Rebooting the Big 12 championship game was supposed to enhance the conference’s chances of placing a team in the College Football Playoff. The committee who selects the four teams apparently prefers having 13 data points – what everyone else calls “games” – to help make its choices.
The Big 12’s format will dictate a rematch of the top two teams who survive the nine-game round-robin schedule. That rematch could well knock out a deserving team as much as it could enhance their chances.
Another unintended consequence is that starting last Saturday, no Big 12 team will have a bye week. Adding the championship game on Dec. 2 removed a week from the schedule. It’s a seven-week version of “Survivor.” May the team that remains the healthiest win the title.
“I think you’re going to see the teams with depth really have an advantage,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said on this week’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “There’s enough really, really good football teams in the league that it’s going to be very competitive. There’s going to be physical games. Guys are going to get banged up. Guys are going to get tired.
“So we think it’s going to be a factor. I think it normally is, but it sets up this year to be a little bit more than most.”
The upside of the full schedule each Saturday for the rest of the season is that it’s the same situation for all 10 teams.
“As long as everybody else is doing the same thing, it’s a fair deal,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “I’ve always said the only thing that’s not fair about the scheduling is off weeks. When teams have two weeks not so much to prepare for you, but more they get a chance to rest their football team.
“We’re going to find out in the next six weeks if we can stay healthy. The biggest key for any team that’s trying to win a title is staying healthy, keeping the guys that you played at the beginning of the year with you at the end of the year.”
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has been around the Big 12 since 2000 and he says he’s never seen the league with better parity. Big, if true. And if true, not only does it mean the next six weeks should have plenty of intrigue, if key injuries become part of the mix the margins between teams will shrink.
TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the three Big 12 teams with the best remaining chances to reach the CFP. All three are playing at a high level and all are just a quarterback injury away from possibly having their seasons flushed.
“If we lose guys at the wrong positions, we can go from being a great offense to a good offense or a great defense to an average defense just based on personnel,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “That’s just the way it works.”
Late in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Red River Rivalry, Texas trailed by five and was attempting to complete a rally from an early 20-point deficit. On a scramble to his right, Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger was tackled along the sideline by OU’s Kenneth Murray. Replays showed Ehlinger’s head bouncing hard off the turf. (The Big 12 officiating crew did not call the ground for targeting.)
Team physician Dr. James Bray and athletic trainer Anthony Pass decided the Ehlinger had not suffered a concussion and he was cleared to return to the game after missing five plays. One qualified observer deduced that Ehlinger had suffered a concussion and should not have been allowed to return to the field.
Major media needs to make a bigger deal out of this – Editorial: Ignoring Texas QB Sam Ehlinger’s head trauma https://t.co/1PujX7Zlce
— Dr. Chris Nowinski (@ChrisNowinski1) October 16, 2017
“I wasn’t ever confused where I was at all,” Ehlinger said after the game according to The Associated Press. “It was a hard hit. My head hit the ground pretty hard. … I told them immediately I could go back in. I felt fine. They just took me into the tent to make sure everything was OK, go through the protocol and send me back out there.”
“When it comes to injuries, we do what the doctor tells us to and when he says he’s fine, he’s fine,” Texas coach Tom Herman told the Austin American-Statesman. “And then yeah, we followed up. He was cleared for practice (Sunday). He practiced and he feels great.”
Magic Mike, Stillwater Tour
The mullet. Rattle snake hunting. Wearing a singlet to promote the school’s iconic wrestling program. And now, Mike Gundy showed off his “I’m man, I’m 50” torso.
At Saturdays’ Hoops And Homecoming pep rally at Gallagher Iba Arena, Gundy was on the court along with senior quarterback Mason Rudolph. Gundy goaded Rudolph about firing up the crowd by taking his shirt off. He was reluctant until Gundy said he’d match the semi-strip tease.
He did. The crowd went wild. And Gundy has another viral video in his portfolio.
“Last night, one of my kids came into my office and said that, ‘You know you made face board (sic) or Snapchat,’ or whatever,” Gundy said. “I don’t know what it’s called. “He said, ‘You were right up there next to the Kardashians.’ I said, ‘Well, hell, I got it going on then. I’m better at that than I am coaching.’ ”
Gundy said there was a downside to showing off his dad bod.
