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Oklahoma State Has a Direct Road to the Playoff



In just two weeks, we will hear from the College Football Playoff committee for the first time in 2017. The ranking that comes out on Halloween night will provide us with a baseline from which college football’s landscape will be built.

The good news is that today, on October 16, Oklahoma State is in a perfect position to be one of those final four teams with a chance to win it all. Okay, the perfect position would be at 6-0. But if you’re going to have a loss, the system’s brief history has shown us that it needs to be early. Add in the fact that the team that bested the Pokes has only continued to win and currently resides at No. 4 in both of the other polls. The path is laid out pretty clearly. Just win.

“It’s easier to get into the playoff if you’re undefeated,” said Mike Gundy before the Baylor game. “We all know that. How the committee sees our league this year will be different, in my opinion, than it has in the last few years. If (CFP Chairman) Kirby (Hocutt is) worth his salt at all, he should get that accomplished in that committee.”

The College Football Playoff committee has been quietly watching along with the rest of us and whether or not Hocutt is a good salesman won’t limit the affects of upsets like what we saw this past weekend.

Four top-10 teams took an L in Week 7, including a Clemson team that many had already penciled in for a trip to either Pasadena or New Orleans. They still might make it but now the Tigers have something in common with the Oklahoma States and Oklahomas and Ohio States of the world — they’re not perfect.

Of the 12 teams that have made up the first three playoff brackets, only three made it to the postseason unblemished. That means 75 percent of the CFP teams thus far have had a loss before the playoffs started. And none of those three undefeateds hoisted that chrome-ish, gold trophy thing at the end.

2014 Record Conf. 2015 Record Conf. 2016 Record Conf.
1. Alabama 12-1 8-1 1. Clemson 13-0 9-0 1. Alabama 13-0 9-0
2. Oregon 12-1 9-1 2. Alabama * 12-1 8-1 2. Clemson * 12-1 8-1
3. Florida State 12-0 9-0 3. Michigan State 11-1 8-1 3. Ohio State 11-1 8-1
4. Ohio State * 12-1 9-0 4. Oklahoma 11-1 8-1 4. Washington 11-1 9-1

* National champion

The other side of that argument is the fact that no team has ever gotten in with more than one loss on the year, and that’s not likely to change this winter. So the Cowboys will need to go get a win on the road against a Texas team that Mike Gundy called the Big 12’s most athletic. Then they’ll need to travel to Morgantown and win an early game on the Saturday before Halloween.

A 7-1 Cowboy squad fresh off of two conference road wins is probably a top 5 team in the AP and Coaches polls and should be a shoe-in to land somewhere in that range for the committee’s first ranking three days after the West Virginia game. And that’s a great place to be in the first of a six-week stretch of tweaking and reacting with the simultaneous over- and under-explaining that the committee will fill up ESPN’s air time with.

Last year, the four teams that made up the final bracket all remained in the top 6 for each of the committee’s six weekly rankings. In 2015, only one team (Michigan State) fell out of the top 10 in any one week. In 2014, Ohio State was the exception, debuting at No. 16 before climbing back into it thanks to its blowout of No. 13 Wisconsin and also to an unclear Big 12 champion.

This year, one of those factors will be eliminated with the debut of the Big 12’s awkward crapshoot of an experiment. When they forced a championship game hat onto a division-less conference, the league’s brass pushed all it chips to the center of the table. Maybe that was the best choice. Maybe it was the only one.

There are currently six unbeatens in the Power 5 — Georgia, Alabama, Penn State, Wisconsin, TCU and Miami.

Like Porter pointed out last week, no 1-loss outright conference champion has ever been left out of the College Football Playoff, and that’s not likely to start this season. The Big 12 and Pac-12 look like they might be bringing up the rear, though, as both conferences have just three teams left with one loss. Washington and Washington State play each other, and one will likely play USC in the conference title game. It’s a similar situation to the Big 12 where OSU and OU play each other, TCU plays OU and any of two of those three teams could play again in the Big 12 title game. Precarious for all, but still attainable.

There will be many arguments about a one-loss Penn State potentially making the CFP without making its own conference championship and a potential one-loss Alabama or Georgia making it after a hypothetical SEC title game war. The nightmare scenario for the Big 12 is Georgia going 13-0 and beating Alabama by a point in the SEC title. There’s a lot of football left, though, and there will be a premium on actually winning your conference (probably). Plus, the Big 12 can still hang its hat on that OU victory over Ohio State in the ‘Shoe in September.

Bob Bowlsby has just ordered his orange shirt from Chris’ University Spirit, though. It will go nicely with his crimson hat and purple frog shorts. Because for the Big 12 to have any shot of getting in, it probably needs one of those three teams to end the season with one loss and a Big 12 trophy.

All of that is to say that Oklahoma State still has not killed its chances of making it into the final four. But neither has Oklahoma or Ohio State or any of the other 13 one-loss teams that reside in the AP top 25. There’s a pretty clear path to the playoff and it’s paved only with Ws.

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