The Big 12 has had a rough go of it in 2020; from Iowa State losing to Louisiana-Lafayette on the opening weekend to Oklahoma State losing to Texas in overtime on Saturday, many have written the conference out of the College Football Playoff race. Is there a chance the Big 12 can send a team to the playoff? I would say it’s unlikely at this point in the season, but being an optimist, I wanted to lay out the path and what Big 12 fans should be rooting for if they want to have the conference be represented.
I realize what I am about to say might draw the ire of Oklahoma football fans, but I am ready. The only chance the Big 12 has to send a team into the CFB Playoff is with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, they have lost twice this year to a capable Iowa State team and then a comeback loss to Kansas State, who’s season seems to be going in the wrong direction with their new QB. In a normal year, two losses might still leave you in the hunt for the playoff, but in this loaded season with the Big 10 playing fewer games and the ACC having two teams currently in the top 4, there isn’t a path for the Sooners. Oklahoma could crack the top 8 in the final polls by winning out, but I do believe that is their ceiling.
It goes without saying, but Oklahoma State is going to have to win every game on their schedule and do it in convincing fashion to gain the respect needed. Kansas State fell out of the AP Top 25 which hurts the Pokes in terms of not getting another ranked win in Manhattan this weekend, but the Cowboys need to focus on winning those games and then get plenty of help around them. If Oklahoma and Oklahoma State can both win this weekend, it could set up a top 15 matchup on the 21st in Norman where the Cowboys will need to win, and win convincingly, to assure they jump ahead of an SEC team like Texas A&M sitting with one loss ahead of the Pokes.
After that, OSU will jump into the Big 12 championship game where they will most likely face Iowa State, based on OU having three losses if the Cowboys defeat them. If Iowa State remains on their winning track and can defeat Texas, they will clinch their spot in Dallas. Cowboys fans should root for the Cyclones the rest of the year and hope that when the two meet for the second time in 2020, they are both in the top 10 or just outside of it. A top 10 win to close out the season would be a nice talking for the playoff committee and further show the improvements the conference made since the early weeks.
Moving outside of the Big 12, let’s talk about what fanbase Cowboys fans will be joining and which matchups are of the most importance. We will start this Friday with a doubleheader featuring two top-11 teams. Big 12 fans need Boise State to defeat BYU in Idaho this week; the ninth ranked Cougars have three remaining games, and this is the only game where they have a legitimate chance to lose. Will the committee take an undefeated BYU team over a one loss OSU Big 12 champion? I think there is a possibility of that, so root for the Boise State Broncos to pull the upset at home. Also on Friday night, the Miami Hurricanes play on the road against NC State. Miami’s lone loss came to the #1 Clemson Tigers and while their schedule gives them more chances to lose later in the season, this is a sneaky good NC State team that could shock the Hurricanes and pull the upset. Wherever it comes, Oklahoma State fans need Miami to finish the season with 2 losses. The next two games are both of importance as they face NC State and Virginia Tech on the road.
The other game of major importance for Big 12 fans would be in Jacksonville, Florida, where the #8 Florida Gators will meet up with the #5 Georgia Bulldogs. This is a true elimination game for the playoff, and the OSU faithful should be hoping the Bulldogs are the ones seeing their title chances come to a close. Georgia has one loss this year to #2 Alabama on the road; two losses will be too much of a mountain to climb for Georgia, especially considering a loss to Florida would send the Gators to the SEC Championship game against Alabama. If Florida goes to the SEC Championship game and loses, that probably knocks the conference down to only one playoff team, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Texas A&M looms with only one loss, but the fact that they would not be in the conference title game could come back to haunt them.
Finally, on Saturday, the Cincinnati Bearcats play at home against the Houston Cougars. Cincy is rolling this year, beating SMU and Memphis by a combined 68 points. Cincinnati will have three games left they could lose, this weekend against Houston, December 5th against Tulsa and the AAC title game the following week. A lone loss will most likely end their playoff hopes, so expect the pressure begin to rise as they get closer to an undefeated season. Start rooting against Cincinnati if you’re an OSU fan; if Tulsa wins the AAC it adds one more notch to the Cowboys’ belt since Oklahoma State defeated Tulsa to open the season.
To recap, these are the games of importance and who Big 12 fans should be rooting for in bold:
Friday, November 6
BYU @ Boise State
Miami @ NC State
Saturday, November 7
Florida vs Georgia
Cincinnati vs Houston
The most important games in the Big 12 are the ones played with each other. Iowa State and Oklahoma State have to win their remaining games, with Oklahoma finishing their season strong as well. If Iowa State stumbles and loses another game or Oklahoma drops another Big 12 contest outside of the Bedlam matchup, it will further drive the narrative that the conference is weak. I will revisit this weekly for the rest of the season, but for now Big 12 fans will have several games to keep an eye on this weekend.
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