The final narrative of the 2019 college football season is set: Tiger v. Tiger for the national title. Defending champion Clemson slept through the first half but awoke in time to survive their first real scrap of the season against yet another talented team from The Ohio State University. Clemson quarterback and future Heisman Trophy winner Trevor Lawrence and company fought back from a 16-point deficit to return to the title game and attempt a bite at their third championship in four seasons. Coach Dabo Swinney relishes another chance to remind us that the almighty cares a lot about his football team. Standing in Clemson’s way is easily the most dominant team in collegiate football in recent memory. The Bayou Bengals have been building speed in their swamp boat and outright flattened opponents down the stretch. Their most recent victim: the Oklahoma Sooners.
The term “victim” isn’t for shock or hyperbole. Our neighbors to the north seemed as if they’d been locked in a cage, their hands bound with electrical tape, with an actual tiger. Heisman Trophy winner – and likely replacement of former Frog Andy Dalton in Cincinnati – Joe Burrow threw seven touchdown passes for just shy of 500 yards. Most spectators could infer the final outcome of this melee midway through the second quarter and confidently resume their Netflix viewing by halftime. I’m not suggesting I didn’t predict, nor enjoy watching, the bullies of the Big 12 flail in front of millions of viewers, but my enjoyment was short-lived since our collective reputations are on the chopping block.
The conference “where every game matters” hasn’t earned respect from national pundits and neighboring rivals, and it’s painfully obvious why. Oklahoma State squandered an excellent first half of the Texas Bowl against Texas “We’ll Be Really Good Next Year, We Promise” A&M to lose by a touchdown. Iowa State was completely overmatched against a 10-win Irish squad as the Camping World Bowl left me flipping back and forth between episodes of The Office I’ve seen at least 15 times. Then, our Sooners were chased off the field in the second most lopsided playoff semifinal in history. The Crimson and Cream personify the justified lack of reverence for our undersized conference. Oklahoma has appeared in four semifinals, never as an undefeated squad, and bogeyed every attempt. Their most admirable outcome was a two-overtime loss to Georgia in Baker Mayfield’s senior season to grace a weary audience with an SEC-championship rematch for the trophy. Five years of playoffs have netted two titles for the SEC –– both by Alabama –– two for the ACC –– both by Clemson –– and Ohio State won in the first year of the new system against Oregon from the PAC 12. That leaves the Big 12 as the lone Power Six conference to never appear in the final act. I’m not suggesting the PAC 12 is a better conference than Texas and friends, nor the ACC, but it becomes harder to craft an argument that our conference champion should be included.
A longer timeline trumpets a bleaker tale. The last Big 12 national champions hail from Austin, when quarterback Vince Young scrambled past top-ranked USC in 2005. Oklahoma hasn’t stolen it all since everyone was drunk all year after surviving Y2K in 2000. The PAC 12 is the only major conference with fewer title trophies this century than the Big 12. I’m not directly badgering the Sooners, who have obviously proved themselves time and again the best our cohort has to offer, yet two Heisman Trophy winners couldn’t drive them to the final game. Our conference seems to be locked rolling Sisyphus’ stone up the mountain every season, only to watch in horror as it reverses course and crushes our dreams of reestablishing our conference as a force, not a farce. UT and Baylor have yet to grace the gridiron against Utah and Georgia, respectively. They’ll need to impress in their games to aid their rivals in the fallout of the atomic bomb of trolling that’s been dropped since the Tigers ate the Sooners as an afternoon snack.