The new Big 12 and SEC agreement to match their football champions in a bowl game is a fun development for college football and another promising development for Big 12 stability.
But it comes a little late to pack the punch it could have. The new agreement is really an enhanced version of the Cotton Bowl the last decade.
The alliance starts with the 2014 season, the same season in which a four-team playoff is expected to be implemented. The odds are long that both the Big 12 and SEC champion would ever be outside the four-team playoff. In fact, most years, both champs would be among the four playoff participants.
So most years, the new Big 12/SEC showdown would be something akin to the Cotton Bowl. For the last 13 years, the Big 12 has sent its No. 2 team to the Cotton Bowl against an SEC team, which has floated from the No. 2 team in the league to No. 4. However, many of those seasons, either or both leagues placed two teams in the BCS bowls, so the Cotton didn’t always get a premier matchup. This alliance is an attempt to change that.
The agreement is a counter to the Rose Bowl’s tradition of matching the Big Ten and Pac-12 champs.
And it’s a great sign for the Big 12, which has restored some of its status from the instability of the last two seasons, when four schools left the conference and two joined.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive said, “A new January bowl tradition is born. This new game will provide a great matchup between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting postseason atmosphere created by the new four-team model. Most importantly, it will provide our student-athletes, coaches and fans with an outstanding bowl experience.”
Currently, the Big 12 champ is contractually obligated to the Fiesta Bowl, with the SEC champ headed to the Sugar Bowl, unless BCS rankings send one or both to the national championship game.
The bowl game is still to be determined. It will be put up for bid, and it’s expected the Fiesta, Sugar and even the Cotton would be involved.
“We’re excited about this agreement,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said in a release. “These have been the two premier conferences for an extended period of time. The best teams from these two leagues getting together in the postseason will result in something very exciting for the teams and for the fans.”
Now, the tone of the announcement had a little too much revelry. This would have been a monumental move in the days before the BCS. And even in the last decade, when only two teams made the college football playoff, a Big 12/SEC showdown of champs had a theoretic chance of happening. But with a four-team playoff, it almost never will happen.
“Our goal is to provide the fans across the country with a New Year’s Day prime-time tradition,” said Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas. “This is a landmark agreement … the creation of this game featuring the champions of the Big 12 and SEC will have tremendous resonance in college football.”
I think that’s a little hyperbole. Like I said, this is a Cotton Bowl makeover. It’s going to be a runnerup bowl most years. Which is fine. Which is great. We need more SEC-Big 12 games – Texas at Ole Miss is the only scheduled matchup in 2012.
According to the Big 12, during the 14-year history of the Bowl Championship Series, the Big 12 and SEC lead the nation with 11 seasons in which each conference has had at least one team ranked in the top four of the final BCS standings. Both conferences share the top spot all-time with 14 teams each that have finished in the top four of the final BCS standings. The two conferences have combined for 16 appearances in the championship game (SEC nine, Big 12 seven).
The Big 12 said in its release that there was no animosity for Missouri and Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC: “Realignment issues did not stand in the way of moving forward.”
The Big 12 said the leagues have been discussing such an arrangement “on and off several years.”
It’s a good, solid idea. It’s just a little late to get too excited.