Big 12's chance to get playoff team, or knock each other out
The College Football Playoff selection committee isn't sold on the Big 12 Conference - again. Not yet, anyway.
At least the Big 12 will get a chance to prove it deserves a spot when the final four-team bracket is set a month from now. Or, the league's best teams could beat each other up and the Big 12 will be out of playoff contention.
Defending Big 12 co-champs Baylor and TCU, the first teams left out of the initial four-team playoff last season, are still undefeated, along with Oklahoma State. Plus, Oklahoma is 7-1. And all of them still have to go head-to-head.
Baylor (7-0) is the highest-ranked Big 12 team in the initial CFP rankings at sixth, behind one-loss teams Alabama and Notre Dame. TCU (8-0) is eighth, with Oklahoma State (8-0) at 14th and Oklahoma 15th.
''We'll worry about that in about four weeks, and see what happens, because that's what we can control,'' TCU coach Gary Patterson said even before the first 2015 rankings came out Tuesday night. ''It's unbelievable. You've got four teams that are 30-1 and ... we've all got to play each other.''
The first of those games is TCU at Oklahoma State on Saturday, when one of them will no longer be undefeated. After that:
- Oklahoma at Baylor, Nov. 14.
- Baylor at Oklahoma State; and TCU at Oklahoma, Nov. 21.
- Baylor at TCU, Nov. 27.
- Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Nov. 28.
''If those four teams just beat each other up, it's going to be tough at the end,'' said coach Dana Holgorsen, whose West Virginia team has already played all four. ''If one team prevails, then we'll have a great chance to be able to get somebody in.''
A look at the Big 12's top four teams:
BAYLOR (7-0, 4-0 Big 12), No. 6 in CFP rankings, No. 2 in the AP Top 25.
Baylor is the only of the group with five games left, and the only one that plays Dec. 5 - the end of the Big 12 regular season, when other power-five conferences play championship games. The final CFP rankings are revealed the next day.
If the Bears win their third consecutive Big 12 title, they will have to do it with true freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham. His first start, and first action without Baylor up by multiple touchdowns, is Thursday night at Kansas State. Junior Seth Russell (29 touchdown passes) had season-ending neck surgery.
TCU (8-0, 5-0), No. 8 CFP, No. 5 AP poll.
Remaining game outside top four: vs. Kansas, Nov. 14.
The Horned Frogs had some close calls on the road, with a diving fourth-down catch in the final minute in their Big 12 opener at Texas Tech, and overcoming an 18-point halftime deficit at Kansas State.
An injury-riddled defense has used 16 first-time starters. But with some starting seniors back, TCU has allowed only one touchdown the past seven quarters, and only 17 points after halftime the past four games.
No issues on offense with quarterback Trevone Boykin (second in FBS with 431.4 total yards per game) and FBS receiving leader Josh Doctson (156.3 yards per game). TCU averages 616 yards and 49 points a game.
OKLAHOMA STATE (8-0, 5-0), No. 14 CFP, No. 12 AP poll.
Remaining game outside top four: at Iowa State, Nov. 14.
Oklahoma State has the most favorable remaining schedule, getting to play at home against TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma. The Cowboys won their first three Big 12 games by a combined 12 points, including overtime at West Virginia, before piling up 128 points their last two games.
The Cowboys have gone from unranked to start the season to using a two-quarterback system with Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh. Defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean have combined for 14 1-2 sacks and 24 tackles for losses.
OKLAHOMA (7-1, 4-1), No. 15 CFP, No. 14 AP poll.
Remaining game outside top four: vs. Iowa State, Saturday
Since losing to Texas, the Sooners have won their last three games by a combined score of 180-34. And they are 10-0 under coach Bob Stoops against Iowa State, winning those by an average margin of 40-8.
If the Sooners win out as Big 12 champs, they could be a viable one-loss option to get into the playoff. The Big 12 no longer will recognize football co-champs.
The last of Oklahoma's eight Big 12 titles under Stoops came in 2012, its longest championship drought in the coach's 17 seasons.
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org