Texas has a straightforward path to the Big 12 championship game. Everyone else in title game contention needs some help.
The conference released its championship game scenarios Sunday night ahead of the final week of the season as three teams are tied for second behind the Longhorns in the conference standings. Texas sits atop the conference at 7-1; Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State are at 6-2.
The Big 12 title game picture is so complicated because the conference has 14 teams and no divisions. Each team has four Big 12 opponents that it didn’t play during the regular season. Texas, for example, didn’t play Oklahoma State. Kansas State and Oklahoma didn’t play each other.
The simplest scenario includes wins by No. 7 Texas at home over Texas Tech on Friday and No. 21 Oklahoma State at home over BYU on Saturday. If both the Longhorns and Cowboys win, then Texas and OSU will face off in the Big 12 title game. Texas would be all alone in first place in the Big 12 at 8-1 while Oklahoma State would win the tiebreakers among any 7-2 teams because of wins over both the Sooners and Wildcats.
Oklahoma needs a BYU win
Oklahoma and Kansas State both need some help from Oklahoma State to make the Big 12 title game because of those head-to-head losses to the Cowboys. If Texas wins and the Cowboys lose, Texas will face Oklahoma if the Sooners beat TCU on Saturday.
Kansas State, meanwhile, needs both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma to lose. If TCU and BYU both win and Texas beats Texas Tech, the Wildcats will get a rematch with Texas if they beat Iowa State.
A Texas loss is the chaos scenario
A Texas Tech win Friday night would not only take the Big 12 out of playoff contention, it could throw the conference title race into chaos. The Red Raiders enter their game against Texas at 5-3 in the conference and one of three teams (Iowa State, West Virginia) tied for fifth a game back of second place.
If Tech beats Texas, a scenario exists where all four of Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State finish the season at 7-2 in the Big 12. And even the Big 12 couldn’t explain exactly what would happen in that scenario. In its release Sunday night, the conference simply said “multiple scenarios exist in this circumstance contingent on which teams remain in the tiebreaker pool” and that it would release more detailed tiebreakers on Friday.
That chaos would be extremely fun; albeit a bit headache inducing. And it would also be preparation for what’s to come in college football. With conferences like the Big Ten and SEC expanding in 2024 and ditching divisions, complicated title races are about to become the norm in college football going forward. It’s not inconceivable that sometime in the next few seasons a team will miss out on a conference championship game berth due to tiebreakers despite going undefeated in conference play.