WACO — After the on-field celebration had ceased and the last fan had exited McLane Stadium — and Baylor head coach Art Briles had finished making his case for the No. 4 Bears to be a part of the College Football Playoff — a sense of inevitability fell over the press box.
The Big Ten Championship game had gone final and blueblood Ohio State, which entered the weekend one spot ahead of Baylor in the CFP rankings, had demolished Vegas favorite Wisconsin, 59-0.
At that point, the consensus among present media members was set.
Ohio State — not Big 12 co-champions TCU or Baylor — was going to join consensus top-two Alabama and Oregon and undefeated Florida State in the playoff.
Sunday morning that inkling was confirmed, as the Buckeyes will play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon will play Florida State in the Rose Bowl to comprise the inaugural playoff.
After weeks of bickering between fan bases, Baylor did indeed pass TCU in the rankings, but the Big 12 — and the co-champions it recommended to the committee — was left out while the rest of the nation goes about deciding a national champion in football.
This has plenty to do with Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the way he hedged his chances of getting a team in by changing his stance that head-to-head would decide who the conference presented to the committee as champion — “One true champion” is the Big 12 slogan — to presenting co-champions, which committee chairman Jeff Long said was taken into account.
But this also has to do with the fact that Baylor and TCU are not the bluebloods of the Big 12.
That distinction belongs to Texas and Oklahoma — only Texas and Oklahoma aren’t the two best teams in the Big 12.
It seems highly unlikely, however, that if either the Longhorns or Sooners were in the same position as Baylor and TCU the Big 12 would be without a playoff participant.
Ohio State matched up with Baylor and TCU in terms of record and strength of schedule, but the Buckeyes’ didn’t have anywhere near the quality wins the Bears and Horned Frogs boasted, and they had the worst loss, falling to 6-6 Virginia Tech at home.
But Ohio State is still The Ohio State, and Baylor and TCU are not.
And it feels like that was as big of a reason for the Buckeyes to claim the last spot in the playoff as anything Baylor or TCU did on the field.