The latest College Football Playoff Rankings are out and once again the Big 12 finds itself fighting a perception. The Oklahoma Sooners started the season with an easy path to the Playoffs. The Sooners faltered early, losing to Houston and Ohio State, and killed the chances of the Big 12.
The committee has viewed 6 teams as the clear-cut favorites since the beginning: #1 Alabama Crimson Tide, #2 Ohio State Buckeyes, #3 Clemson Tigers, #4 Washington Huskies, #5 Michigan Wolverines, and #6 Wisconsin Badgers. Those 6 teams have been within the top 8 since the beginning. Now those 6 teams are looking at a chance to play for a national title.
Updated College Football Playoff Top 4:— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) November 30, 2016
2. Ohio State
4. Washington pic.twitter.com/lIyZQVYdc7
The “locks” would appear to be Alabama and Clemson. Those two are playing for their conference title this weekend in a conference title game (aka 13th data point). They are already within the Top 4 and will not drop with a win. Wisconsin and Penn State will play for the Big Ten Championship and should theoretically jump Michigan. Will it be enough to unseat Ohio State?
The Big Ten’s strength this year is one of the major factors holding back the Big 12. With four quality teams vying for two possible slots, the Big Ten appears poised to be the first conference to play two teams into the playoffs. The committee has always valued conference championships and used that value in 2014 to allow Ohio State to leapfrog TCU and Baylor in the final week. This year Ohio State will be unable to gain a conference championship, but will the committee drop the Buckeyes out of the playoffs once all the dust is settled?
The Big 12 unfortunately sits in a position where it needs 5 teams to lose and only 4 can. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will play for the Big 12 Championship this weekend, in a de facto conference title game without the glitz, glamour, prestige and neutral site that the other conferences enjoy. It won’t take away the fact that the winner wins the conference, its not a “13th data point”. Oklahoma is ranked 9th and State 10th. A win by either team would give them a second win over a Playoff Top 15 team as both have wins over #16 West Virginia. However, the lack of non conference wins still places the perception of the Big 12 hasn’t played anyone. Oklahoma State’s win over 8-4 Pitt is the conferences best win. An Oklahoma State win would give the Cowboys three wins over Top 25 teams, but it doesn’t appear to be enough.
Ohio State sitting at #2 presents the biggest trouble spot for all teams. With the Big Ten Champion coming from #6 Wisconsin and #8 Penn State, the committee has presented a position where the two “best perceived” teams can’t lose this weekend and therefore shouldn’t drop. Will the committee drop their #2 team and #5 team just because #8 beat #6? It doesn’t seem likely.
Washington also appears to be on shaky ground. Despite losing only one game, to #11 USC, the Huskies are 4th in the rankings. With their awful out of conference schedule, could the Big Ten champion jump the Huskies?
Based upon the way the committee has treated and viewed the Big 12 this season, leaving the conference for dead back in September, the rankings are exactly what we should have expected. The lack of divisions, the lack of a true conference title game and the lack of exposure in non-conference games and within the conference has resulted in the Big 12 going from one of the toughest leagues to the weakest of the Power 5 conferences. The Big 12 hopes to rectify this next year with a #1 vs #2 conference title game in Dallas but for this year, the Big 12 will once again be on the outside looking in.