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Big 12 now must fix its plan, not playoff

WACO, Texas -- The Big 12’s power brokers will all be in the same room Monday. Bob Bowlsby and the league’s athletic directors meet in New York.

The hangover of a brutally embarrassing weekend for the Big 12 should’ve worn off by the time they assemble. The worst-case scenario we should’ve seen coming came true. What are the league’s leaders going to do about it?

The national sympathy for Baylor and TCU has an expiration date. It’s probably Monday. The college football world will move on. The boos emanating from the Lone Star State won’t register. Why? Because, despite it all, we did get one hell of a College Football Playoff.

Outside Big 12 country, they aren’t calling this inaugural bracket a travesty or tragedy. The public has every right to be happy with Alabama vs. Ohio State and Oregon vs. Florida State. The committee delivered a compelling playoff.

Had Ohio State and TCU been left out, Sunday might’ve been consumed by the rage of two conferences, the Big 12 and Big Ten aligning in anger to demand a better way. Makes you wonder if the committee realizes how safe an outcome it selected.

Meanwhile, Baylor AD Ian McCaw’s intentions are clear. He’s ready to begin discussing an expanded playoff model.

“I’m a big eight-team playoff guy,” McCaw told ESPN.com on Saturday night, “and I think tonight and this process may underscore it’s not realistic to pick four teams. It’s just not realistic.”

It’s his job to protect his program’s interests. But chasing an eight-team playoff is not going to get the job done. Not right now.

Baylor and TCU can legitimately claim they had as good a shot at winning it all as Ohio State. A Bama blowout of the Buckeyes would reheat those talking points, no question. But these Big 12 rivals have a problem: Who exactly is begging and pleading to add the next two teams, Mississippi State and Michigan State, to this year’s mix?

An eight-team affair, while great for TV and money and morale, is the Big 12’s red herring for now.

If we go down that road, does it end in sweeping support and a majority vote from the Power 5? What’s going to compel that majority to even take the vote? This season’s playoff won’t.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said it best Friday: “I don’t think there will be a lot of tolerance for sour grapes.” There won’t be any for the Big 12, that much is certain.

This was a botched plan from the start, a failure set in motion well before the “One True Champion” slogan was even concocted.

The Big 12 anticipated having the upper hand with its nine-game conference slate and title game-free playoff path. The Big 12 did not anticipate having two 11-win teams, nor the significant benefit of that 13th game. The league wasn’t prepared or proactive during this season of uncertainty. Bowlsby isn’t the only one culpable for the mess. So are the ADs he’ll face Monday.

They all better point the thumb. The Big 12 came up broke. That doesn’t mean the system is broken.

The truth is, the Big 12 can focus only on fixing the Big 12. McCaw must confront the front end of Baylor’s schedule and change his tune on nonconference scheduling. TCU AD Chris Del Conte ought to fight for fixing the back end. Having to face last-place Iowa State on championship week damaged the Frogs' plans. Together, they should fight for a rewrite of the tiebreaker rules.

Muddying the waters (to steal a Brilesism) with unfit options to expand to 12 teams isn't a well thought-out answer, but it'll be a reluctant topic of discussion again. A fight to stay at 10 and gain a waiver for a conference title game will get talked up, too, now that the committee has expressed its preferences. Again, not the instant solution you might think.

All these options are on the table starting Monday. As Bowlsby has confessed, it’s time to do some real rethinking. The committee made its statement: The Big 12 is taking the wrong route to the playoff.

Good luck convincing peers to follow along to a new eight-team destination. No matter how much sense it might make, one year in, it feels too far away. And there’s too much the Big 12 can fix in the meantime.