Champions Bowl = Pros and Cons…
The Champions Bowl at the Sugar Bowl that appeared to be a done deal some six months ago is now on hold. It will eventually happen, but not this year. The reason for the one year hiatus is the NCAA drafted the Sugar Bowl for one of its two qualifying games. The Champions Bowl, the brainchild of Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was sold to the Big 12 schools as the Big 12’s savior. That may still be the case, but that bowl game pitting the Big 12 and SEC champions will not play a role this year.
If the truth be known Bowlsby was hedging his bets that the Big-12 would not make the four team playoff this year. He was worried about the dismantled Big 12 competing with the other power conferences for limited final four opportunities. Actually, this was a pretty shrewd move on his part given recent Big 12 history.
Left with only ten conference teams, league officials opted for a round robin schedule and no championship game. At that point, Bowlsby had to think fast and the Champions Bowl was his solution to guaranteeing a big time bowl at the end of every season. The hope was that this season ending bowl game would keep the Big 12 relevant until the Big 12 was able to beef itself up in other ways. With the SEC being what it is four power conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac 12) will be vying for the remaining three play-off spots each year. If you believe the SEC propaganda the non-conference power conferences will be playing for only two playoff spots.
The down side of the Champions Bowl scenario is the fact that until the power of the SEC is diminished there will always be a serious risk that the Big 12 champion that misses out on the playoffs will be playing the 2nd or 3rd best team from the SEC in the Champions Bowl. This would obviously create a serious blow to the Big 12 psyche’ and in essence create a lose-lose situation for the Big 12 champion. Of course for the immediate future, Big 12 fans must trust Commissioner Bowlsby’s leadership and believe that everything will work out for the best.
Given the preseason situation for both OU and Baylor, the absence of the Champions Bowl will have little impact on conference opportunities in 2014. With the stars being aligned as they are for 2014, the Sooners have an excellent chance to return the Big 12 to national prominence. If this happens the Big 12 will begin playing for a final four spot on a regular basis and the conference will use the so-called Champions Bowl as a venue for conference runner-ups. If OU and Baylor do their job, Baylor will also represent the conference in the Cotton or Fiesta Bowl which would give the conference two teams in major bowls. This would be a best case scenario and one that would send the Big 12 back to the top nationally.
If things go as planned, next year the Big 12 will be represented by a final four playoff appearance, as well as a Champions Bowl appearance in the Sugar Bowl by the league’s runner up team. This would be the best of all worlds and would restore the conference’s national reputation. With national credibility comes recruiting success which will in turn make the conference a permanent final-four fixture. Of course with this best case scenario comes with a lot of ifs and buts. The pressure is also squarely on OU to right the conference ship. Having said this, the importance of the 2014 season for the future of the Big 12 cannot be overstated.
The following 2014 major bowl set up will make this happen…
2014 Major Bowl Setup…
- Playoff game #1 vs. #4 (Sugar Bowl) Jan. 1 (OU)
- Playoff game #2 vs. #3 (Rose Bowl) Jan. 1
- At-Large team vs. Group of five (Cotton Bowl) Dec. 31 (Baylor)
- At-Large team vs. At-Large team (Fiesta Bowl) Dec. 31
- ACC vs. At-Large team (Orange Bowl) Dec. 31
- At-Large team vs. At-Large team (Peach Bowl) Dec. 31
Note: Group of five will be represented by the highest ranked team from a non-power conference league.