Undefeated or Bust for the Big 12

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The BCS is but a distant memory, and the next era of college football is right around the corner. For the first time ever there will be a playoff to decide the National Champion, and it will be more controversial than the BCS ever was.

A new dawn is upon college football, complete with a new trophy and all. Who plays for the National Championship will no longer be decided by two human polls, and six computers. Instead, a thirteen person selection committee of esteemed athletes, scholars, and journalist will decide who makes the four team playoff for the title.

It's a system Big 12 fans may not be too thrilled with come January.

As long as there's five power conferences (and the outside threat of a "BCS  buster" (Playoff Party Pooper?) or an AAC team possibly knocking on the door) someone is almost always going to be left on the outside looking in.

This year, that someone is likely to be the Big 12 Champion. To realize that, all we have to do is look at who's in.

The problem with a team like Baylor at the conference helm, is that the rest of the nation believes they're just a bunch of smoke and mirrors. A notion Oklahoma State only helped reinforce last season.

The first spot is easy, the SEC Champion. I really shouldn't need to explain this. However intolerable their dominance over college football has been, it's equally undeniable.

The next spot will go to Florida State. Provided they finish the year with only one loss. The reigning National Champion will be taking the field with more future NFL talent than anyone else in the country. If they take care of business, they're in.

The PAC 12 is the early favorite for that third spot.  By the time the season is over they could arguably be the best conference in college football. If either Oregon, USC, UCLA or Stanford can escape with one loss, the selection committee won't be able to deny them a spot.

The final team to receive a party invitation will be the Big Ten winner.  The conference looks to be a meat grinder. Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin will all be in the mix, but with Braxton Miller returning to Ohio State, the Buckeyes are the early favorites to take home conference hardware and earn a chance at the National Title.

It's that simple. The Big 12 just isn't good enough right now to make an argument for supplanting one of those seats.

All hope isn't necessarily lost for the Big 12, but if the conference wants to punch their ticket in, it has to get better. Specifically Texas. Whenever the Longhorns are down, the whole conference is perceived to be down. It doesn't really matter what anyone else does if Texas isn't living up to their pedigree.

The problem with a team like Baylor at the conference helm, is that the rest of the nation believes they're just a bunch of smoke and mirrors. A notion Oklahoma State only helped reinforce last season. Oklahoma's destruction of Alabama helped an otherwise disastrous year for the Big 12 reputation, but Baylor's fall to UCF showed that the conference as a whole is much weaker than years past.

The Big 12 could also use some big wins in non-conference play. The good news is there's plenty of opportunity to make some waves. Nine Big 12 schools (all but Baylor) have a non-conference opponent in a power five conference on the schedule. Here's hoping Oklahoma State pulls off what would surely become known as "the miracle in Dallas", Dana Holorsen manages to down enough Redbull to roll back the Crimson Tide, or Gus Malzahn and company gets Snydered in Manhattan. Any of the three happens, and it puts the conference back on the map in a big way.

The Big 12's best chance to sneak in though, is if the PAC 12 or Big Ten cannibalizes themselves. Both conferences are going to be exceedingly difficult to win. If either one has a two-loss champion it just might open the door enough to let the Big 12 through.

No matter how you slice it though, there will be plenty of drama around the fourth and fifth place bubble.

If you think the answer is moving to an eight team, sixteen team, or even a thirty-two team playoff, don't hold your breath. An expanded playoff isn't coming anytime soon.

"Our goal with the BCS going into this was to maintain the best regular season in sports," Bill Hancock said at SEC Media Days. "We've done that with the playoff. Four teams is not too many, and it's not too far. It goes just far enough."

There will always be a bubble no matter where you put it. College football is better when every game matters. It just is.

The system might be new, but in the end it's the same for the Big 12. Lose and you're out. The Big 12 Champion must go undefeated, and even then, for a team like Baylor it might not be enough. Sooner Nation seems convinced that Oklahoma is going to the National Title game. If that's the case they're going to need a big dose of Sooner Magic, some help from Texas, and stumble or two at the top of the rankings wouldn't hurt either.

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