Big 12 tie-breaking procedure

At least until the OSU v. Texas game starts today, a few people have asked what happens in the Big 12 South if Texas beats OU, OSU beats Texas, and OU beats OSU. The question is resolved by the Big 12 Conference’s tie-breaking rules, available at the link above and repeated here for the 2008 season:

Divisional Champion: The (eligible) team with the best
winning-percentage of all divisional members in its eight conference
games is declared the divisional champion and representative to the Dr Pepper Big 12 Conference Football Championship Game. A team ineligible
under NCAA or Big 12 rules for postseason (bowl) competition shall not
compete in the Championship Game.

Divisional Tiebreakers: The following procedure will determine the representative from each division in the event of a tie:

  1. If two teams are tied, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative

  2. If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 7 will be
    followed until a determination is made. If only two teams remain tied
    after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall
    be the representative.

    1. The records of the three teams will be compared against each other

    2. The records of the three teams will be compared within their division

    3. The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in their division
      in order of finish (4, 5 and 6)

    4. The records of the three teams will be compared against all common conference opponents;

    5. The highest ranked team in the first Bowl Championship Series Poll following the completion of Big 12 regular season conference play shall be the representative

    6. The team with the best overall winning percentage [excluding exempted games] shall be the representative

    7. The representative will be chosen by draw.

So, hypothetically, if the above round-robin situation comes to pass and none of the teams involved have any other conference losses, the first tie-breaker would be comparing all three teams’ overall records to each other. If all three teams had only one loss (to each other in the circular fashion described), that kills the first two tiebreakers.

The third tiebreaker compares all three teams’ records to whichever division opponent (in this scenario, that’d be either Texas Tech, Texas A&M, or Baylor) who finished 4th in the division, then 5th, then 6th. In the scenario where all three teams have only one loss, each to a different division opponent among the three, all three of the teams would have identically superior records to the other three: Baylor (for example) would not have a better record against one of the top three than the others since all of the top three would have beaten all of the bottom three.

The fourth tiebreaker compares records against all conference opponents, meaning they now add in the three Big 12 North team each team plays each year. But again, in the hypothetical scenario where OU has only one loss (to Texas), OSU has only one loss (to OU), and Texas has only one loss (to OSU), then by definition, each of the three teams beat all three of their Big 12 North opponents too, so that doesn’t help.

Step five is where it gets resolved: whichever of the three teams is ranked the highest in the next to last BCS results of the year (presuming the bad wording does not limit it to just the Harris Poll, one component of the BCS results) gets the division championship. That would be the release just before the final one, the week before the Big 12 championship. In this season, under this hypothetical, that would depend on how the voters and computers rank the three teams. It would be either OU or Texas, though, because OU v. OSU is the last regular season game, and the late loss would certainly move the Cowboys behind the Sooners (and perhaps the Longhorns) in the final BCS rankings.

In the incredibly unlikely event that all three teams have the exact same BCS score (to three decimal places), they drop “exempt” games and compare percentages again. Although this is some weird rules voodoo, some preseason games played before a certain NCAA-specified window are considered exempt games, and wins in them didn’t originally count towards BCS at-large eligibility. No Big 12 South teams plays an “exempt” game in 2008, as far as I can tell, so this is irrelevant.

If they meant to exclude games against FCS (“Division I-AA”) schools in that step, then Texas wins: both OU and OSU played FCS teams in the first month of the season (Chattanooga and Missouri State, respectively), but Texas did not.

At that point, they’d hold a random draw for the division title. But even in this unlikely hypothetical, it would get resolved at the BCS rankings stage: the possibility of three teams having exactly the same BCS ranking is infinitesimally small. Even if two of them did have the same ranking, the third team would fall out and the division championship then goes to whichever of those two teams won their head-to-head matchup.

So, yeah, it’s incredibly unlikely it gets this far in the first place, but if it does reach the above scenario, the likely division champion is the team with the highest BCS ranking the week before the Big 12 Championship game. Fun with math!