Bowl season hasn’t been kind to West Virginia in recent years. The Mountaineers have lost seven of their last nine bowl games, including owning a current three-game bowl losing streak.
The 2019 season didn’t culminate in a bowl trip for the Mountaineers as they finished 5-7 in Neal Brown’s first season as coach. But this bowl season still was a losing proposition for WVU.
The Big 12 Conference bowl games performance wasn’t bad. It was disastrous. The movie Cats had a better holiday season showing.
This is bad for the Big 12. And, by proxy, bad for West Virginia.
The conference’s six bowl eligible teams went 1-5 in their bowl games, with Texas 38-10 rout of Utah in the Alamo Bowl the conference’s lone bright spot. But the losses weren’t the worst part for the Big 12. It was the awful performances by the conference’s best teams in the biggest games.
If image is reality, Big 12 reality is in tatters.
The worst bowl game was the conference’s biggest. Oklahoma was completely humiliated by LSU, 63-28, in the Peach Bowl in the College Football Playoff semifinal game. It was a thorough evisceration of the Big 12’s best team. It was the third-straight semifinal loss for OU, each one worse than the previous. The Big 12 remains the only Power 5 conference without a playoff victory.
The reaction on social media was swift and harsh.
The idea that Oklahoma shouldn’t have gotten the fourth and final playoff spot because of the Peach Bowl outcome is ridiculous. The Sooners, at 12-1 and Big 12 champions, were not just the obvious choice. They were the only one. Yet the Peach Bowl result brought the reaction that OU – and by extension, any Big 12 team – didn’t belong in the playoff. This is bad – very bad – for future Big 12 teams.
Oklahoma losing – again – in the playoff, coupled with a terrible showing by Baylor in losing, 26-14, in the Sugar Bowl to an undermanned Georgia team that was missing 13 players for various reasons, is monumentally damaging to the Big 12’s image.
This is where the terrible game by the 2019 version of the Oklahoma Sooners could affect say, the 2022 version of the West Virginia Mountaineers. It’s not necessarily logical, but then neither is perception. The awful bowl showings, especially in the New Year’s Six showings, will have lasting effects on the perception of the public, and by extension, the College Football Playoff committee.
Until a Big 12 team or three shows otherwise, the conference has lost all benefit of the doubt when it comes to playoff selection. If a similar situation to this year comes up again, where the Big 12 school is the only realistic option, that team will still get the spot. But if there is any doubt between a Big 12 team and another Power 5 school? Expect the Big 12 to draw the short straw.
College football is unique in that the success of your school is often dependent on the success of its rivals. In the NFL, a loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers works towards greater success of the Baltimore Ravens. It’s better for the New York Yankees if the Boston Red Sox lose games.
But college football teams need their conference rivals to be successful to increase their chances of competing for a national championship. So if you hear WVU fans say “I don’t care about Oklahoma, I hope (they) lose every (bowl) game,” know they are missing the forest for the trees.
As we begin the decade of the 2020s, that Big 12 forest looks like it was hit by an Australian wildfire.