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Baylor Coaching Search, Playoff Breakdown and Big 12 Roundup

The Bears didn’t play, but a lot happened around the country.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Around the Big 12

I attended the KU-TCU game. The Jayhawks looked like the better team for much of the game. Ryan Willis, KU’s quarterback, is an excellent passer when he gets enough time. But on too many occasions Saturday, he held onto the ball for too long.

TCU trailed 23-14 in the fourth quarter. TCU still has a lot of talent. They also have many flaws. Perhaps the biggest question for them remains how well Kenny Hill can perform. Hill not only had a number of turnovers Saturday; he also missed many routine throws. KU’s secondary is better than the reputation of their team. But the TCU team that played Saturday did not look close to the contender they were last season.

Iowa State looks like they’re making real progress. Yet, once again Iowa State could not hold up late. The Cyclones led Oklahoma State by 17. The Cowboys came back and won. Matt Campbell at Iowa State and David Beaty at Kansas seem like they are making the kinds of changes necessary to get their programs going in the right direction.

Texas Tech’s defense could not get it done against Kansas State, and with how well the Wildcats looks at times, especially on defense, Bill Snyder might want to hang around for a few more seasons.

I still believe Baylor is the favorite to win the Big 12. Their depth issues could overwhelm them after a brutal stretch following this bye-Kansas-bye stretch. But the Bears have a wonderful offense and a top 25 defense. Oklahoma might have figured something out, West Virginia is still undefeated, and as Kansas showed against TCU, anything is possible in college football. I’d still prefer to face anything in the Big 12 with Seth Russell, Travon Blanchard, and Shock Linwood.

Who I’d hire:

I’m not privy to a lot of details the search firm will have. That said, P.J. Fleck would be my pick and is the pick of many at ODB. Sure, he could just be overrated and actually terrible like “The Big Bang Theory.” But Fleck is actually interesting and getting it done.

Fleck has Western Michigan ranked in the top 25. He’s also doing that while Michigan State comes off making the playoff, Michigan might be the best team in the country, and Central Michigan is good. This is not a man winning while Michigan’s other programs are down. The man recruits well and seems like a star.

Job Openings

Charlie Strong is going to need an incredible run to save his job. The Longhorns fell to Oklahoma and are now 2-3. The early victory over Notre Dame looks like a whatever moment as the Irish fell to North Carolina State.

My guess on other big open jobs right now: Texas, Oregon, Notre Dame and LSU. Several jobs may open if coaches from other schools leave. Mark Dantonio may decide winning at Michigan State is tougher with Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Jimbo Fisher may also leave Florida State for LSU. Larry Fedora could bolt North Carolina, and Sonny Dykes could leave Cal.

A few jobs that seemed like they might open up now seem far less likely to open. Clay Helton has a long-term deal and is in his first full season at USC. The Trojans have been better lately. Gus Malzahn has a strong chance to win at least eight games and has a deal until 2020 at Auburn.

Playoff Breakdown

With Houston’s loss, five conferences remain for the four playoff spots. Houston needs Navy to fall twice to even have a shot at making the AAC Championship Game.

Here are the teams that could still make the playoff, barring some utterly shocking scenario of losses that causes a team way out of it to make the field:

SEC: Alabama, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Florida

Big 12: Baylor, West Virginia

Big 10: Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Maryland

PAC 12: Washington, Arizona State, Utah

ACC: Clemson, Miami, Louisville, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech

All of the above teams are undefeated or have one loss. It’d be shocking if Maryland or Utah won out, but they theoretically could. Everyone else in a power five conference has at least two losses.

While it looks like Washington, Clemson, Alabama, and the winner of Michigan-Ohio State are going to be favored in all their remaining games, at least one of those teams- and probably more, will lose before the season ends.

Baylor’s path remains, as it has nearly every year recently: win out and they will make the playoff. If they go 12-0, despite how bad the Big 12 is- and it’s bad- the Bears will have one of the four best resumes. A few have suggested Baylor might not have a convincing argument if they are undefeated. That’s insane. The PAC-12 has looked incredibly mediocre, especially with Stanford getting blown out by Washington State. Michigan or Ohio State might trip up, and Clemson had moments earlier in the season where they looked mortal. It’s almost impossible to go undefeated. I doubt Baylor will, and I bet no more than two power five teams will. The most that have since 2001 is three.

Baylor may have a shot at 11-1, but they’d need a lot of help. The non-conference schedule is a huge albatross, and the committee might vault a team that does not win a conference championship if Michigan or Louisville go 11-1 after so many dominating wins.

If Baylor just wins, they’ll make the playoff. That’s not a fair metric to judge if this has been a good season on the field football. But the task is clear: win out.