Texas lost at TCU. Texas Tech lost at Kansas, Iowa State lost at home to Oklahoma State and in the stunner of the season so far, mighty Oklahoma was bullied then knocked off at Kansas State.
In four Big 12 games Saturday, all four underdogs won. It made for a wild day (conveniently timed to allow this beat writer to jockey the remote control on a rare Saturday without a West Virginia game), but it also puts the Big 12 in a potentially bad spot for the College Football Playoff.
Oklahoma has been a national semifinalist each of the last two seasons, and an undefeated Sooner team would be a near lock to make the field again this season. That’s out the window with the upset loss to the Wildcats, and with Texas and Iowa State getting tripped up that puts some space between the top two — unbeaten Baylor and OU — and the rest of the league.
The Bears and Sooners play in Waco on Nov. 16 and are lined up as the favorites to play in December’s Big 12 title game at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. If the Big 12 wants to see one of its teams among the nation’s final four again this year, a sweep by either team gives them a chance. Unbeaten, Big 12 champion Baylor would be hard to keep out of the CFP, and a one-loss Oklahoma team could make a decent argument for inclusion. If any other team comes on strong next month and wins the league, it would be hard to imagine a scenario with a two-loss Big 12 champ in the CFP.
Of course, there is also the very real possibility that one-loss Oklahoma could still get left out. There are some very good teams at the top. Newly-crowned Associated Press No. 1 Louisiana State and No. 2 Alabama, both unbeaten, play in a few weeks, and either of those teams with one loss, even without an SEC title, could be ahead of one-loss OU. Ohio State is also unbeaten and looking like a powerhouse. If the Buckeyes haven’t lost, they’re in for sure. Clemson, the defending national champion, is also looming with no losses and a chip on its shoulder after dropping in the human polls despite not losing. The rest of the ACC doesn’t appear to pose much a threat to the Tigers, so they can play their way in as well.
If the loser of Alabama-LSU finishes the season with one-loss and no chance for a second in the conference championship game, would it stun you to see the Crimson Tide and the Tigers in ahead of Oklahoma? I didn’t think so.
In that scenario, the winner of the Big 12 championship game is obligated to the Sugar Bowl. If that ends up being one-loss Oklahoma, everyone else in the league could get its bowl destination shuffled. After the Sugar Bowl team is determined, the Big 12 has ties with six other bowl games and it is up to those bowls to pick who plays where. The Alamo Bowl gets the first pick, followed by Camping World, Texas Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Cheez-It and First Responder in that order. The Alamo Bowl isn’t required to take Baylor or whoever ends up as the league’s runner-up, it gets to pick from all of the eligible Big 12 teams. So say you’re Baylor — OU getting left out of the CFP could be the difference between going to the Sugar Bowl or the Cheez-It Bowl. Not ideal.
Oklahoma getting left out of the CFP in that scenario could also be felt around the country. The Big 12 currently has as many as seven teams that could realistically end up bowl eligible, which means the league would fill all of its bowl ties. That means some of those teams in smaller conferences that get bowl eligible but don’t have an affiliated bowl to land in wouldn’t have the Big 12’s leftovers.
Bottom line, if you’re pulling for the Big 12 to have a place at the table come playoff time — for whatever your reason is — you’re going to want to root for chaos in the SEC down the stretch and hope the Big Ten or ACC can produce some shocking results like the one the Big 12 saw Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas.