Accurately predicting the four teams that will qualify for the inaugural College Football Playoff eight weeks before the season ends is near impossible.
Then again, the selection committee responsible for choosing the nation’s best four teams in December will release its first set of rankings on Saturday.
With that said, maybe now is the perfect time to speculate.
Both polls agree on a top four of Mississippi State, Florida State, Mississippi and Alabama. If either team from the Magnolia State wins out, it’s safe to assume it will earn an invitation. Same with the undefeated Seminoles.
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It gets tricky after thatAnd there are plenty of questions: Could the Egg Bowl loser or Alabama hold off Notre Dame if Notre Dame finishes with one loss? What if an underdog wins the SEC championship game? And where does that leave the Big 12 champion?
At the moment, there are no guarantees a jumbled Big 12 will send a team to the playoff, but history shows winning takes care of all scenarios. Big 12 coaches seemed focused on that part of the playoff equation, more than anything else, on Monday.
“I have no absolutely no idea. All we hear about is the final four, so to speak, and that is the last thing on most coaches’ minds,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “I don’t think about it. I’m the last guy you want to ask that question.”
Added Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops: “I’m not going there.”
For now, K-State appears to be the Big 12’s best shot at finishing in the top four. The No. 11 Wildcats are coming off a win at Oklahoma and their only loss came by four points to No. 5 Auburn. K-State also is conference’s lone team without a league loss. Their schedule strength, especially with remaining games at Baylor, West Virginia and TCU — all ranked teams — could be rewarded.
Problem is, they face the most difficult remaining schedule of anyone in the Big 12.
Baylor, West Virginia and TCU are all playing well enough to beat K-State, and with one conference loss apiece they could have something to say about who earns a playoff spot, too. At No. 10, TCU is the highest-rated team in the league, and Baylor has more than enough flash to move up from No. 12. Even Oklahoma, with two league losses, can’t be totally written off.
If any of those teams go undefeated from here, they would be considered for a playoff spot. League officials need to hope someone steps up and dominates the rest of the conference. If several teams finish in a tie for first, ruining the Big 12’s motto of “one true champion,” parity will all but doom the league’s hopes of putting a team in the playoff.
Of course, chaotic results from other conferences could give hope to two-loss teams everywhere.
It’s fun for fans and media to discuss. But for now, players and coaches are right to place their focus elsewhere.
“Anything can happen in college football nowadays,” K-State receiver Curry Sexton said Saturday. “It is important for us to focus week in, week out. We can’t look at the bigger picture. If we keep doing things right and playing the way we are capable of, things are going to fall into place. We can’t get worried about the playoff and stuff like that. That is out of our hands.”
Oklahoma State’s blowout loss at the hands of TCU on Saturday could only be the beginning of a disappointing fall for the Cowboys. Though Oklahoma State looked good early in the season, fighting Florida State and winning five in a row, it did not look good at all in a narrow victory against Kansas and appeared lifeless at TCU. That’s not a good trajectory for a team that will face four ranked teams — West Virginia, K-State, Baylor and Oklahoma — in its final five games.
The Cowboys need one more victory to reach bowl eligibility. They will probably do enough to reach the postseason, but anything more than that could be difficult.
Sunflower State tacklers
A pair of defenders from Kansas dominated stat sheets over the weekend.
Kansas’ Ben Heeney piled up 21 tackles in a losing effort against Texas Tech, while Jonathan Truman had 17 tackles in a K-State win at Oklahoma. It’s a shame neither of them won defensive player of the week honors from the conference.
1. Kansas State (5-1, 3-0 Big 12): With two home games up next, Wildcats can add to their lead in the league race.
2. TCU (5-1, 2-1): Horned Frogs could have the most improved offense nationally.
3. West Virginia (5-2, 3-1): Riots broke out in Morgantown after West Virginia beat Baylor.
4. Baylor (6-1, 3-1): Soft nonconference schedule hurts Baylor’s national perception after West Virginia loss.
5. Oklahoma (5-2, 2-2): Could be another year starting in the top 5 and finishing outside the top 10 for Bob Stoops.
6. Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1): The Cowboys were overrated. A blowout loss to TCU proved so.
7. Texas (3-4, 2-2): Offense finally got on track against Iowa State.
8. Texas Tech (3-4, 1-3): Red Raiders needed some positive vibes and got them by beating Kansas.
9. Iowa State (2-5, 0-4): Poor Cyclones. What else can you say after the way they lost at Texas?
10. Kansas (2-5, 0-4): Game against Iowa State looks like best chance for conference win.