“The only bad thing was when I got home, I got it,” Gundy said. “Kristen (his wife) said it made her throw up in her mouth a little bit. Which I understand.”
Not ready for prime time
TCU is favored by 37 1/2 points when it hosts Kansas Saturday. The Jayhawks have lost 43 consecutive road games and according to College Football Reference, the college record for consecutive road losses is 44 by Western (Colo.) State between 1926 and 1936. KU has lost five consecutive games by an average of 28.6 points and have been outscored 110-19 in its last two games.
So why in the name of Mother Pigskin is this game being televised in prime time by Fox? Not FS1 but Fox.
Derek Crocker, senior director of collegiate sports for FOX Sports, explained the odd choice to The Topeka Capital-Journal.
“For us, we obviously want top-ranked teams, interesting storylines,” he said. “We’d done some homework before going into this pick, knowing TCU and Kansas have played some fairly tight games the past few years.”
True enough, the Frogs haven’t beaten the Jayhawks by more than two touchdowns since TCU became a Big 12 member. Last year in Lawrence, the Frogs won by a point.
But Fox didn’t have any choice. It was like a pickup basketball game where the 10th player is the guy wearing white PF Flyers, black socks, swimming trunks and long-sleeve button-down shirt.
Fox and ESPN, the Big 12’s television partners, alternate selecting games each week for the three time slots. Fox had first pick this week and chose Oklahoma at Kansas State for its 3 p.m. telecast. ESPN then selected Oklahoma State-Texas for 11 a.m. To fill its prime-time spot, Fox had to choose between West Virginia at winless Baylor or Kansas-TCU.
Also, consider the competition and Fox figures to get road graded in the ratings no matter what. NBC is televising USC-Notre Dame and ABC has Michigan-Penn State.
From the stands to the field
Texas A&M has the 12th Man tradition. Baylor now has the legend of the Baylor Line, thanks to Jay Sedwick.
The Baylor Line is a pre-game tradition at Bears home games where the freshmen run on the field and form a human tunnel that the players run through to take the field. Sedwick, a freshman, was among those racing across the McLane Stadium turf before the season opener on Sept. 2. Then, last Saturday in Stillwater, he found himself kicking off for Baylor. He recorded two touchbacks on six kicks and also had a tackle in kick coverage.
The Bears lost punter/kickoff specialist Drew Galitz to an ACL injury on Sept. 30 at Kansas State. The team held tryouts to fill the kickoff void and Sedwick went from sitting in the stands to handling Baylor’s kickoff chores. Saturday when the Bears face West Virginia, he’ll be running through the tunnel of students instead of being part of the tunnel.
Three and out
- Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield completed all six of his passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield against Texas. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that’s tied for the most such completions in an FBS game this season. Mayfield leads FBS in completion percentage (72.7) and passing efficiency (207.3). Last season he set the NCAA single-season record for passing efficiency of 196.38.
- According to Pro Football Focus, Oklahoma freshman running back Trey Sermon is the most-elusive running back in the Big 12. On 90 touches, he has forced 33 missed tackles for an elusiveness rating of 150.8. Sermon leads the Sooners with 469 yards rushing.
- Oklahoma State senior wide receiver James Washington has 12 receptions of 30-plus yards, the most in FBS. He padded that stat Saturday against Baylor when he had four catches of 40-plus yards. He finished with six catches for 235 yards. He and teammate Marcell Atemen each have four consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose team has risen from unranked in the preseason to No. 4 in this week’s rankings:
“Greatness always happens somewhere where hard work and dreams meet. Before the season, you did your dreaming. Now you need to do the hard work. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Kansas State receiver Dalton Schoen on the message senior quarterback Jesse Ertz had for his teammates this week:
“He said, ‘Before the season we were a nationally-ranked team, a team to be feared, a team with a ton of talent. We’re still that team.’ “
Texas Tech faces Iowa State and quarterback turned linebacker Joel Lanning. Red Raiders coach and former QB Kliff Kingsbury was asked if he could have played linebacker in college:
“I would have just been a fraternity guy because I wouldn’t have done that.”
Wendell Barnhouse has spent more than four decades covering sports, including 25 years at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where he served as the paper’s national college football and basketball writer. Wendell has covered 15 national title games and 22 Final Fours. From 2008 to 2015 he served as web site correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.