The latest rankings could show something is afoot for the playoff selection

Big 12 Report: Did the Big 12 get set up by the selection committee?

The latest college football playoff rankings have me thinking the committee might have a scheme for the Big 12. There are a few elements to this scheme, so let's see what all the elements are to my conspiracy theory.

The Baylor Jump

A victory at home against a disappointing Texas team got Baylor a five spot jump? FIVE SPOTS?

That is crazy! A few weeks ago Oklahoma barely budged when they beat Baylor in Waco but somehow this week the Bears jump five spots because of a victory over the Longhorns? This is one of the wildest moments by this version of the committee so far.

Oklahoma holding steady

The Sooners jumped up two spots with the losses of the Oregon Ducks and Penn State. They trail only the undefeated teams, Georgia, Alabama, and Utah.

It is important to note that while the Sooners moved up, it wasn't on their own virtue, it was two teams losing in front of them. Oklahoma though, has a leg up on Alabama and Utah down the stretch.

They have two ranked opponents left on their schedule with a rivalry game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater and a Big 12 Championship showdown with Baylor. Neither Utah nor Alabama can face a team ranked as high as Baylor or a second ranked team.

Now, obviously if Baylor slips up against Kansas the Big 12 is screwed.

A top ten victory over the Bears would be a great data point that Alabama nor Utah would possess. The committee added the best win among the contenders for the fourth spot to the equation with how they ranked Baylor.

Rewarding attempted tough scheduling

Here are the non-conference games for Oklahoma, Utah, and Alabama.


vs Houston

vs South Dakota




vs Northern Illinois

vs Idaho State


vs Duke (neutral site)

vs New Mexico State

vs Southern Mississippi

vs Western Carolina

At some point, the committee needs to reward someone who isn't undefeated but scheduled harder than their opponents. Oklahoma scheduled a team that was supposed to compete for the best Group of 5 team mantle in the Houston Cougars. UCLA was supposed to be solid this year under Chip Kelly.

Utah has a built in rivalry game with BYU which isn't a bad team but isn't a good team. The other two games aren't on UCLA or Houston's level. Alabama's non-conference was a joke this season. They didn't leave the South and didn't play a true road game.

The selection committee needs to eventually reward scheduling when records are equal and the conference's are unbalanced.

Oklahoma's case is solid, but they might need help

An easy victory over Oklahoma State and Baylor would go a long way towards the ​Sooners making the playoff yet again.

They need help though. Oregon beating Utah would go a long way to keeping the discussion limited to Alabama or Oklahoma for the final spot in the playoff. Auburn slowing down Alabama and playing them close might help the Sooners too. If backup quarterback Mac Jones struggles, the Crimson Tide could be losing support as one of the top four teams. Also, a Georgia upset of LSU in the SEC championship likely voids Utah, Alabama, and Oklahoma's chances.

Of course, should Auburn upset Alabama, the Sooners would be near locks to make the playoffs.

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Will James Harden return to the Rockets? Composite Getty Image.

When my son was 4 years old, I signed him up to play kiddie soccer. The whole family, plus friends and even my boss from work, came to the park to watch him play his first game, a baby step toward what surely would be a championship athletic career. I had my camcorder ready to roll. His uniform was freshly washed. I even ironed it. How exciting! I just hoped he would allow some of the other kids to score goals, too.

Then, just before the team took the field, he started crying. “Take me home!” There was no stopping him from crying and sniffling – a total meltdown. “I want to go home!” So I picked him up and off we went home.

On that day, my son gave a better effort than James Harden gave the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics last Sunday.

Harden, the three-time NBA scoring champ, scored nine points on 3 for 11 shooting, before eventually quitting on the team, moping around on the court, refusing to shoot and failing to hustle back on defense after blowing a layup. It was an unparalleled, yet typical, performance by Harden. That's how badly Harden stunk up the court. He did everything short of crying, “I want to go home!”

During the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, I texted my friend Glen Macnow, who's a sports talk show host in Philly. I asked him, are you enjoying James Harden's antics?

He fired back: “unbelievable, despicable, career defining as an embarrassing choke artist.” You could almost hear the disgust in his words.

I told him, down here in Houston, we've seen this before.

He answered, “We knew that. We essentially predicted it as a strong possibility on the show this (Sunday) morning.”

On Monday, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith really unloaded on Harden. “James Harden was so awful, so bad, he should actually shave his beard so he can hide his identity. It was really, really bad. I say that in all seriousness. I'm not joking. It was that bad. It will be difficult for him to walk the streets (of Philadelphia). You don't do what you saw him do on Sunday afternoon in a Game 7.”

And what about the rumor that Harden may return to the Rockets?

Stephen A. said, “They ain't giving him no max deal, they ain't giving him a major long-term deal, I can assure you of that. This performance right here turned a whole bunch of people off about James Harden.”

I wonder, does that include Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who has made his fondness, bordering on fatal attraction, for Harden very public? After Harden forced his way out of Houston three years ago, Fertitta famously told Harden he would be welcomed back to Houston in the future. If Harden agreed to a deal with Houston, it wouldn't surprise me if Toyota Center sold Boiled Bunny Sandwiches next year.

Given his stunningly gutless performance Sunday, why do we continue to hear that Harden to Houston is a real possibility? In fact, Vegas oddsmakers say it's likely that Harden will opt out of his contract with the 76ers and his No. 1 landing place, at -150 where betting is legal (not Texas), is Houston. Phoenix is the wiseguy's second choice at +250. Wow, can you imagine that? James Harden and Kevin Durant on the same team? You might as well just hand the Larry O'Brien trophy to the Suns now. Kyrie Irving is a free agent, right? What could possibly go wrong?

On Monday, NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski wrote, “Houston is a very real possibility for Philadelphia's James Harden in free agency … there's a comfort level in Houston for James Harden … he's very comfortable in that environment … he knows ownership, he knows the front office.” Woj added, “Regardless of whether they win the lottery and can draft Victor Wembanyama, my sense is that it would not change the Rockets' intentions to pursue James Harden.”

Barring a reshuffling of the roster, the Rockets next year will roll out a team comprised mostly of rookies, second and third-year players without much hope of making a deep playoff run – given the team finished last in the Western Conference the last three years with records of 22-60, 20-62 and 17-55. Perhaps more than a big-time scorer who could help them inch closer to .500, the Rockets could use a mature veteran, a role model for the younger players, someone who can show them how to be responsible, professional NBA players, a real team-first kind of leader. That's not Harden, at least it wasn't his first time around with the Rockets.

Harden reportedly still calls Houston “home.” Last summer, Harden said, “My family is here, my mom, my sister, my brother – so this (Houston) is the place I would call home.”

Author Thomas Wolfe wrote a famous novel called You Can't Go Home Again.

We'll have to see about that.

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