Unlike any other sport, college football requires its fans to root for their most bitter rivals.
In the NFL, a Dallas Cowboys loss is a benefit, not a hindrance, to the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl aspirations. The Boston Red Sox playoffs hopes rarely improve with New York Yankees victories.
In college football, however, a team’s championship chances can hinge on success by its conference rivals. And with the College Football Playoffs selection being a subjective process, the years-ago results of your conference brethren may factor in to your current selection – or exclusion.
Earlier this week on his Fox Sports 1 talk show, host Colin Cowherd he would take Utah over Oklahoma if both teams won their conference championship games https://foxsportsradio.iheart.com/content/2019-12-04-utah-not-oklahoma-deserves-final-spot-in-college-football-playoffs/.
His reasoning? The Big 12 is the only Power 5 conference without a playoff victory. Therefore, since the Pac 12 has a playoff victory, Cowherd postulated that a one-loss Utah has a better playoff case for inclusion than a one-loss Oklahoma.
The Pac 12 has one playoff victory. And it belongs to Oregon. And it came five years ago.
So, according to Cowherd (and he’s not alone in this thinking), the fact that Oregon beat Florida State in the playoffs following the 2014 season is the reason that Utah should advance to the playoffs instead of Oklahoma following the 2019 season.
It’s insanity. But bias is real and it matters. Perception certainly plays a role in the selection committee meeting room.
That’s why, as much as West Virginia fans may dislike Oklahoma, the Mountaineers fans rallying cry Saturday should be “Boomer Sooner” in the Big 12 Championship game against Baylor.
With Oregon’s 37-15 win over Utah in the Pac 12 Championship game Friday night, Cowherd’s point is moot – for this year.
The winner of the Big 12 Championship game should be the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.* That’s better than what the Pac 12 faces, which is a third-straight year without a playoff representative.
*Assuming LSU beats Georgia in the SEC Championship game Saturday afternoon. If Georgia wins, it’s all moot as the field will be, in some order, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia and LSU.
It’s a bad look any year a Power 5 conference gets shut out of the playoffs. Fortunately for the Big 12, Oklahoma has spared the conference that indignity the past two years by winning the Big 12 title game and representing the conference in the playoffs. The Sooners haven’t won a game there, but at least the Big 12 has been represented.
Back to Cowherd’s Big 12 criticism – that the conference hasn’t won a playoff game. It’s not likely to get one this year, with either Oklahoma or Baylor facing the playoffs No. 1 seed.
Of the two teams, however, Oklahoma is more likely to pull the upset and less likely to get boat-raced in the game than is Baylor.
Perception-wise, having a national championship team is best for a conference. Winning a playoff game is next. Being competitive in a loss follows. Getting hammered or not making it at all are tied for the worst.
None of this, obviously, applies to WVU this year. It’s very unlikely to matter to the Mountaineers next year. But hopefully, someday, the Mountaineers will be in the playoff conversation.
And as ridiculous as it sounds, when they are, what happens Saturday might determine if WVU gets a shot to play for a national championship years from now.