| The Oklahoman
Clemson passes Ohio State in Amway Coaches Poll
USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg breaks down the latest Amway Coaches Poll.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma State has had some heartbreaking Bedlam losses recently: 48-47 in 2018, 62-52 in 2017, overtime in 2012.
OSU also has had some let’s-get-this-over-with Bedlam losses: 41-13 a week ago, 58-23 in 2015, 27-0 in 2009.
Doesn’t really matter how you lose, they all count the same. Until they don’t.
And they might not all count the same in 2020. In this crazy season, it might come down not just to whether you won or lost, but how many you lost by.
The Big 12 football race hits the homestretch, with just two Saturdays left before the championship game. Consider this scenario:
Oklahoma wins out to finish 7-2. The Sooners will be a big favorite at home over Baylor and solid favorites at West Virginia.
OSU wins out to finish 7-2. The Cowboys will be solid favorites at TCU and at Baylor.
West Virginia wins at Iowa State. Not likely, but possible. The Mountaineers are playing much better.
Texas loses at Kansas State. Not likely, but possible. Longhorns offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi, a projected first-round draft pick, has left the team to concentrate on the NFL draft.
If those events happen, the Big 12 title game participants will be determined by margin of victory.
We would have a three-way tie for first among OU, OSU and Iowa State at 7-2, and each would be 1-1 against the other tied teams.
We would have a three-way tie for fourth among West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas, and the first-place teams would each be 2-1 against the fourth-place teams, which is the next criteria.
All three first-place teams would have beaten the seventh-, eighth-, ninth- and 10th-place teams.
Which brings us down to point differential. Iowa State beat OU 37-30, OSU beat Iowa State 24-21 and OU beat OSU 41-13. So the Sooners would be plus-21, the Cyclones plus-four and the Cowboys minus-25.
Setting up an OU-Iowa State title game.
The message is clear in college football. Never take your foot off the gas. Run up the score as much as possible.
I don’t like margin-of-victory criteria any more than you do, but I don’t have an easy answer for the Big 12. Round-robin schedule, top two teams play for the title? Unbreakable three-way ties are bound to arise once a decade or so.
The Big 12 twice had memorable three-way ties in the divisional days and relied on the Bowl Championship Series records to break the deadlock, when head-to-head failed. In 2008, OU, Texas and Texas Tech each were 7-1. In 2010, OU, OSU and Texas A&M each were 6-2.
The BCS picked OU both years. The BCS, like the current College Football Playoff, had a thing for the Sooners.
But the Big 12 can’t wait on the committee rankings. The BCS was a Sunday reveal back in the day, usually around noon. You can live with finding out the title-game combatants at noon Sunday. You can’t live with finding out the title-game combatants at 6:15 p.m. CT on Tuesday, ESPN’s preferred time slot for the playoff rankings.
The analytics crowd could figure out the BCS rankings in advance. Humans are much less reliable.
So margin of victory is the lesser of all evils. Blind draw, longest drought on title-game appearances, best-looking uniforms. Not a lot of good options.
And besides, margin of victory is a hallmark of college football. This always has been a someone-decides sport. From the old polls to the BCS to the committee, college football’s champion or championship format long has been determined or partly-determined by opinion.
Golf, tennis, the NFL, baseball, heck, almost every other sport, shakes its head at such a culture. Winning hasn’t always been enough in college football. Winning with style always has been part of the process.
Look at some of the catch phrases from the playoff committee chairmen over the years. Look at some of the statistical-based statements from 2020 committee chairman Gary Barta used just last week.
“Cincinnati is in the top 20 both in scoring offense and scoring defense.”
OU’s “early losses were, I think, by a total of 10 points.”
Marshall is “in the top seven or eight offensive and defensive categories.”
The message could not be more clear. Run it up. If you’ve got 600 yards in the third quarter, try to have 800 yards by the end of the game. Lose close and win big. College football opinion goes beyond who you played and whether you won or lost. It’s how you looked in doing so.
If the Big 12 standings are determined by margin of victory, it will be standard operating procedure for college football.
Follow Berry Tramel on Twitter @BerryTramel