have its own conference title game without a waiver:
University of Houston: They just won the AAC title, knocking off Temple in the conference championship game. They just locked up their head coach for five seasons, and if the Big 12 added the Cougars, he would be less likely to jump to a Power 5 conference school — because he’d already be at one. The Cougars began improving under Kevin Sumlin (now at Texas A&M) and have continued that climb.
Cincinnati: This is a team that is competitive every year in football and basketball, another sport in which the Big 12 considers itself a major player. Cincinnati has a BCS bowl appearance in its past on the basis of a Big East championship.
Southern Methodist: It’s true that the Mustangs need to grow under head coach Chad Morris. They showed some growth this year, hanging within five points of TCU in the fourth quarter and showing offensive dynamism a year after June Jones’ departure left this team empty in terms of recruiting. In basketball, SMU is already a top-25 team that looks to continue its success under coach Larry Brown.
Because the Big 12 got Oklahoma into the CFP this year, it’s likely that they will push expansion talk down the road. However, it will probably only take one more year like last year, when size keeps them out, before the talk heats up again.