A bright future for Big 12 football


A year and a half ago, the future of the Big 12 was in jeopardy. News broke that Texas and Oklahoma were going to leave the conference and head to the SEC. While schools have come and gone over the years, none of them have been as big as Texas or Oklahoma.

While the conference was left scrambling, many folks in the media thought that the end of the Big 12 Conference was near. Instead, they went out and added four new schools with BYU, Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF to help stabilize the conference.
 
Fast forward 18 months and we just had a Big 12 team play for a national championship on Monday night. And surprisingly, it wasn’t a school named Oklahoma or Texas representing the Big 12 Conference. It was the TCU Horned Frogs.

While the result of the game didn’t go in favor of TCU, just getting there is a huge deal. Prior to this season, Oklahoma had been the only Big 12 team to make the four-team playoff. Since the playoff started, the Sooners went 0-4 which makes TCU the first Big 12 team to win a playoff game.

Believe it or not, Texas was the last Big 12 team to play for a national championship, when it lost to Alabama in the 2010 BCS title game. That was 13 years ago which is an eternity in the world of college football.
 
Sooner or later, the conference will have to get used to not having Texas or Oklahoma around. We have already gotten a taste of that over the last two seasons as neither Texas nor Oklahoma has made the conference title game.

Last season, we saw Baylor come up with a memorable goal-line stand against Oklahoma State to win the conference but neither team made the playoff. This season, we saw yet another instant classic as Kansas State knocked off an undefeated TCU team in overtime.

But this wasn’t just any TCU team. It was a team that was picked to finish seventh in the conference before the season started. Little did we know that the Horned Frogs would go 12-0 in the regular season and had built a strong enough resume to get into the College Football Playoff despite not winning the conference.

It’s taken three years for the Big 12 to get back into the playoff and who would have thought that a team who didn’t even win the conference would get in? Keep in mind that this isn’t the Big Ten or SEC I am talking about. In those conferences, you can get away with not winning a conference title and get into the playoff. But in the Big 12? That seems more like a miracle than a reality.
 
I say that because there has been and always will be a lack of respect for the Big 12 and you don’t have to look too hard to find it. Remember the first year of the College Football Playoff back in 2014? An 11-1 TCU team fell three spots in the final rankings and was left on the outside looking in. That team went on to rout Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl and was good enough to win a national championship but were never allowed to play for one.

Here we are eight years later and the same program that was once left out got the chance to play for a title. Sure, it didn’t go well but look what TCU has done. They have opened a door that was once shut for the Big 12.

TCU not only got into the College Football Playoff, but they planted the conference flag right over Big Ten country. Michigan was the best team the Big Ten had to offer and TCU took care of them in the Fiesta Bowl. That win not only showed that the Big 12 can play with the best but it also gave the conference their first postseason victory in the playoff era.

While many questioned the strength of the Big 12 throughout the season, those questions were answered quickly after TCU’s win over Michigan. The strength of the Big 12 was depth. Eight out of ten Big 12 teams made a bowl game this season. How many other conferences had 80% of their teams playing in bowl games? The answer is none.

For those who watched the Horned Frogs this season know that they had many close games. It seemed like each and every week, they had some late-game heroics from Heisman finalist Max Duggan. TCU was tested almost every game and they passed with flying Hypnotoad colors. That is just part of the fun of this conference. It’s a fun, wild, and unpredictable league.

Next season you take all the craziness from this past year and add four more teams to the mix. Nobody knows when Texas and Oklahoma will leave but what I do know is that they will have to deal with the madness from the Big 12 for at least one more year.

The Big 12 took the college football world and turned it upside down with TCU leading the way. This is exactly what new commissioner Brett Yormark wanted (outside of a championship). For once, this conference is in the national spotlight for something good.

This conference needed a new leader to help change the way people look at the Big 12. So far, Brett Yormark and his staff have done that. We have seen it at the conference title game and in Los Angeles for the national championship game. All they needed was a team to get it done on the field and TCU did that this season. The door is now open for the Big 12 and teams now have a chance to sit at the big boy table of college football. Welcome to the new Big 12 folks. Where you can have fun and have quality college football at the same time. As great as this season has been, I can’t wait to see what’s next for the conference.  

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