Saturday was a bad day of Big 12 football. There were only two games after two other games had been cancelled earlier in the week. Oklahoma State went to Waco and blew out Baylor 42-3. Then it was TCU playing its first non-conference game of the year in the last regular season game of the year (so 2020) and crushed Louisiana Tech 52-10.
But it’s what happened around the rest of college football that gave the Big 12 Conference a jolt on Saturday. No. 10 Miami lost to UNC in dreadful fashion, losing 62-26. Then at night, it was LSU beating No. 6 Florida 37-34. And this was not Joe Burrow’s LSU squad, it was a 3-5 Tigers team that had struggled all season.
And just like that, the Big 12 Conference suddenly finds itself in a position to become the first-ever two-loss team to make the College Football Playoff with the Iowa State Cyclones or Oklahoma Sooners. In last week’s CFB Playoff rankings, the Cyclones were No. 7 and Sooners at No. 11.
With this week’s results, Iowa State should move up to No. 6 and Oklahoma will be in the Top 10. The Big 12 still needs some help, but there is absolutely a path to making the College Football Playoff this season.
Before we get into what needs to happen, let’s remember that the committee needs to include conference championships in its criteria. At least that’s what they told us, right TCU and Baylor fans? They’ve insisted it’s a major part of how they rank teams in the final week.
If so, Texas A&M should be done. Sorry Aggies bros. Plus, whichever Big 12 team wins next week will have three Top 25 wins. A&M has one (Florida).
So then we have to look to the ACC and Big Ten Championship Game. Some pundits believe that Notre Dame and Clemson are both automatically in the Playoff, regardless of outcome. I have NO idea how anyone can come to that conclusion. Despite all the fanfare, Notre Dame has two Top 25 wins (same as OU, Iowa State) and Clemson has one. Don’t get me wrong, Clemson “looks” like a Top 4 team. But are we going off of resumes or just the made up “eye test” that the committee still uses far too liberally?
Clemson should be done of it loses a second time to Notre Dame. And a Notre Dame loss should not guarantee them a Playoff berth. They would have two Top 25 wins and no conference title.
Also on the consideration list is strength of schedule, and if you look at ESPN’s FPI rankings, which helps with SOS, Notre Dame is 10th. Meantime, OU is 5th and Iowa State is 12th. Would the Irish be a lock at 10th on this list with no conference title? I wouldn’t think so.
Now in the Big Ten, Ohio State plays Northwestern in the Big Ten Title Game. We already know the committee has an affinity for the Buckeyes. That’s been the case since the inception of the Playoff. Once again, just ask TCU and Baylor fans.
Ohio State will be a big favorite, as they should be. And as much as I hate to say it, since they’ll have only played a total of six games, and the Big Ten has bungled its season since July, they’ll be in the playoff. So a Northwestern upset would be the best-case scenario for the Big 12 Conference. But it’s also the least likely.
So there are three options here to give Iowa State a real shot:
- Notre Dame blows out Clemson
- Clemson blows out Notre Dame
- Northwestern upsets Ohio State
For the Oklahoma Sooners, it’s a little trickier, as they would have to leap more teams and they have a bad loss on their resume (Kansas State). For the Sooners, they would need to catch some combination of the three possibilities listed above and then have to beat out a one-loss, idle Texas A&M team.
I believe OU would still have a very strong case, but they’d have more climbing to do in the rankings.
Regardless, as we turn the page to Championship Week, this week is no longer just about a conference title, with OU trying to make it six in a row and Iowa State looking for its first one in 108 years.
There is a College Football Playoff appearance in the discussion. None of us saw that as a possibility just a few weeks ago. But then again, hello 2020, you have shown your face once again.
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