Conference Title Games: A Friendly Reminder

Okay, okay, we get it. Nobody wants to see a Big Ten team in the BCS Title Game, even if that team isn't Ohio State. The amount of venomous screed being aimed at Joe Paterno's squad seems like it's doubling by the day. Big 12 and SEC fans in particular have their backs up, fearful that one of their leagues will have an undefeated champion and the other won't. That's fine if it's the other guy, but if it's us? Much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

So everybody's got their Elmer Fudd caps on and you'd better be vewy vewy quiet, because they're hunting Nittany Wions. Some of the arguments make sense. It's true that the Big Ten's signature non-conference win is Penn State over Oregon State (a win that grows better-looking week by week), and it's also true that the league doesn't have a non-conference victory over a currently ranked team. And yes, the Penn State-Ohio State game was a bit anticlimactic from an entertainment point of view. Like I said earlier this week, you don't have to buy Penn State as a title contender. There is one currently popular anti-Nit argument out there which is complete flapdoodle, however.

"Penn State doesn't have to play in a conference championship game!"

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Before I go call a waahmbulance for you, let's make one little correction. In the above sentence, kindly change the word 'have' to the word 'get.' The reason the Big Ten (and the Pac 10, and the Big East) don't have title games is not because they're worried it might knock their best team out of the BCS Title Game. It's because they're not allowed to have a conference championship game.

NCAA regulations only permit conferences with at least 12 members organized into two divisions to hold football championship games, and that applies from the FBS clear down to Division III. What do the Big Ten, Pac 10, and Big East have in common? They all have fewer than 12 members.

Another key concept many fans fail to grasp is that conference title games are permitted for 12-member conferences; they're not mandatory. Given that a title game loss has twice prevented the Big 12's best team from a national title shot, and it's smacked around the SEC three times, why do they play these games? I'm not $ure, but if we put our head$ together, we $hould come up with $ome $ort of rea$on.

Thus, one of the many cruel ironies of the BCS is this: While it is perceived to reward teams from weaker conferences, it actually punishes teams from stronger ones far more often. One of these days, a fan base or two is going to figure out that there's no real advantage, from a BCS point of view, to playing in a strong conference, and they'll start wanting out of the Big 12 or SEC.

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Conference Title Games: A Friendly Reminder originally appeared on NCAA Football FanHouse on 2008-10-29T13:50:00+00:00. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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