The latest Big Ten weekly press release detailed out the tie-breaker scenarios in detail and Adam Rittenberg of ESPN summarized the basics earlier this month. For the B1G title game, the winner of each division will play, unless one of the division winners is ineligible to play in a bowl game.
To me, the official Big Ten division tie-breaker rules aren’t crystal clear after a quick read. I think the confusion is that technically Big Ten conference teams have three types of records:
- The division record (5 games)
- The overall conference record (8 games)
- The overall record (12 games)
Here are the key elements on the conference championship rules from the official site, with some comments to clarify what it means. Hat tip to Big Ten media relations lead Scott Chipman for confirming this:
1). Divisional Champion rule: The Big Ten football championship will be decided by a game played between the two division champions. Clarification: The division champion is the team with the best overall conference record (in the 8 overall conference games played).
2). First Tie-Breaker: If two teams are tied, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative. Clarification: So that’s easy if you are clear on how two teams can tie, and that’s based on overall conference record as discussed in 1).
3). Three Team Tie-Breaker rules. Official rules in italics, with clarifications where necessary:
The following procedure will determine the representative from each division in the event of a tie:
If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 7 will be followed until a determination is made. If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.
- The records of the three tied teams will be compared against each other. Clarification: This refers to the record in the games played between the three tied teams, in other words, if one team is 2-0 against the other two teams, that team would win the tie-breaker.
- The records of the three tied teams will be compared within their division. Clarification: This is where the divisional record (5 games) comes into to play.
- The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in their division in order of finish (4, 5, and 6). Clarification: This gets spicy now, but it looks like they take the three tied teams and see how they did against the #4 team in the division (then if necessary #5, then #6). Remember that if along the way a tie is broken (e.g., two of the 3 tied teams beat the #4 team, but the other lost to the #4 team), it reverts to head-to-head to the 2 teams that beat the #4 team.
- The records of the three teams will be compared against all common conference opponents. Clarification: Effectively this is doing what #3 does if the three tied teams all played a team or teams in the other division. Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State will have each played Ohio State at the end of the season, for instance.
- The highest ranked team in the first Bowl Championship Series Poll following the completion of Big Ten regular season conference play shall be the representative in the Big Ten Championship Game, unless the two highest ranked tied teams are ranked within one spot of each other in the BCS poll. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the Big Ten Championship. Clarification: So after all that, if there’s still a tie, they go to the BCS unless the two top teams (of the three tied) are within one spot of each other.
- The team with the best overall winning percentage [excluding exempted games] shall be the representative. Clarification: OK, this is where the rest of the schedule (12 games) comes into play.
- The representative will be chosen by random draw. Clarification: Ping pong balls? Draw straws?
A couple wacky scenarios are also defined in the press release.
First, for trivia buffs:
Q: Is the winner of the B1G title game guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl?
A: No. The Tostitos Trump Card:
The winner of the Big Ten football championship game will represent the Conference in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) unless a conference team other than the champion is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS poll.
We can debate how unlikely that is, but it’s pretty much happened a couple times already in the past decade (although they’ve tweaked the formula since those occurrences).
Next, the smoking hole scenario. “If the championship game cannot be played (due to any reason beyond the control of the Big Ten Conference)….”, they’ve created a pecking order to determine who gets the BCS bid. Painfully, they agreed to jump over head-to-head and bow to the BCS rankings unless it’s close:
If the two divisional representatives met previously in the season and neither is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS standings, the team ranked highest in the final BCS standings shall be the representative to the BCS, unless the other team is ranked within five or fewer places of the higher ranked team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the two teams shall determine the Conference’s BCS representative.