football-fbs flag | December 1, 2014

Head to Head: Non-conference champ in CFP?

  The Big 12 is the only power five conference that does not have a title game.

Each week Head to Head debates the biggest topics in college football. This week, with the end of the regular season for most and the conference championship matchups set, our panel debates whether or not a team could still fight for college football's newest crown and not win its respective conference.

There will be a conference with two representatives in the College Football Playoffs, but it won’t be from the conference that many consider to be the best in the nation.  It will be from the conference that has provided the nation with some of the most entertaining football of the year.

That would be Big 12, and the two schools that knock out either Florida State or Oregon will be TCU and Baylor.

The selection committee has given the Horned Frogs a great deal of respect since the first CFP rankings were released on Oct. 28. TCU opened at No. 7 and have climbed as high as fourth. Baylor is currently at No. 7 and will certainly jump a few spots when the committee releases the next poll on Tuesday.

Both Baylor and TCU have an identical record and if both teams win next Saturday, they will finish the regular season with the same number of losses. TCU has played one of the stronger non-conference schedules in the Big 12 and has more Top 25 wins, including a victory against No. 18 Minnesota. But Baylor holds the trump card against TCU -- the Bears defeated the Horned Frogs 61-58 in one of the most exciting games of the season.

Since the Big 12 doesn’t hold a championship game, the league would technically recognize them as co-champions. So what would the committee do in such a case?

“Well if they are co-champions, some way we will have to determine who the champion is, and if the conference itself doesn’t determine that, then the committee will be left having to determine that themselves,” committee chairman Jeff Long told ESPN radio in Dallas on Nov. 19. “And then head-to-head is certainly one way that we could do that. … I think we would prefer that the conference name their champion.”

Ultimately the decision will be made by the committee; it is their decision. Let’s hope they make the correct one and make sure the offensive fireworks go off during the College Football Playoffs.

-- Craig Thomas,


There may be a year when a team makes a four-team playoff without being a conference champion. This is not that year.

To sufficiently answer this question, we need to go through each of the teams currently in the running for a playoff. We’ll start with Alabama, the top team in the CFP rankings each of the past two weeks. Alabama is the one threat to possibly lose this week and still make the playoff but I don’t think that will be something Alabama will have to worry about. I’d be surprised if the SEC championship game is close. Alabama wins, and will be the top seed in the playoff. As for the rest of the SEC -- it beat up on itself too much for its own good.

Next, let’s look at Oregon. Obviously, if the Ducks win, they’re in. But this is where things change a little -- if Oregon loses the Pac-12 championship game to Arizona, which would be its second of the season to the Wildcats, I don’t see any way Oregon would get into the playoff before the team that beat it twice this season. Arizona would then join the line of teams waiting, hoping for others to lose in order to work its way in. Whatever happens on Friday, the loser is out of the picture.

Then comes Florida State. Despite being undefeated, the Seminoles find themselves in a precarious situation. With a plethora of close wins and a lack of convincing ones, those who doubt their place in this discussion are waiting to pounce with a potential loss in the ACC championship game. Florida State is another team that is a lock with a win, but like Oregon, I see the Noles being out with a loss. After the committee compares résumés, a one-loss Big 12 champion or Ohio State could be ready to step in their place.

TCU now sits in the fourth and final playoff spot, but that is by no means a secure platform to stand on. Much has been made of the Horned Frogs’ place above Baylor, a team it lost to earlier this season. Right now, TCU, Baylor and Kansas State all still have a shot at the Big 12 title, with the conference not having a championship game. Baylor takes it with a win, TCU takes it with a win and Baylor loss to Kansas State, and the Wildcats need a win and TCU to lose to Iowa State. The most likely scenario I see here is both Baylor and TCU winning, which would give the Bears the title of conference champion. I think that label would be enough to push them past the Horned Frogs in the rankings.

And if these teams lose, Ohio State could be the one waiting to take advantage. Granted, the Buckeyes will be without breakout star quarterback J.T. Barrett, but finishing the season on an 11-game win streak would impress some voters. Ohio State’s alive with a win, out with a loss, and Wisconsin would still be out with a win.

In all, I don’t see any big surprises happening this weekend. So my projected playoff is complete with all conference champions: Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Baylor.

-- Eric Vander Voort,

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