Big 12

Big 12 will play championship game without divisions

Oklahoma defensive back Ontei Jones is tackled by Kansas State's Neil Gosch after picking up a blocked punt during the second quarter of the Big 12 championship game in 2000 at Arrowhead Stadium. The conference used six-team North and South divisions then.
Oklahoma defensive back Ontei Jones is tackled by Kansas State's Neil Gosch after picking up a blocked punt during the second quarter of the Big 12 championship game in 2000 at Arrowhead Stadium. The conference used six-team North and South divisions then. Associated Press

The Big 12 football championship game is coming back next season, but the conference’s round-robin schedule isn’t going anywhere.

The league announced Friday that it won’t split the 10-team conference into divisions for the purpose of determining participants for its championship game. Instead, all 10 teams will continue to play each other every season, with the top two teams in the final standings meeting in the championship game.

“There are a number of advantages to matching our top two teams,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a news release. “Given our round-robin, nine-game scheduling model, it is expected the Big 12 champion will be uniquely positioned for College Football Playoff consideration. I would argue there will be no path more difficult than our champion’s, where it will have played every team in the Conference, faced at least one (power) conference non-conference opponent, and then plays in our championship game.

“The guaranteed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup will be a great game for our fans, and it’s hard to imagine a stronger position for a conference champion.”

This decision won’t be universally praised.

Many of the Big 12’s football coaches, including K-State coach Bill Snyder, have said they favor a divisional format in which the two divisional champions meet for a title. But there was little consensus on how to divide the conference into two five-team divisions.

The new setup will make it harder than ever for a Big 12 team to make it through the regular season unscathed. It will also create a rematch in the championship game that fans may not deem necessary.

A rematch would have worked perfectly in 2014, when Baylor and TCU split the championship and few could agree on which team had the better season. But a rematch would have been a snore last season between first-place Oklahoma and second-place Oklahoma State. Not only did the Sooners crush the Cowboys in the regular season, they did so on the final week of the season. Did anyone want to see that game again on a neutral field?

Sites for future Big 12 championship games have not been decided, but the conference hopes to announce that information in the coming weeks.

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

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