There’s still much to be hashed out over the nuts and bolts of the new 10-team Big 12, beginning with the name. (Unlike, say, the 100-year-old cachet of the Big Ten, there’s nothing particularly hallowed about "Big 12," and, well, "Big Ten" is already taken. I prefer the "Diet 12," or "Big 12 Jr," or even the "Longhorn Ten," although Missouri athletic director Mike Alden sees no reason to change the stationary.) But there seems to be an early consensus on two major scheduling points after Nebraska and Colorado leave the North Division in 2011 and 2012, respectively:
Point a) should appease Texas’ Mack Brown and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, neither of whom has ever been a fan of having to overcome an additional obstacle to a national championship or BCS bid at the end of the year.
If you polled them, most of the consistently competitive coaches nationally would probably agree, especially in the Big 12: In 15 years, the conference has missed out on certain BCS championship shots on four different occasions because of upsets in the Big 12 title game – Texas over Nebraska in 1996; Texas A&M over Kansas State in 1998; Colorado over Texas in 2001; Oklahoma over Missouri in 2007 – not including Kansas State’s blowout over top-ranked Oklahoma in 2003, which somehow failed to keep the Sooners from playing LSU for the mythical championship in the Sugar Bowl. The Big 12 Championship has been a viper pit for favorites through the years, and it looks like it will no longer stand in their path.
Instead, the addition of a ninth conference game will upgrade schedules overall while still reducing the odds of a championship-killing upset relative to the championship game. (It remains to be seen whether Texas will ever concede to five conference road games in a given season. With the annual neutral-site showdown with Oklahoma, I’d be willing to bet the ‘Horns go four home/four road/one neutral in some years and five home/three road/one neutral in others, but never three home/five road/one neutral.) At any rate, the Red River Shootout should graduate from the de facto Big 12 South championship game to the de facto conference championship game, period, until one of the rabble – Missouri? Texas A&M? – emerges to challenge the Longhorns or Sooners for annual supremacy.
Given the South’s total dominance of the league over most of the last decade – Texas or OU has won six straight championship games and appeared in four national championship games since 2004 – that’s not really a major change.
The irony, of course, is that Texas and Co. turned down the Pac-10 to implement exactly the scheduling format the Pac-10 has played under for the last four years, at precisely the same time the Pac-10 is apparently embracing the two-division, championship-game format the Big 12 championed from the beginning.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.