Any Given Saturday, Finals Week Recap: TCU and Baylor Are The Big 12’s Montagues and Capulets

TCU and Baylor dislike each other worse than Shakespeare’s warring Montagues and the Capulet families. 

At the head of college football’s most prevalent interstate rivals are Art Briles and Gary Patterson. In consecutive years Patterson has found a reason to rail against the integrity of Briles or his program.

Their contempt for one another is transparent, which is rare in this day and age of coaches and athletes putting up a front in front of the media.

TCU and Baylor’s bitter ending sounds like the ending to a bitter Shakespearian tragedy.

Unwilling to take sides in the black hole argument of Baylor vs. TCU, the playoff committee chose the politically convenient route.

Like the titular protagonists, Romeo and Juliet there could be no winner in the Big 12's power struggle. Instead both rising programs flatlined, just before reaching their program’s ceilings and the perennial Big Ten powerhouse swooped into the power vacuum.

Prior to last week's slate of conference championship games, the Big 12 was No. 1 in ESPN's Conference Power Index.

Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech AT HOME looks worse as the weeks go on, but it was early in the season.  However, by that same metric, TCU’s only loss was to Baylor on the road.

Baylor’s loss came later, but it was on the road against West Virginia. That loss gets held against them, however, if you peep West Virginia’s results on the gridiron, it’s not an egregious blemish on their resume compared to Ohio State’s scar.

West Virginia whisked down to Atlanta and kept Alabama within striking distance until the end in their season opener.

The Mountaineers beat TCU on the Mountaineers home turf and also gave Kansas State a competitive bout on the road.

Baylor became the first one-loss team to get the championship game shaft after beating the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the nation since Texas in 2008.

In 2009, Texas romped through the Big 12 before losing to Alabama in the BCS Title Game. Eight years earlier, the 2000 Miami Hurricanes also defeated Florida State, then were bypassed by the Seminoles in the BCS’ final rankings. Those Hurricanes swallowed that pain and returned the following season as one of the biggest juggernauts in college football history.

Baylor  could not overcome their out of conference schedule ranking which was last in the nation., Their opponents were so puny they could only be seen by Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense when the air cools to a chill.

What the selection committee did was tantamount to sending Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby two severed fingers in a box along with a ransom letter. The message? Play a championship game. The solution is more complicated. The NCAA requires its conferences to field at least 12 football programs to stage an FBS conference championship game. The Big 12 only has 10 and this summer Kansas State and West Virginia's athletic directors John Currie and Andrew Luck, stated there were no plans for expansion.

The Big 12 can revisit BYU's interest.  Cincinnati, Memphis, Boise State, Colorado State and UCF have all been mentioned as possible additions, but none has had any momentum until now. 

Conversely, TCU and Baylor have their respective futures to look forward to.

There is no denying that both teams will be back. Their Texas Two-step is the pulse of the Big 12. However, for the graduating seniors such as TCU’s Sam Carter and Baylor’s Bryce Petty, this will be a tough pill to swallow.

We can spout a mouthful of numbers from TCU and Baylor’s points per game differentials, which rank first and second in the nation.

The true test for TCU moving forward will be maintaining this level of next season.

Conversely, it was fitting that Alabama, TCU, Baylor, Ohio State and Oregon won emphatically while Florida State squeaked by.

It’s become obvious that the selection committee views “style points” more favorably than Anna Wintour and Kanye West.

Oregon and Alabama were the shoe-ins and even though Florida State was undefeated it would have taken some oversized prostates to remove an undefeated defending national champion from the top four.

Jameis Winston is Cam Newton in a pro-style offense. While Newton did his thing in a gimmicky spread option offense, Winston couldn’t be more dangerous from the pocket than if he was yielding a bow and arrow.

He may not win the Heisman Trophy, but you’d have a hard time convincing me he isn’t the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft. However, before he gets to that juncture, he has to win a second national championship.

Against Georgia Tech, Winston was flawless. The Florida State defense has taken the deepest dive this season.

A defense that was ranked first in scoring defense in 2014 has plummeted to 30th.

Their total defense tanking dipped from third to 52nd. Their passing defense was first in 2013 when teams were throwing late to keep pace with their prodigious scoring margins, 50th at the end of the current regular season.

I can go all day, but the metrics across the board depict a defense that is a fraction of what it was last season.

Winston’s interceptions haven’t helped, or have been a result of keeping pace with opposing offenses more often. Offensively, they’re hitting their stride just in time. Dalvin Cook made the absence of Karlos Williams irrelevant and has taken some of the load off of Winston’s shoulders.

The offense scoring 17 fewer points per game has attributed to the Seminoles perceived weakness, but a quote from their semifinal opponent, Nick Saban following a 14-13 win over Arkansas in mid-Octoer signifies how Jimbo Fisher probably feels about the cacophony surrounding his team’s playoff worthiness.

“I was just happy to see our players be happy about playing the game and winning. It really, sort of, if you want to know the truth about it, pisses me off when I talk to people that have this expectation like they are disappointed that we only won the game 14-13 and in the way we played.

Saban’s criticism of his program’s nitpicky critics was a microcosm of how easily winning can be taken granted. TCU and Baylor know just the feeling.

The Big 12 was the playoff committee's biggest test yet. If you asked the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Pac-12 how they'd grade the committee's efforts, four out of five would approve of their capstone rankings.  The Big 12 would probably prefer a bibliography and annotated footnotes that explains their final decision, but four out of five is a passing grade.