Dodging a Big 12 bullet

It appears that OU will finish around #9 in the November 28 BCS rankings, and OSU will finish somewhere around #14. Under the "it comes down to the BCS rankings" message we've heard all week, this means OU will be the Big 12 South representative in the Big 12 Championship game. Go Sooners!

There's only one problem here: it should never get to the fifth tie-breaker. There is in fact a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South, but the Sooners win it long before that.

The scary part? The Big 12 doesn't seem to understand that.

This story about the "5th tie-breaker" that circulated all week came from the Big 12 Conference itself, and was detailed in its :

Should Texas A&M defeat Texas and Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State, the South will finish in a three-way tie as the Aggies, the Sooners and the Cowboys would each be 6-2 with a loss to one another and a loss to a North opponent. Therefore, none of the other tiebreaker steps would be applicable until Step 5 of 7 [...]

The problem is that the actual Big 12 tie-breaking procedure says something quite different:

If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 7 will be followed until a determination is made. If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.

  1. The records of the three teams will be compared against each other
  2. The records of the three teams will be compared within their division


In the situation described in the press release—which is what came to pass—OU and OSU finished 10-2, and Texas A&M finished 9-3. Step 1 means just what it says: compare the records of the teams. Not the conference records, because that's how we got a tie in the first place. Not the division records, because that's clearly step 2.

The plain English meaning of the procedure requires comparing the overall records of the three teams with identical conference records. Texas A&M falls out at this point, leaving only OU and OSU tied. Then, by rule, the South division representative in the championship game is the winner of the game between OU and OSU. This was obviously OU, and if it hadn't been, none of this would have mattered anyway.

Since OU will finish far ahead of OSU in the November 28 BCS rankings, this is kind of academic, but it's still pretty scary: had something gone strangely and OSU finished two spots ahead of OU in the BCS rankings, and if the Big 12 believes its own press releases (and you'll notice that no conference officials bothered to correct the thousands of media repetitions 'explaining' the tie-breaker this past week), then they would have invited OSU to the championship game.

In other words, there are only two possibilities here:

  1. The Big 12 does not understand its own tie-breaking procedure, or
  2. Step #1 of the three-way tie-breaker does not mean what it plainly means in English.

I wonder if everyone just instantly flashed back to 2008, when OU, Texas, and Texas Tech had identical division (4-1), conference (7-1), and overall (11-1) records, and just jumped to the conclusion that this was the same scenario. It was never the same: A&M lost to OSU, Nebraska, and Arkansas. Plus, it's always been common sense that overall record comes into play at some point before "let's ask the BCS," but no one seems to have noticed this.

And that's the scariest part of all: ever since the November 20 games finished, the tie-breaker very clearly and plainly worked out to "the winner of the OU-OSU game wins the Big 12 South division," and no one seemed to notice (unless I missed it on here). Either that, or as noted, the listed tie-breaker procedure is wrong or written in code.

None of these is particularly encouraging. The Sooners are just lucky that this wasn't a 5th-down-in-Missouri style train wreck.

FanPost are for the voice of the fan and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Crimson and Cream Machine administrators.

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