If there is a more media-savy coach in college football than Mack Brown I have yet to see him or hear from him.
But when the topic turns to the Big 12 Championship Game, with a national championship riding on the line, not even Mack Brown can find a politically-correct gray area that offends no one.
“I have always felt like it hurts,” Brown said of conference championship games in general during his Monday teleconference. “I do think it helped Florida a few years ago, but it has never helped in the Big 12 that I’m aware of.”
He’s right on both counts.
In 2006 Florida was BCS ranked at #4, behind #1 Ohio State, #2 USC and #3 Michigan going into Conference Championship weekend.
USC was upset by rival UCLA that weekend, while the Gators beat Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game. Michigan, of course, was idle that weekend because the Big 10 does not stage a conference championship game.
When the next BCS poll came out, the faces of Michigan’s fans collectively went red. Florida had not only leap-frogged USC, but the Wolverines as well, and secured a spot in the BCS Championship Game against Ohio State, and beat the Buckeyes for the national title.
The conference championship game was the springboard for the Gators reaching and winning the title.
Big 12 teams have not fared as well.
In 1998, Kansas State famously gagged away a 15-point fourth-quarter lead to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship, losing in double-OT. With it, the #3 BCS-ranked Wildcats also lost a chance to leap UCLA in the poll, as the #2 Bruins had lost the same afternoon to Florida State. Instead of playing in the Fiesta Bowl against Tennessee for a national championship, K-State was sent to the Alamodome to face Purdue.
In 2001, Mack Brown and the Longhorns went to the Big 12 Championship at Texas Stadium ranked #3 facing Colorado. In a duplication of Kansas State in ’98, Texas knew that the #2-ranked team (Florida) had lost (to Tennessee in the SEC Championship) the same day, turning the Big 12 Championship into a BCS Championship semifinal. But, Chris Simms fumbled and threw three interceptions before halftime, and that was that.
Oddly enough, there were enough upsets that weekend in 2001 that Nebraska actually ascended from #4 to #2 to take the spot in the BCS Championship Game. The last time the Huskers were seen on a football field they were taken to the wood shed by Colorado, beaten 62-36. Miami essentially did the same in the BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl