Even after a big homecoming win against Iowa State last Saturday, Baylor fans have spent the week in a sullen mood. They have been feeling melancholy about Seth Russell and anxious about Jarrett Stidham. To make matters worse, fans will have to wait all the way until next Thursday to see the Bears take the field again. Their minds will dwell on what the pundits will say, what the rankings will show and how the College Football Playoff Committee will value Baylor in the first 2015 CFP ranking coming out next Tuesday. Jeff Long will get more airtime than Donald Trump for the next 6 weeks without question. How will Baylor be measured after a 7-0 season opening offensive blitzkrieg? The Bears have looked razor sharp but are now forced to take the field for the next 6 and maybe 7 games with a brevet field marshal. Despite the off-the-charts talent and the 5-stars that are commensurate with the rank, it is a commission that no one in Waco wanted to confer.
The only logical course of action is to turn attention to the games that are being played this weekend. I mean we all have to watch college football, even if the Bears are lounging in Waco with a Saturday off. So if you find yourself wondering who to cheer for in playoff affecting, non-Big 12 matchups, look no further. As a public service, Our Daily Bears has pulled together a "I want the Big 12 to be in the college football playoff, and I need to know who to cheer for" guide. We did some analysis of the key matchups around the country to give readers some insight into their new favorite teams. Obviously the cheering starts this weekend, but the guide extends to the rest of the season as well.
First things first. We can assume with 100% confidence that an undefeated Baylor or TCU will be a lock for the CFP. There is absolutely a 0% chance that the Big 12 gets left out with a 12-0 team. You can put me on record for that one. If all of the dozen or so teams that are still in contention for the 4 spots win out, then Baylor or TCU has one of the slots. For the sake of argument, it would most likely be Ohio State at 13-0, LSU at 13-0, Clemson at 13-0, and lets just say Baylor at 12-0; probably in that order. I feel reasonably certain that an undefeated Big 10 champ and an undefeated SEC champ would be ranked higher than an undefeated Big 12 champ. The ACC champ would probably be on par with the Big 12. The Pac 12 with no current unbeatens and a considerably tougher road for their teams would be left out of the playoff in this scenario.
But alas the chalk usually breaks and underdogs prevail especially in a season riddled with parity such as we have now. So how do we know who to cheer for in order to maximize the chance for the Big 12 to represent in the big dance? Let’s take a conference by conference, team by team look.
The ACC has one team that has a very good shot at the playoff in Clemson and another team that has an outside chance in Florida State. Clemson plays NC State this weekend and you definitely want to take the Wolfpack in this one. NC State is 5-2 so this is not a pushover game although Clemson will be favored. Next week it is Florida State against Clemson and even though Florida State still is a potential playoff team, pull for the Noles. A two loss Clemson is eliminated for sure. The Noles are not in a great position given their bad loss against Georgia Tech last weekend and might not be able to climb the wall even if they win out. They still are good enough to be an ACC spoiler though. They still have to face NC State as well on 11/14 so they could be looking at two losses even if they do pull one off against Clemson. Even a one loss Big 12 champion would most likely have a blemish against a top 5 team rather than have a loss against a team that is currently 3-5 like Florida State has, so pull for Clemson to get knocked out and Florida State to take the ACC.
10/31 and 11/14 – Wolfpack
11/7 – Noles
The Big 10 is a 3-horse race right now with two big, fast horses and one slow horse from another division that is not going to win the race. Even though we know that is the case, we can still cheer for who we want to win to benefit the Big 12. The two fast horses are of course Ohio State and Michigan State in the East division and the slow horse is Iowa in the West.
Ohio State and Michigan State are on a collision course set to terminate in late November. That is where most likely one of the two will be eliminated. Neither team has looked dominant, but Ohio State has looked much better than Michigan State and has not needed any blown punt team, hip breaking miracle plays to win games. For that reason, I would rather the Big 12 face Michigan State in the playoff than Ohio State, so give me the Spartans on 11/21. Ohio State hangs by a CFP thread in this circumstance, especially if it is a close loss, so go ahead and pull for Michigan to upset the Buckeyes in the big house the week after. 2 losses and Ohio State is out. An undefeated Michigan State is a lock for the playoff and would probably be ranked ahead of a Big 12 team with a win over Ohio State, so lets also pull for Penn State to take them down a peg on 11/28. Iowa, i.e. the slow horse, probably goes into championship weekend undefeated but I don't see how they beat either Michigan State or Ohio State in the Big 10 finale. So best case scenario is that Sparty or the Buckeyes beats the Hawkeyes in the B1G championship game and finishes the season as a 1-loss conference champion.
