I'm sorry, but I don't understand what all the uproar is concerning where the Big 12 is going bowling this football postseason. Call me a contrarian, but I don't think the Big 12 was snubbed in its collective quest to land its top teams in the best of the bowls.
Of course, the big talk around the water cooler at work and on the local sports talk radio shows this week is how the BCS again got it wrong when Alabama was selected as the team that will challenge LSU in the national championship game Jan. 9 in the New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
In the closest finish between the No. 2 and No. 3 team in BCS history, the Crimson Tide (11-1 on the year) of Alabama edged the Big 12-champion Oklahoma State Cowboys (also 11-1) by a final margin of .0086 in the complex BCS formula for determining the best two teams that is based on 174 voters in two human polls and six computer rankings. The Cowboys were able to narrow the gap between No. 2 and No. 3 in the AP poll to 18 points from 154 and from a difference of 166 to 32 in USA Today coaches poll.
But when all parts of the BCS formula were factored in, Alabama remained at No. 2 and, as a result, earned the rematch that many fans were hoping wouldn't happen against Southeastern Conference West Division rival LSU. In what rightfully has been billed as the game of the year, LSU defeated the Crimson Tide 9-6 in a nail-biter featuring the country's two best defensive teams.
So for the first time in the BCS era (since 1998), there will be a rematch of a game played earlier in the year. Not only that, but the two teams are from the same division in the same conference, which also represents a first for the BCS title game.
Naturally, coach Mike Gundy and his Oklahoma State team, as well as fans of the Big 12, were highly disappointed by this outcome. Gundy strongly believed that the Cowboys did what they needed to do and were deserving of the opportunity to play in BCS Championship. He's right, the Cowboys were deserving. But so was undefeated Auburn in 2004, when one-loss Oklahoma beat them out in the final BCS standings and, ironically moved on to meet LSU in the same Superdome. And, excuse me for saying so, but so is Alabama this year.
Oklahoma State's argument is that the Cowboys' defeated five teams that were ranked in the BCS top 25 this season and totally throttled archrival Oklahoma, one of those BCS teams, on Saturday to win their first Big 12 championship. Just two weeks ago, the Sooners were ranked No. 5 in the BCS and had been as high as No. 3. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide only beat two BCS-ranked teams.
All of this is true, but when you factor how bad the the two teams' losses were, there is no question that losing to the country's top-ranked team by a field goal holds less negative weight than losing to an unranked opponent, even if it was in double overtime on the victor's home field. Had the Cowboys' not lost to unranked but bowl-bound Iowa State, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Their ticket to New Orleans on Jan. 9 would have been a fait accompli.
Oklahoma State's Gundy feels that his Cowboys deserved stronger consideration. "They (Alabama) had their shot. Give us ours," he implored.
Like it or not, The Cowboys had their shot. It was their untimely and hugely unexpected loss to Iowa State that did them in. Looking at Alabama's body of work, as the experts like to say, Nick Saban's crew lost one game all year, like Oklahoma State. The major difference is, Alabama's lone loss was by three points to the top-ranked team in the country, a much better loss than the one suffered by Oklahoma State at Iowa State, only a 6-6 team this season.
Those of us in Big 12 country like to think that, top to bottom, the Big 12 is the strongest football conference in the country. But that just isn't true. The SEC only had three teams out of 12 with non-winning records. But more noteworthy, the top five teams in the SEC had only eight loses between them against 55 total victories. In fact, just one week ago, the top three teams in the BCS (LSU, Alabama and Arkansas) all resided in the SEC West. By comparison, the top five teams in the Big 12 this season - Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Missouri - combined to post a 46-14 record in the 2011 regular season.
After his team's convincing win over Oklahoma, OSU's Gundy said the public would have to decide whether they'd rather see a 9-6 defensive yawner or a 51-41 game with lots of offense. Gundy's point is well taken. The contrast between the offensive-minded Big 12 and the defensive strength that is characteristic of play in the SEC would have been fun to witness. In past games recently between the two conferences (three of them in BCS Championship games), though, that matchup of strengths has proven to be more favorable to the SEC teams.
Because Oklahoma State is not going to the BCS title game, the Cowboys claimed the Big 12's automatic BCS Bowl invitation and will play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2. In essence, that pushed the other seven bowl-eligible teams in the Big 12 back a notch in the bowl pecking order. This was not a good dynamic for Kansas State, the conference's second-place team with a 10-2 season record. Coach Bill Snyder's overachieving Wildcats finished eighth in the final BCS standings, placing the Little Engine That Could from the Little Apple in very good position to go to a BCS bowl as an at-large team.
Many experts thought K-State would be Sugar Bowl bound. But in the biggest stunner of the bowl selection process, the Sugar Bowl committee selected No. 11 Virginia Tech, which was routed by Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship, and No. 13 Michigan, completely snubbing Kansas State and sending the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl at the Jerry Dome in Arlington, Texas.
This naturally upset many Wildcat fans. "The third best team in the Big 12 (Michigan) gets a bid over us," one disgruntled Kansas State fan said. I say, get over it, Kansas State fans. Forget whether or not you're playing in a game designated as a BCS bowl. Your Cotton Bowl opponent, Arkansas, whose only two losses happen to be against No, 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama, may be the third or fourth best matchup of the holiday bowl season.
The only reason Arkansas, 10-2 and No. 6 in the BCS rankings, is not going to a BCS bowl is because two teams from the SEC are playing for the national championship. The Razorbacks are third in that grand pecking order. This game could be every bit as good as Oklahoma State's game with Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl and is clearly a higher-quality opponent than the BCS teams matched up in the Orange Bowl (Clemson and West Virginia) and the Sugar Bowl (Michigan and Virginia Tech).
Trust me, you'll have your hands full with Arkansas, Kansas State fans. So stop whining about seemingly getting screwed by the process and start focusing on how your team is going to beat one of the country's best football teams in Arkansas. This will be the only chance the Big 12 has this season to make a statement against the SEC as a result of head-to-head competition.
Overall, Big 12 schools did very well in the bowl selection process, placing eight teams in postseason play. The conference has contracts in place with seven of the some 35 bowl possibilities. Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and Iowa State were selected for the Big 12's seven bowl slots, and Missouri (7-5) was selected to play in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
There is nothing the Big 12 should be disappointed about. The conference will be well represented this postseason. Let us all reserve judgment until we see how our teams do against the other major conferences this bowl season. Perhaps then we can fuel another controversy.
Big 12 Conference Bowl Lineup
Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.) - Missouri vs. North Carolina (ACC) - Dec. 26
Holiday Bowl (San Diego) - Texas vs. California (Pac-12) - Dec. 28
Alamo Bowl (San Antonio) - Baylor vs. Washington (Pac-12) - Dec. 29
Pinstripe Bowl (New York City) - Iowa State vs. Rutgers (Big East) - Dec. 30
Insight Bowl (Tempe, Ariz.) - Oklahoma vs. Iowa (Big Ten) - Dec. 30
Meineke Car Car (Houston) - Texas A&M vs. Northwestern (Big Ten) - Dec. 31
Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.) - Oklahoma State vs. Stanford (Pac-12) - Jan. 2
Cotton Bowl (Arlington, Texas) - Kansas State vs. Arkansas (SEC) - Jan. 6
For more information:
Big 12 Conference official website
More information on Kansas State Wildcats sports
More information on Missouri Tigers sports