A tie-breaker designed by accountants

The Big 12 South has four teams in the hunt, all of them ranked in the BCS Top 10! Only Texas Tech is currently undefeated; Texas, OU, and OSU each have one loss. While Tech is in the driver’s seat, it’s still possible for any of those four teams to win the division and play for the conference championship on December 6.

Here’s how I run the numbers for all four teams, starting with OU (because, let’s face it, don’t we always? :-): )

  • Oklahoma probably wins the Big 12 South if OU wins out and if Texas Tech beats OSU. If OSU beats Texas Tech, OU is in a bad position: the Sooners have to win out to stay in the hunt, but with Tech out of the picture, the division probably comes down to a two-way tie between Texas and OU. Texas wins that tie-breaker because the Longhorns won the Red River Rivalry.

    If OSU beats Texas Tech, the Sooners kind of need Texas to lose one of its last three games. The Longhorns’ last three opponents are Baylor, Kansas, and Texas A&M.

    If it comes down to a three-way tie as outlined previously (but with Texas Tech replacing OSU in the scenario), the team with the highest BCS ranking wins. In that scenario, OU would have the last victory of the three, but I wouldn’t bet money that such would mean OU comes out ahead of Texas in the penultimate BCS rankings. It’s a crap-shoot. OU probably wins the division in that case, but it might just as easily go to Texas.

  • Texas Tech wins the Big 12 South if they win out. The Red Raiders have a BCS handicap because they played against two Football Championship Series (FCS, formerly “Division I-AA”) teams this season, and those victories do not count in the BCS formula. As of this writing, despite being 9-0, Texas Tech is not BCS-eligible because they don’t have nine Bowl Championship Series (I-A) wins.

    The Red Raiders’ last three opponents are OSU (at home), OU (in Norman), and Baylor (at home). If they lose two of those games, they need Texas to lose one more game to create another three-way tiebreaker. Going way way out on a limb and imagining that Tech might lose to both OU and OSU (an idea that our friends in Lubbock would strenuously protest), then they’re probably out of luck: Texas beat OSU, so if OU beats OSU, Tech falls out of the tie-breaker. Even if OSU defeats OU, that resolves a three-way tie in Texas’s favor without dropping to a two-way tie. If Texas Tech can tolerate one loss, it would be to OU. Losing to OSU or Baylor, teams that Texas has either already or is likely to beat, would probably keep the Red Raiders away from the Big 12 championship game.

  • Texas can win the Big 12 South, but only if the Longhorns win out and Texas Tech loses at least one game. Sometimes the BCS rankings don’t reflect the winners of head-to-head matchups, but this time they do, at least for now: Texas with one loss is ranked ahead of OU with one loss, even though Texas’s loss is fresher. Of the four teams leading the Big 12 South, only Tech is undefeated. Texas has a decent argument for the tie-breaker by having beaten both OU and OSU, but it’s not a given.

    But if Texas loses a game, then the Longhorns need the other teams in the hunt to have two losses as well. Any team that has two losses while others have only one is out of the hunt.

  • Oklahoma State could win the Big 12 South, but only with a lot of help. The Cowboys are the lowest-ranked of the four teams still in the division race, even though three of the four have the same one-loss record (except for undefeated Tech). If OSU wins out, the three-way tie between between OSU, Texas Tech, and Texas would likely toss out the Cowboys unless they somehow leap Texas in the BCS rankings. If OSU loses one more game, they’ll need the other three teams to have two conference losses as well, and even then they’d likely fall out of the race.

    If Texas Tech defeats OSU on Saturday, the Cowboys best shot is if OU beats Tech on November 22 (handing the Red Raiders a second conference loss), Texas to lose to Texas A&M on the last weekend of the season, and OSU to defeat OU on November 29. But even in that case, with the top four teams having two conference losses each, Texas and Texas Tech would have both beaten OSU, and that likely kicks the Cowboys out of the four-way tiebreaker. The Cowboys’ clearest path to the Big 12 title game is to win out and make a strong argument to poll voters that they should be ranked higher than Texas, despite losing to the Longhorns in October.