Big 12 still has playoff hopes with Baylor, WVU undefeated
With Baylor and West Virginia both undefeated halfway through the season, there could still be playoff hopes for the Big 12 Conference.
The eighth-ranked Bears and 10th-ranked Mountaineers have to keep winning.
While many wrote off the Big 12's chances for a return to the playoffs after Oklahoma's two nonconference losses in September, Baylor and West Virginia are among seven teams from Power Five leagues still without a loss before the first College Football Playoff rankings of this season are released next week.
When West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was asked about talking to his players about their 6-0 start, he initially answered, ''I can assure you I am not going to respond to a College Football Playoff question.''
Because there is a long way to go, with six more Saturdays of games before the four playoff teams will be determined with the final CFP rankings on Dec. 4.
Those final rankings will come a day after Baylor and West Virginia play in a regular-season finale that could become a de facto Big 12 championship game. It could also determine if one of them gets in the playoff, though there is no guaranteed spot for the winner.
The Big 12 is reinstating its actual title game next season, and that will at least provide league teams a ''13th data point'' for the playoff selection committee to consider like the other Power Five conferences already have.
When Ohio State won the Big Ten championship game 59-0 two years ago, the Buckeyes ended up the fourth playoff team ahead of Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU, and went on to win the national championship.
Oklahoma's quest for its 10th Big 12 title could impact the league's CFP chances, but it still remains unlikely that the two-loss Sooners can get back into playoff contention.
The 16th-ranked Sooners (5-2, 4-0 Big 12), coming off a a href(equals)'https://apnews.com/63d95f5753554b5f8711ed0a478a2a16/Oklahoma's-Stoops-edgy-about-defensive-coordinator-brother'wild 66-59 win and allowing a school-record 854 total yards/a at Texas Tech, play consecutive games in November against Baylor and West Virginia, and losses by either one of those teams will hurt their chances.
Oklahoma last year was 14th in the initial CFP rankings, and 13th at that point in the AP poll. While it is possible that the Sooners could be near those same positions next week, assuming they beat Kansas at home, there hasn't yet been a two-loss playoff team.
It also hurts the Sooners that Houston and Ohio State, the non-conference teams they lost to, have since lost.
The Cougars are even unranked after losing two of three. The sixth-ranked Buckeyes are coming off a loss to Penn State, though they still have a chance to bolster their playoff case with games left against No. 2 Michigan and No. 7 Nebraska.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS, RIGHT?
West Virginia has a href(equals)'https://apnews.com/afc74a9d7749424487501ea47ec94af4/West-Virginia's-rise-aided-by-limiting-opponents'-strengths'won its last two games by holding high-scoring Texas Tech and TCU to a combined 27 points/a.
A week after its 48-17 home loss to the Mountaineers, Texas Tech piled up 854 total yards in a 66-59 loss to Oklahoma.
The Mountaineers play Saturday at Oklahoma State, which is still in Big 12 title contention, and also have games against Kansas and Texas before the Sooners visit Morgantown on Nov. 19. WVU then goes to Iowa State before the finale against Baylor.
''We have goals ahead of us, and we are not anywhere close to being in a position to meet any of them,'' Holgorsen said, without being specific.
BAYLOR'S TOUGH STRETCH
The Bears are the only FBS team to be 6-0 for the fourth consecutive season, but they haven't really been tested yet.
Oklahoma State is the only team with a winning record that Baylor has played, and the Cowboys had a turnover late when it looked like they were able to take the lead.
The other five teams the Bears have played so far have a combined 7-28 record. That includes a 5-16 mark by their non-conference opponents, a very negative factor for the CFP committee. (Their remaining six opponents are a combined 25-16).
Baylor plays four of its last six games away from home, including the Nov. 12 trip to Oklahoma between home games against TCU and Kansas State. The Bears play Texas Tech at the Dallas Cowboys' NFL stadium before going to Morgantown.
AP College football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org