11/21 – Sparty
11/28 – Wolverines and Nittany Lions
One team that will absolutely take a higher rung on the ladder than an identical record Big 12 champion is LSU. An undefeated LSU probably enters the playoff as a number 1 seed. If LSU is undefeated then Leonard Fournette is probably winning the Heisman as well, giving the Bayou Bengals even extra panache for the playoff. So for that reason we need the 1-loss Crimson Tide to roll over the Tigers in Tuscaloosa on 11/7. That leaves no undefeated SEC teams. Even though I think that the SEC is still pretty much locked in to have a team in the playoff, having it be a one-loss team would raise some uncertainty and leave the door as open as possible for a Big 12 team with the same record. Alabama has a straight shot into the playoff at that point only needing to get past the SEC East winner on championship weekend. That most likely will be Florida. As for Florida, we will pull against them when they play Florida State on 11/28 in order to give them a second loss, but we will pull for them against Alabama in the SEC championship. That sets up a potential Armageddon scenario with a two loss SEC champion and a more questionable berth in the playoff.
11/7 – Crimson Tide
11/28 – Noles
12/4 – Gators
The Pac 12 is in some trouble right now with 8 different teams all beating each other up and no one with an unblemished record. Between UCLA, USC, Utah, Arizona State, Washington State, Arizona, Stanford and Cal, most have been ranked (some quite highly I might add) and all have suffered one or more losses to another. The two teams that are in the best position to still be considered are Stanford and Utah at one loss each. These two are probably going to meet in the conference title game so one will likely be eliminated there. What Big 12 fans want is a UCLA win over Utah on 11/21. That would effectively eliminate Utah. The Utes remain dangerous though and can still beat Stanford in the Pac 12 championship game. That is exactly what is desired: a 2-loss Ute team that wins the Pac 12. They would require some significant help to still get into the playoff and Stanford would be out with their other loss against a good but not great Northwestern team.
11/21 – Bruins
12/4 - Utes
Of the other teams not in a power-5 conference, the two best bets to get into the playoff are Notre Dame and Memphis. Behind those two sits Temple with an outside shot. Notre Dame gets automatic consideration for the simple reason that they are Notre Dame and Memphis has to be taken seriously because they handily beat Ole Miss. Temple has a pretty good win against Penn State but that is not to the level that Memphis has. Notre Dame still has some hurdles on their schedule including matchups against Temple, Pitt and Stanford. Memphis’ biggest challenge will be Temple. It would be a stretch for an undefeated Temple or Memphis to reach the playoff in any circumstance but if they have a perfect record then they give themselves a chance, potentially at the expense of the Big 12. So we want both of them to lose at least once. Neither of these teams has a chance with even one loss. For Temple that loss comes on Halloween vs the Irish. For Memphis it comes against Temple on 11/21. For Notre Dame their second and terminal loss will come against Stanford on 11/28. We are already pulling for the Utes over Stanford so we will pull for the Cardinal over the Irish.
10/31 – Irish
11/21 – Owls
11/28 – Cardinal
So there you have it. If our support is successful, and the scenario plays out perfectly, then we have the following teams vying for a spot in the second college football playoff.
ACC Champ – Florida State at 11-2 with a bad loss to Georgia Tech
Big 10 – Michigan State at 12-1
SEC – Alabama at 11-2
Pac 12 – Utah at 11-2
Notre Dame at 10-2
If there is an undefeated Big 12 champion, they are a runaway #1 seed with Sparty, the Tide and Utah following. A one loss Big 12 champion (assuming the loss is "good") is most likely in the third spot behind Michigan State and Alabama (even with 2 losses) but ahead of Utah. If any of the teams above end up with a stronger record, despite our fervent cheering, than is listed, then a one-loss Big 12 champ could find itself marching right out of the mix. A 2 loss Big 12 champ needs some serious help in any circumstance and is probably fighting it out with Florida State, Utah and Notre Dame for the last two spots and most likely not getting in.
Will everything described happen? Absolutely not. This season has already seen some amazing finishes and no one can predict what will happen in the back half of this craziness, but it sure is fun to think about it. We also have to remember that this guide is based on a snapshot in time and might be completely invalid by the end of Halloween.
So use this information for what it is worth. It is a given to cheer for the Bears to go 12-0 and land a spot for sure, but just in case there are questions about any other matches, just remember to cheer for the Wolfpack, Owls, Utes, Spartans, etc….