The Big Ten’s decision to reverse itself and allow its member schools to play in the fall is probably good for college football, but the same cannot be said for Oklahoma football.
The idea of two major conferences opting out of playing college football this fall is unprecedented and clearly would dilute the quality of the product for what is always a large television viewing audience, not too mention passionate fans in those college communities who elected to sit on the sidelines because of the nationwide threat posed by COVID-19.
Now that the Big 12 presidents and chancellors have reconsidered the risks and benefits of allowing college football in the fall instead of delaying until spring, it levels the competitive playing field and potentially makes it harder to be one of the last four standing when it comes time to select the four teams that make it into the College Football Playoff.
It is unclear whether the Pac-12 Conference will follow the lead of the Big 12 and reverse its no-play decision as the first of the Power Five leagues to opt out of playing football this fall.
Teams in the Big 12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference have already begun the 2020 season, and the Southeastern Conference will kick off its fall conference-only schedule on Sept. 26. The Big Ten has announced that its fall football schedule will kick off on Oct. 24, a full month later than teams in the Big 12 and ACC.
Big Ten teams will reportedly play eight games, four at home and four on the road. Although Big Ten officials believe it can finish the regular-season schedule and crown a champion in time for the College Football Playoff, which is scheduled to begin at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on Friday, Jan. 1, the inclusion of one or more Big Ten teams in this season’s College Football Playoff would still require approval from the CFP playoff management committee, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg and Heather Dinich.
What this potentially means for Oklahoma and the rest of the Big 12 is that winning the conference championship may not be enough to assure a spot as one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff. With just three of the Power Five Conferences participating in fall football, the Big 12 champion would virtually be assured a Playoff spot.
But with four of the five or all five of the major conferences included in the competitive mix, it would be like it has been most of the time since the first season the CFP format was introduced in 2014, with conference champions holding more weight than non-champions, but not a guarantee to earn a Playoff selection.
The Big Ten’s shorter season (with only eight games) will be a prime point of contention among the other conference representatives on the 10-member Playoff management committee, which includes commissioner Bob Bowlsby of the Big 12, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and John Swofford, commissioner of the ACC.
The Big Ten schedule may not be the only subject of debate, however. What if a COVID outbreak causes Clemson, Alabama or the Big 12 champion to complete just six or eight games? That clearly would change the discussion concerning the Big Ten, but the other conferences, as well.
Oklahoma is the favorite of most college football experts and publications to win the Big 12 for a sixth consecutive season, but Texas and Oklahoma State appear equally strong this season and pose the biggest title challenge to the Sooners.
Memo to the Sooners:
"“Worry about winning the Big 12 first, and everything else will take care of itself.”"