Big 12 tiebreaker scenarios have become all the rage this week.
Come to think of it, they’ve actually caused some rage.
Earlier this week, the conference issued a clarification of its multi-team tiebreaker. Because the first criteria in the tiebreaker was written so poorly — it would’ve failed fourth-grade English much less freshman comp — the league office had to explain how it would be enforced.
Basically, it came down to this: The tiebreaker would be the head-to-head record of all the teams involved unless all of them hadn’t played each other or one team beat everyone other team involved in the tiebreaker.
The second part kicked in because if one team beat everyone else involved in the tiebreaker, it didn’t matter that those losing teams hadn’t played each other. No amount of additional head-to-head games would give them a better record than the undefeated team.
They weren’t going to magically become undefeated against the other teams in the tiebreaker.
The clarification was the right thing.
But that didn’t stop some folks from being outraged. Furious. Livid.
As this weekend’s games approach, I’d like to provide an outlet for those emotions. I’d love to offer a place for you to direct some of the feelings that have built up in the wake of the Big 12’s tiebreaker clarification — the teams you should be rooting against.
Because this much is bedrock truth: the only team that controls its own destiny, its own path to the Big 12 title game is Texas. No other team can win out and for sure get to Arlington. Every other team needs help.
That includes OSU.
The Cowboys are currently in a four-way tie for second place, and even though they hold the tiebreaker advantage over OU and Kansas State, OSU winning its last two games over Houston and BYU doesn’t automatically get the Cowboys to Arlington.
Even if they win out, they could be left out if Texas loses its regular-season finale against Texas Tech.
Should the Longhorns beat Iowa State this week but lose to Texas Tech next week, there’s a scenario where OSU would lose a tiebreaker with OU and Texas. Kansas State, as part of this, would have to beat Kansas (likely), then lose to Iowa State (entirely possible).
The result: a three-way tie at the top between OU, OSU and Texas with all three at 7-2 and a four-way logjam behind them consisting of Kansas State, Iowa State, West Virginia and Texas Tech.
To break the tie at the top, you’d look at how the Sooners, Cowboys and Horns fared against the next highest opponent that all of them played. The only team in that group of four teams that were played by OU, OSU and Texas was Iowa State.
The Cowboys lost to the Cyclones while the Sooners and Horns beat them.
That would put OU and Texas in the Big 12 title game.
Now, there might well be other scenarios that would keep a 7-2 OSU team out of the title game, but this one seems the most realistic. And while it might not be extremely likely — Texas Tech going to Austin and winning seems on the low side of probable — it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
So, Cowboys, you need to root like mad against the Red Raiders on Black Friday.
As for the Sooners, your list of teams to root against is longer, which might be for the best considering the amount of angst coming from crimson-and-cream masses.
Your first target should be easy: the Cowboys.
If OSU loses even one of its last two games, the Sooners’ chances of making Arlington skyrocket. If the Cowboys lose to either and the Sooners win out, OU could either finish in sole possession of second or win a two-way tiebreaker over Kansas State. OU would win it because it beat Texas and K-State lost to Texas.
So, yes, Sooners, do what comes naturally and root against the Cowboys.
Now, OU types can add Texas to that list, depending on who you want to play in the Big 12 title game.
If you’d like to face the Longhorns again, you need Texas to win, so you can pull against Iowa State this week and Texas Tech next week. But if you’d rather face someone else, K-State perhaps, you can add a little Texas hate to your life. To get the Wildcats in Arlington, a few things need to happen. Iowa State needs to beat Texas this week, then K-State needs to beat Kansas and Iowa State.
That means OU fans can be Texas and Kansas haters this week, then be anti-Iowa State next week.
Listen, I know we could be talking about who you need to cheer for, but after these past few days, I get the feeling that no one in the Big 12 is all that fired up about cheering for anyone else. But cheering against other teams? That might hit a little different this week.
By the way, there may be other scenarios with other teams you can cheer against in hopes of bolstering your team’s chances of making the Big 12 title game. I didn’t go down the rabbit hole of total anarchy, but in a league where all but two of the teams still have a chance to finish .500 overall and make a bowl, anarchy doesn’t seem totally out of the question.
Suffice it to say, there are plenty of teams at which to direct any rage born out of this week’s Big 12 tiebreaker clarification. Rage against the conference if you want, but what’s done is done.
What has yet to be decided are the winners of the last couple of games. Rage against the teams that stand in your team’s way of getting to Arlington. Might not work, but it might just make you feel better.