The dust and the complaining barely have settled on the Big 12 South’s notorious three-way tie of last autumn, and some already are talking three-way tie in 2009. Same script, slight change of cast. Goes something like this: Texas beats Oklahoma in Dallas. OSU beats Texas in Stillwater. OU wins Bedlam in Norman. The lofty preseason ranking of O-State — the Cowboys are slotted anywhere from sixth to 12th in most earlybird lists — has visions of another three-way tie cropping up. Feasible, I suppose, but improbable. And insufferable. Could we all survive another stretch of grieving and groaning from two camps, not to mention the pontification from national pundits talking nonsense? I’m saying we won’t have to. College football has staged 900 conference races in its history, counting divisions. Exactly 10 have finished in unbreakable three-way ties like the Big 12 South in 2008. So now we expect it to be duplicated in back-to-back years? I don’t think so. Just getting the A beats B, B beats C, C beats A waltz is tough enough. OSU certainly is capable of pulling an upset, but the Cowboys haven’t beaten Texas since 1997 despite plenty of head starts, and the Cowboys have lost by 32, 28 and 43 their last three trips to Owen Field. Even if OSU wins one of those games, two more elements must come into play: →Whichever team loses to OSU must win the OU-Texas game. →All three teams must win their other six Big 12 games. And there’s the rub. All kinds of leagues and divisions over the decades have had three quality teams at the top. But an upset here, a stumble there, and the three-way tie goes bye-bye. Outside the waltz, OU and Texas actually have tougher games than does OSU. The Sooners go to Lincoln, where they’ve won once in 22 years; and to Lubbock, where they’ve lost two straight; and to Lawrence, where they’ve, well, Oklahoma usually does OK at Kansas, but the Jayhawks are more feisty these days. Texas goes to A&M, a rivalry in which anything can happen and has, and to Missouri. And before we pencil in OSU at 7-1, remember that the Cowboys have never reached six conference wins in a season, so assume seven at your own risk. Something always happens to shake out the standings, except last year it didn’t, and the Big 12 resorted to its tiebreaker — BCS ranking — to advance OU at the expense of Texas and Texas Tech. Big 12 coaches met last week and voted to retain the tiebreaker which received such undeserved blasting last season. Bully for them. Under the current system, the BCS rankings are a fine tiebreak. A conference like the Big 12 wants most to place a team in the national-title game. The current rule offers the best chance. ESPN voices rallied around the Southeastern Conference tiebreaker, which goes by the BCS unless the top two teams are within five spots of each other, which then reverts to head-to-head. Quantum physics are more easily explained. The BCS tiebreaker seems downright Solomonic next to that plan. Not that the Big 12 will need to use it again anytime soon. Out of 900 chances, we’ve had a three-way tie of one-loss teams 10 times. You don’t need quantum physics to know that’s a one-in-90 chance. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
Past tiebreakers ...
... and the systems to break the tie, determine a champAll kinds of tiebreakers have been used to break three-way logjams matching one-loss teams in college football history. →2000 Pac-10: Reverted to non-conference record, which eliminated Oregon, and since Washington had defeated Oregon State, the Huskies went to the Rose Bowl. →1996 Big East: Strictly by rankings — Virginia Tech played in the Orange Bowl, with lower-ranked Miami and Syracuse sent elsewhere. →1989 SEC: Allowed the Sugar Bowl to pick from Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn. The Sugar chose ’Bama, so Tennessee went to the Cotton and Auburn to the Hall of Fame Bowl. →1975 & 1959 Southwest Conference: Used a league rule that sent to the Cotton Bowl the school that hadn’t been most recently. So in ’75, Arkansas went instead of Texas or A&M. In ’59, Texas made it at the expense of Arkansas and TCU. →1967 Big Ten: Put to a vote of athletic directors, who picked Indiana over Minnesota. Purdue was ineligible since it had gone to the Rose Bowl the year before. By Berry Tramel