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Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, and one-loss Alabama found themselves with seats at the big kids table in Tuesday night’s initial College Football Playoff rankings. Notre Dame, also sporting one loss, stands by ready to fill the vacant seat of the loser of Saturday’s Alabama – LSU showdown. Meanwhile, the Big 12’s undefeated trio of Baylor , TCU, and Oklahoma State find themselves on the outside looking in. Oklahoma, who has been very impressive since their early October loss to rival Texas, was ranked 15th.

The long-held belief by some pundits that simply going undefeated would likely get you a place at the table may no longer hold water. By ranking two one-loss teams in third third and fifth spots, the newly 12-person committee (with the recent departure of USC’s AD Pat Haden due to health related reasons) tried to state their case that strength of schedule will be the most important factor in determining its final four competitors. Their methodology in stating this case definitely raised some eyebrows and even more questions.

As stated prior, the rankings are most certainly guaranteed to change next week with LSU facing Alabama this weekend. But one could argue that the committee’s SEC bias seemed glaringly apparent by ranking six of its teams in the top 20. Committee Chairman Jeff Long indicated that despite Alabama’s six-point September loss to Ole Miss at home, three wins over teams with records above .500 had earned them their spot at #3, ahead of conference rival Florida which has two such wins but is ranked 10th. Utah, despite a recent loss to USC, still owns four victories against teams above .500 but somehow is curiously ranked 12th behind several other one-loss teams. Long went on to state that the committee was “uncertain of their true strength” when it came to assessing Baylor and TCU due to a lacking strength of schedule up to this point. Both Baylor and TCU have only played one school with a winning record, Texas Tech (5-4). 

We take a look at the ranked Big 12 teams and what obstacles they face in order to make their case to the CFP committee below:

Baylor (6th)

Baylor’s current strength of schedule is ranked 109th nationally. When compared to Alabama (3rd in Strength of Schedule) and Notre Dame (14th in Strength of Schedule) this statistic really seemed to hurt the Bears with the selection committee. However, with upcoming games against Oklahoma (15th), Oklahoma State (14th), and TCU (8th), Baylor’s remaining strength of schedule is ranked 9th. We’ll soon know the impact of the loss of quarterback Seth Russell on the number one scoring offense in the country and if freshman backup Jarrett Stidham can continue the momentum forward.

TCU (8th)

TCU also has three games remaining against opponents currently ranked within the CFP’s top-15: Oklahoma State (14th), Oklahoma (15th) and Baylor (6th). Based on the parameters in place, and Commissioner Long’s comments, it would certainly seem that if TCU were to win out that they should find a way to the playoffs but that the margin for error is nil.

Oklahoma State (14th)

Despite being ranked last among the Power Five undefeated teams, and behind Memphis of the American Athletic Conference, Oklahoma State seems to be primed for a run at the playoffs if they can remain undefeated. Oklahoma State’s remaining top-15 matchups against TCU (8th), Baylor (6th), and Oklahoma (15th) all take place at home in Stillwater.

Oklahoma (15th)

If the Sooners were to win out they would be crowned Big 12 champions via head-to-head matchups and would effectively eliminate Baylor (6th), TCU (8th) and Oklahoma State (14th) from playoff contention. Finishing the season in such a strong fashion, and with big name brand appeal, this scenario might help place the Sooners in the playoffs in much the way it did Ohio State a season ago.

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