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Big 12 Finds 12-teams, title game are Best for Playoff Chances

The Big 12 hired outside analytics firm Navigate Research to study the impact of expanding the conference back to 12 teams and installing a championship game. What did they find?

12 is greater than 10, at least according to the Big 12.  Before you start snickering, this is real news, and important news.  The Big 12 Conference took a necessary, and possibly very influential step, by hiring outside analytics firm Navigate Research to study the impact of expansion on the conferences College Football Playoff odds. 

What they found was that a Big 12 team was 4-5% more likely to make it to the Final Four if they played an 8-game conference schedule with a conference title game.  Both would necessitate expanding to 12 teams and moving away from the round-robin format that has given then Big 12 "One-True Champion".  

Some have already derided this analysis based on the fact that there are just two data points to work with, the two years of playoff results to study. That isn't the way to view it.  “You name a scenario, they modeled it,” Bowlsby said of Navigate. “They ran 40,000 simulations.”

That isn't to say that this is 100% accurate or a fact, but it does give some credence to expansion and the benefit to the conference's ability to advance to the CFP.  What does become the question is "What now?".  Is a 4-5% bump enough to change minds about expansion?  Most think that the Big 12 is split roughly down the middle.  

We all know where OU and Dave Boren stand, but what does the new regime at Texas think?  Kansas State is reportedly on board with expansion, but what about Baylor who seems to be on the fence as much as anyone. Could this research sway a mind or two in one direction or the other and end the stalemate that will more than likely destroy the Big 12 from within?

One known fact is that a 13th data point was given as a reason why Baylor and TCU in 2014 were unable to climb into the Top-4 at the end of the year, to the benefit of eventual champion Ohio State.  We also know that Oklahoma fell a spot after the additional data points were added for the 3 other CFP teams last year. 

So, if getting the 13th data point, i.e. a conference title game, is that important, why doesn't the Big 12 just do it?  Could the conference hedge its bet and enact the title game without expansion, something that is now possible due to the NCAA's approval of title games with 10-team leagues

With the additional funds brought in by a conference title game, that could offset some, if not all, of the money lost from bringing on two more schools, even with no additional TV money brought in.  Add in more schools possibly makes it more likely that a Big 12 channel becomes a reality, and the money could be beneficial in the long run, after a short-term loss.  

These questions will surely be asked during the Big 12 meetings May 31st-June 4th in Dallas. It could be the next step on the path towards expansion. 

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