Kevin Haskin: If Big 12 balance again prevails, CFP berth again unlikely

Not much CFP chairman can say to help league if contenders stumble

Kenny Hill and No. 6 TCU are the Big 12’s best hope to reach the College Football Playoff, but the undefeated Horned Frogs may need to run the table to secure a spot. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

Earlier this week, one Big 12 coach challenged the conference’s representative on the College Football Playoff committee.

 

As chairman of that panel, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt can influence minds.

At least that’s what Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy asserted.

“It’s easier to get into the playoff if you’re undefeated. We all know that,’’ Gundy reasoned, quite accurately. “How the committee sees our league this year will be different, in my opinion, than it has in the last few years. If Kirby’s worth his salt at all, he should get that accomplished in that committee.’’

The charge for the committee, however, is to judge teams, and the leagues they play in, without bias. Take that for what it’s worth, though Hocutt, the former Kansas State linebacker, would presumably be drummed out of the room for too much grandstanding.

The Big 12 needs an advocate, but it must be in the form of a clearly superior team.

At this point, TCU is that club, but the Horned Frogs must avoid the pitfalls of parity.

Last week, Iowa State went into Oklahoma and looked fearlessly efficient rallying for its first win in Norman since 1990.

Such upsets make for headlines, highlights and happy dances.

None of that clamor, however, is what the Big 12 needs while attempting to crack the playoff.

League balance is a characteristic commissioner Bob Bowlsby heralded at the conference’s football media days in July.

Criticism of Big 12 football, Bowlsby said, “gets a little tiresome because I know we play at a very high level and I know that top to bottom we’re the best in the country in terms of balance.’’

Balance, however, is not the stuff helmet stickers commemorate.

Or, more importantly, a data point the 13 members of the CFP panel typically choose to highlight.

The four-team playoff is so restrictive — too much so, though change is not in the forecast — that it cannot incorporate champions from each Power Five conference, let alone include a Group of Five darkhorse.

An eight-game playoff would allow the points made by Gundy and Bowlsby a chance for traction.

Big 12 perfection looks unlikely this year. Through two weeks, only Texas and TCU remain undefeated in league play and only the No. 6 Horned Frogs remain flawless overall.

At this point, no team in the country can really concentrate on their playoff hopes or else distractions will trip them up.

Also, there is this little matter of a championship game the Big 12 will renew in December.

So if TCU happens to keep rolling and is in position to reach the CFP, an opponent will be waiting at JerryWorld to thwart that possibility. On the flip side, maybe Oklahoma runs the table until then and can use the championship game as a platform to still make the playoff.

“It’s cool, but it’s a long way to go,’’ TCU quarterback Kenny Hill told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We’ve played five games. We’ve still got another seven and hopefully eight. It’s a long way to go.’’

The stretch for TCU includes an 11 a.m. game Saturday at Kansas State.

Bill Snyder has not coached a home win against a Top 10 opponent since K-State toppled No. 4 Nebraska in 2000. Anyone who wants to use that stat to assure TCU another victory, however, missed out on the lesson Iowa State delivered last week.

Upsets could, and probably will, happen a few more times in league play.

If so, good luck to Chairman Hocutt touting the Big 12 to the CFP committee.

Contact Kevin Haskin at kevin.haskin@cjonline.com or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.

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