Two weeks into the season, the Big 12 has a combined record of 15-3. The three losses have come at a price for the conferences’ reputation. Could that hit, cost the Big 12 a bid for the College Football Playoff?
Here are some key points to look for through the season that will make or break the Big 12 chances of having a team represent the conference in the playoff.
To this point, it seems like the College Football Playoff has been three preseason favorites getting guaranteed spots with the first three picks, while the Big 12, Pac-12, independents and a second SEC team fight for that fourth spot.
This year, Clemson, the SEC-winner (Alabama) and Big Ten-winner (Ohio State) will take the top three spots leaving the winner of the Big 12 to duke it out against Georgia, LSU and Notre Dame. The good news is that the Pac 12 and ACC, outside of Clemson, don’t seem to threaten for a seat at the table.
Oklahoma and Texas are currently the only two teams ranked in the top 25 from the Big 12. However, that will likely change throughout the season with Oklahoma State, TCU and Iowa State on the outside looking in, and Baylor and K-State looking better than advertised.
No disrespect to the teams just mentioned, but if the Big 12 is making it to the playoff, it’s going to be with Oklahoma or Texas. The Red River Shootout and the Big 12 Championship game will decide the Big 12’s fate. If the Sooners lose to the Longhorns at the Texas State Fair, they would have to win out and repeat what they did last year by avenging their loss in the Big 12 Championship Game. If Texas wins the showdown, they will have their marquee win after losing close to LSU, but will have to do the improbable and beat Oklahoma for a second time at the end of the season.
A 1-loss Big 12 Champion, like is season’s past, will have a strong argument to be included in the playoff. Especially if that loss is to a top-10 team.
As established above, let’s assume that Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State are in and that the Big 12 is fighting for the last spot.
Here’s where it could go wrong for the Big 12. There are not many stand-out non-conference games left that will showcase the Big 12. The lack of ranked opponents could hurt the conference’s strength of schedule moving forward in the season. If the Big 12 does not have a perceived strong strength of schedule, that’s all we are going to hear about on ESPN leading up to the selections.
The Big 12 winner could be passed up in favor of a second SEC or even Big Ten pick.
The SEC has showcased there top teams against big opponents. LSU beating Texas is a problem. Because, if Texas does win out, and LSU is sitting there with only one loss to Alabama, who do you think the selection committee is taking?
Also, Auburn proved its worth on opening night with a win over top-ranked Oregon. Florida beat Miami on opening day and Georgia is scheduled to play 9th-ranked Norte Dame next week.
If Notre Dame beats the Bulldogs from the south, and makes it by 25th-ranked Virginia, 24th-ranked USC and 10th-ranked Michigan, the Irish will have a strong shot at making the playoff for the second year in a row.
And then there is the conference the selection committee can’t stop drooling over; the Big Ten. They are currently fielding the most teams in the AP Top 25 with over six teams named. No matter who wins the conference, either Ohio State, Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State and Penn State would have a strong case at making the playoff with only one loss.
With the national spotlight on other schools, it will be a challenge for the Big 12 to keep its momentum at the top. Especially, if the rest of the Big 12 consumes itself with the round-robin schedule.