Tramel: Bob Bowlsby makes a case for Iowa State vs. Ohio State
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby says now is not the time to critique the College Football Playoff committee or the protocols that determine the four-team field each season.
But in a teleconference Thursday in advance of the Big 12 Championship Game, Bowlsby did point out a novelty about sixth-ranked Iowa State, which is 8-2, and fourth-ranked Ohio State, which is 5-0.
“Ironically, if Iowa State were to win the championship game (Saturday against OU), they would have won six straight games, which is the same number Ohio State has played the entire season,” Bowlsby said.
The Buckeyes’ lack of games has become a flashpoint in this COVID-stricken season. The Big Ten scheduled eight games per team after delaying its season until October 24. But three Ohio State games have been canceled, and the Buckeyes are 5-0 going into the Big Ten title game Saturday against Northwestern.
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The committee has ranked the Buckeyes No. 4 each of the four weeks it has produced rankings, and Ohio State is expected to be included in the field, provided it doesn’t lose to Northwestern.
“I think the selection committee has fewer tools available to it this year,” Bowlsby said. “But one of the things they’re going to have to reconcile is the differences in the number of contests played.
“There’s a certain extent to where this is a war of attrition. When you play 10 or 11 or 12 games, you don’t always have the same personnel. You’re not always similarly prepared. You have games when you’re most ready to play, and there’s games where you’re less ready to play. That’s when good teams get picked off.
“Going through an entire season is part of the labors of Hercules that college football teams go through to get to the College Football Playoff. I think that’s a difficult assessment to make when you have teams that have four- or five-game differentials in how many games they played.”
The Big 12’s representative on the committee is OU athletic director Joe Castiglione.
The committee appears to be under more scrutiny this season, not just over the Ohio State issue, but over the lack of respect for mid-major programs. Cincinnati, 8-0, has slipped in recent weeks while not playing, while other teams have not slipped when canceled or delayed by COVID. Coastal Carolina, Brigham Young and Louisiana-Lafayette also have garnered relatively little respect from the committee.
“It’s not a great idea to talk about change during periods of stress and periods of the kinds of anxiety we have collectively in society and within the sports enterprise,” Bowlsby said. “There will be a time to talk about that.”
A subcommittee had been formed to evaluate all things related to the playoff, but Bowlsby said that initiative largely has been suspended by the pandemic.
“But we’ll get back to that,” Bowlsby said. “We’ll try and evaluate what we’ve done right and what we haven’t done right and what this ought to look like going forward. And whether the selection committee is doing the things and comparing the things and coming with the right decisions based on the right set of metrics. That’s something that is appropriate to do in a shared enterprise like this.”
American Conference commissioner Michael Aresco suggested Wednesday during an ESPN interview that the playoff should consider reverting to the Bowl Championship Series formula, which heavily involved computer rankings. But Bowlsby seemed to reject that idea.
“There’s an awful lot that’s right about the College Football Playoff,” Bowlsby said. “It’s clearly far superior to any predecessor structure that we’ve had. The selection committee is clearly superior to leaving it in the hands of computers.
“Reasonable people can disagree on where they would advocate for change, but there’s an awful lot right about it, and we need to make sure that we continue to move forward in ways that keep it just as good as it can be.”
The Big 12 (OU) has made four of the last five playoffs. But without some help from an upset or two Saturday, the conference will be shut out this season.
“We put 13 honest people in a room, and they’re going to decide who should be in and who should be out,” Bowlsby said. “We’re still in position to have teams in the playoff. We probably need some help, but it’s a good position to be in.”
A few other topics addressed by Bowlsby:
* If the Big 12 places two teams in New Year’s Six bowls, the conference is unlikely to fill out all its bowl slots, Bowlsby said. Kansas State already has announced it will not play in a bowl game.
If OU beats Iowa State, it’s possible that the Cyclones would still get a major bowl berth. It’s much less likely that the 10th-ranked Sooners would, with a loss to ISU.
“If we move two up, we will likely be one short,” Bowlsby said. “If we don't move two up, we will likely have the number we need.”
* Bowlsby said the Big 12 is planning on playing the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, with “some measure of reduced fans.”
The 2020 Big 12 Tournament was canceled after two games, when the pandemic struck. Now it appears a second straight tournament will be affected by the COVID.
“We don't for a minute expect that we're going to have a full house,” Bowlsby said. “We could end up with no fans. We could end up with 25 percent, but there isn't any way for us to make those decisions now, or to make any assumptions.
“We’ll go forward and plan. I think we'll plan for a reduced house, but we’ll plan to conduct the competition and we'll plan to do the things that it takes to get the men's and women's tournaments conducted.
“We haven't spent any time thinking about moving it to another city. I think that if we can't play it for some reason in Kansas City, chances are we aren't going to be able to play it at any place else, either.”
* Bowlsby said he can’t imagine the COVID vaccine affecting collegiate sports anytime soon.
“I always kind of hesitate on this question because sports is important to us and we all spend a lot of time, energy and money involved in it,” Bowlsby said. “But it's going to be a while in my estimation before healthy 18- to 22-year-olds are going to get the vaccine. And that's the way it should be.
“If it turns out that we can't get the season in because we can't get the vaccine, then that's just the way it is. It needs to go to health care professionals, it needs to go to people that are in high-risk categories.”
The 69-year-old Bowlsby said that early in the pandemic, he was stunned when he realized he was considered elderly.
“I don't feel elderly and I don't have any underlying health issues,” Bowlsby said. “But you know, the fact is there are people that are over 65 that have dual diagnosis difficulties and have comorbidities and have the kinds of things that really complicate an infection with a virus like COVID, and they ought to be the ones to get the vaccine first.
“And I think that's the way we're started out. Now whether or not, American scientific know-how and the pharmaceutical companies could ramp up to the point where, you know, we could have something that approaches herd immunity by March or April? That would be absolutely wonderful. But we're not counting on being able to get access in a sports environment to the vaccine. I just don't think that is well advised and I don't think it's highly likely.”