Analysis

College Football Playoff: Big 12 hurt by lack of conference title game

Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU fail to make the cut for the first College Football Playoff

You could see the pieces coming together Saturday night.

The Big 12 toxic triangle started to form when Florida State and Baylor pulled away for wins against Georgia Tech and Kansas State.

Meanwhile, Ohio State was crushing Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

The College Football Playoff Committee suddenly had a way to solve its "Baylor-Texas Christian" problem. 

The decision seemed clear: The Big 12 was going to get left out of the playoff.

And that's exactly what happened Sunday morning, when the first four teams in the first four-team playoff became Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State.

Baylor, in the end, won the "head-to-head" battle against Texas Christian, but that only meant fifth place for Baylor and sixth for TCU.  

The lack of a Big 12 title game ultimately hurt the conference, as did the league's inability to even pick a champion.

Committee chairman Jeff Long said the decision to leave the Big 12 out was "really about Ohio State," but he also said of the Big 12 "we were faced with co-champions, and that's what was given to us by the conference."

With two one-loss teams in the playoff mix, the Big 12 decided to play both sides to protect TCU and Baylor.

It backfired. The conference that had boasted "One True Champion" as its motto, because it was the only major league to play a full, round-robin schedule, ended up with "no true champion."

The committee was able to uneasily squirm out of its poorly conceived decision last week to rank TCU at No. 3. That was three spots higher than Baylor, which defeated TCU, 61-58, in Big 12 play.

Long explained to ESPN immediately afterward that, actually, there was little gap separating TCU, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor.

Long said they were really "Three, A-B-C and D."

Baylor Coach Art Briles, after his team's win over Kansas State, bristled at the league's decision to present TCU and Baylor as "co-champions."

"Don't say one thing and do another," he said.

In the end, Big 12 in-fighting left us with "Four True Champions" and two, compelling, semifinal games.

Alabama will play Ohio State in the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl, a matchup of coaches Nick Saban and Urban Meyer, who sparred for many years when Meyer was coaching at Florida.

The Rose Bowl is Oregon vs. Florida State, a matchup of last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota, this year's presumptive winner.

The committee resisted the urge to pair Oregon and Ohio State in a traditional Rose Bowl game.

The Big 12 is left to lick its wounds, most self-inflicted, and to start preparing for a 2015 season that the league may want to conclude with a conference title game.

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