I was reading David Ubben’s Big 12 notebook yesterday (if you don’t follow him, you really should) about the Big 12’s decision not the divide the conference into two divisions, and how it could regret that decision. I was reminded of Bob Bowlsby’s insistence that the league would do everything in it’s power to prevent the doomsday scenario of two teams meeting in the newly formed conference championship game a week after playing. That got me to thinking; will the Big 12 move Bedlam?
In two weeks, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will face off to determine the winner of the Big 12. This will be the second year in a row, and the fourth time in the last six seasons that the conference title has been decided by Bedlam. It’s also the second year in a row that the Sooners and Cowboys would have met in a regular season finale, and then faced off again a week later in the Big 12 Championship game. It’s the doomsday scenario everyone predicted when the league announced that it would NOT split the conference into two 5-team division when the championship game returned in 2017.
Granted, since the Big 12 dropped to 10 teams, the back-to-back scenario has only happened twice; 2015 and 2016. That’s two times in six years. It might not happen again for another five years, but it will happen. Twice in six years in 33 percent. That’s a higher percentage than I think conference officials would like.
Going back to Bowlsby’s insistence that the Big 12 would do everything in it’s power to prevent two teams facing off two weeks in a row, we have to ask: What is the best solution for the league?
Here’s the concern I have ... Will the league look at which teams have been most successful and attempt to not schedule them in match-ups late in the season? Is the best way to avoid OU and OSU meeting two weeks in a row to have them play early?
I realize that there is no way to predict which teams are going to end the season with the best records. We all thought TCU and Baylor would contend for the title, and look how their seasons have turned out. Did anyone really think West Virginia would be in the mix this year? There is no way to predict who will No. 1 and No. 2 in the league standings, but you can play the odds. Kyle Porter over at PFB did a little #research and found which teams have played in the most “defacto title-games” since the league went to 10 teams
Maybe OU and OSU won’t be as good next year. Maybe Mayfield, Mixon, Rudolph, and Washington will all head to the NFL. Maybe TCU will turn things around. Maybe Baylor will get a new coach and get right back to winning. Maybe West Virginia will get better and contend again.
Here’s where I go back to Ubben’s notebook: On Saturday, league commissioner Bob Bowlsby told reporters that the 2017 schedule should be out “any day”. That likely means sometime in the next couple weeks. That mean’s the league isn’t waiting to find out which players are declaring for the draft.
So if you’re building a schedule to prevent having two teams play in back-to-back weeks, and you don’t know what teams will look like next season, are you not going to try and base the schedule off history? I don’t think the Big 12 can take the chance that OU and OSU won’t be the top contenders for the title again next season.
Personally, I love ending the season with Bedlam. I realize sometimes it would be nice to play OU before they get rolling, but I like watching the two in-state rivals clashing over Thanksgiving weekend or in a defacto league-title game on the final week of the season. I’m not saying a September Bedlam game wouldn’t be fun, but isn’t it more exciting to have the two teams on a roll leading to the end of the season, and having Bedlam mean something like it was the last two years?
I don’t know what’s going to happen, and maybe I’m way off base, but based on those PFB numbers, the uncertainty of OSU and OU’s rosters next season, and the fact that the league schedule could be released today, I think we can expect an early season Bedlam next year, and maybe for awhile.