Wednesday, December 3

Big 12: Championship Week, BCS Scenerios

The Big 12 Championship Game

The 2008 Big 12 Championship features two teams with equal or lesser records as the Texas Longhorns, an 0-2 record against Texas with average margin of defeat 17.5 points, and a lower ranking than Texas in both the AP and Harris polls. (OU led Texas by one point in the Coaches poll) I'm not going to pretend not to be bitter about this, and I'll feel no shame in flagrantly rooting against the conference representative in a potentially image-redefining BCS Championship should Oklahoma go. With that said, let's talk about the upcoming game in Kansas City.

Oklahoma enters this game red-hot, especially on the offensive side. Since being held to 35 points by Texas, Oklahoma has averaged 59.5 points per game. Their 53.3 ppg for the season is the highest by any team during the BCS era. It's no stretch to say that we are looking at one of the best college offenses in the last ten years, and their performance in the next two games could vault the unit into the all-time discussion. Sam Bradford has thrown for a ridiculous 340 ypg, 191.0 QB rating, and 46:6 ratio. Counting a few runs, he has scored 51 TDs. Demarco Murray has eclipsed 1000 rushing yards and Chris Brown is just 12 yards away from accomplishing the same feat.

Defensively, Oklahoma has issues. The unit ranks 61st in scoring defense, and you have to remember that 2007 LSU is the only team ever to win a BCS Championship Game with a defense ranked outside of the top 10 in scoring (as I noted, if we take away overtime points then they were something like 6th in scoring). That could be an issue in a month. This weekend, though, Oklahoma is more than capable of beating Missouri by simply outgunning the Tigers' offense.

Missouri's offense is no slouch either, coming in ranked 4th in scoring at 45 ppg. Chase Daniel has struggled with consistency issues, but at the end of the day still has a 168.5 rating and a 34:13 ratio. The Tigers are trying to run the ball better this year, averaging 165 ypg on the ground, but their identity is still in the passing game. Jeremy Maclin has developed into one of the nation's top receivers - despite a decline in his special teams produection - and Chase Coffman has stepped up to be a premiere tight end, averaging 87 ypg in receptions.

Missouri's defense has also been porous, 59th in scoring and barely holding opposing offenses under 400 ypg. This is their ranking despite not facing Oklahoma or Texas Tech during the regular season! We saw them give up 40 points last week to Kansas, a team which has struggled in 2008 after an outstanding 2007. There is really little chance that this unit will fare much better against the Sooners than their other recent opposition has.

All-in-all, Missouri will probably get 1-3 defensive stops in this game, at least up until the point where the game's outcome is no longer in doubt. The Missouri offense will have to perform nearly flawlessly for them to have a chance to win -- something that looked possible at the beginning of the season, but simply hasn't materialized on the field. Chase Daniel will need to cut down on the mistakes and play like the ~80% passer he was in September for the Tigers to even have a chance in this one.

BCS Scenerios

There are two BCS scenerios for the Big 12:

If Oklahoma defeats Missouri
* Oklahoma faces the SEC Champion in the BCS Championship
* Texas plays in the Fiesta Bowl

If Missouri defeats Oklahoma
* Texas faces the SEC Champion in the BCS Championship
* Missouri plays in the Fiesta Bowl

Couldn't a Florida upset of Alabama lead to a Texas vs Oklahoma BCS Rematch?

Some sportswriters are propagating this theory, which is just ludicrous. The idea is that if OU beats Missouri and Florida beats Alabama, Texas and Florida will finish neck-and-neck in the voter polls while Texas wins the bulk of the computer polls. This is wrong for two reasons:

It won't be close in the voter polls. Florida has been *annihilating* every team they've faced since mid October. Not only outscoring them (like Oklahoma) but doing that while also shutting down the opposing offense. It's been downright scary. The only knock on Florida is the lack of a truly marquee win - marquee on the level that Texas beating Oklahoma or Oklahoma beating Texas Tech was marquee. Giving Alabama their only loss in the conference championship would give the Gators that quality win, and rightly propel them into the top two of the voter polls.

Realize that Oklahoma just jumped ahead of Texas in the computer polls after defeating Oklahoma State, and despite having lost to Texas. (so any gain in OU's ratings boosted the Texas ratings) Florida would get a much larger boost from beating Alabama, and additionally that's not doing anything to help Texas' ratings. Realistically, Florida will be ahead of Texas in at least three of the computer polls if they defeat Alabama. I'd bet on them being ahead in four or five.

The SEC Champion is going to the BCS title game.

Couldn't a Missouri win lead to the Big 12 not getting into the BCS Championship?

Why? Because Texas isn't "conference champion" and the team that would be, Missouri, is clearly not one of the top two teams in the country?

The conference champion argument ultimately boils down to the idea that conference champion = best team. For example, if 2001 Colorado was the B12 Champion, then if they weren't good enough to play in the BCS championship, it must be true that teams who are worse than them (Nebraska) weren't good enough either. On some level, that argument works if you buy into Colorado's close rematch win over Texas making them the better team, or for that matter if you consider Colorado's win over Nebraska not an upset despite their records. I'm not going to discuss the 2001 Big 12 though; in the 2008 season, clearly, Missouri is not the best team (or even a top 3 team) in the Big 12. If they win it will truly be an upset, like Iowa beating Penn State or Oregon State beating USC. The only difference will be that Missouri's upset took place in a game that negates the regular season.

For Oklahoma, that's of little consolation. It would be the Sooners' second loss, which alone makes them less deserving than a team like USC. But for Texas, voters will rationalize that the Big 12 Conference simply dropped the ball and invited the wrong team to represent the South. After all, Texas easily defeated Missouri by 25 points in October in a surprisingly one-sided game. They defeated Oklahoma by 10. They lost one game on a last-second bomb to the end zone. The voters already felt that Texas was more deserving than Oklahoma, but their vote was so close that the computers were able to overturn it. A Missouri upset makes Texas the de-facto best team in the conference.

What about the numbers? Texas, Utah, Texas Tech, and Penn State are all idle. There is no reason for the voters to swap teams based on that, and obviously the computers will not swap any of those teams while they are not playing. USC? They're a solid 2-3 spots behind Texas in the voter polls, and 6 spots behind in the computer average! Playing a terrible UCLA team who just allowed ASU's defense to score four touchdowns is just not going to give them the massive boost they'd need to overtake Texas.

The closest possibility is a Florida-Alabama rematch if Florida wins. But the voters would probably be more opposed to this than to sending Texas to the BCS Championship, and on top of that Alabama already trails Texas in the computer polls; a loss would only inflate that margin.

If Oklahoma loses this Saturday, Texas is in.