- West Virginia University Mountaineers (7-1, 5-1)—WVU recorded a statement victory over Texas. It was easily the biggest win for the program since joining the Big XII and the Mountaineers are two games away from securing a spot in the title game.
- Oklahoma Sooners (8-1, 5-1)— After escaping with a victory over Texas Tech and WVU’s defeat of Texas, the path for Oklahoma to repeat as conference champions is clear: win and you’re in.
- Iowa State Cyclones (5-3, 4-2) — If you’d told me after their early season struggles that Iowa State would be in a position to play for the conference title, I would have laughed at you. No one is laughing now are playing like a top 15 team. (I am looking at you, College Football Playoff Rankings.)
- Texas Longhorns (6-3, 4-2)—Someone asked me “why do you hate Texas?” They couldn’t comprehend how I could so easily work up such contempt for a program we’ve only played a few times. Their giant baby tears over a danged hand signal is a pretty good example of why they’re so universally loathed in the conference.
- Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-4, 3-3)—Texas Tech couldn’t get out of their own way against the Sooners. I am curious to see how both they and Texas respond to losing tough games. If Kliff wants to prove his mettle, winning here would be good. Otherwise it’s not impossible to imagine the Raiders moving on.
- Baylor Bears (5-4, 3-3)—Most of the real estate for coach of the year in the conference is rightfully beyond occupied by Matt Campbell and Holgo, but Matt Rhule has low-key done a great job in a difficult situation at Baylor. The losses against WVU, Oklahoma and Duke weren’t particularly close, but Baylor gave Texas a scare and came from behind to knock off Oklahoma State giving them a decent shot at bowl eligibility, needing only to beat one of Iowa State, Texas Tech or TCU.
- Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-4, 2-4)—Oklahoma State looked like they had turned a corner in beating Texas, but turned around and lost to Baylor in a late heartbreaker. They also get to play titlehopefulls Oklahoma and WVU in back-to-back weeks. Not entirely ideal.
- TCU Horned Frogs (4-5, 2-4)—If you squint real hard, you can make a case for TCU being unlucky and better than their record — especially with a couple of close losses — but in doing so, you’d forget this team lost to Kansas and eeked out a 1 point win at home against lowly Kansas State.
- Kansas Jayhawks (3-6, 1-5)— I gotta say I feel for David Beatty. Not because he’s losing his job — I mean dude is walking away with a bunch of money for not doing the thing he was hired to do. But man, if you told him “you will beat Texas and TCU” when he started and then followed up with “but lose your job anyway.” He might not have believed you. I wouldn’t.
- Kansas State Wildcats (3-6, 1-5)—There are unconfirmed reports that Bill Snyder has told his team this season will be his last. I hope so. It legitimately bums me to see his team be so bad. Note: K-State can continue sucking after he retires. I am okay with that.
We deffo got some clarity in the bigger picture last week and will have more to come.
College Football Playoff.
Alabama is now all but a mortal lock for the playoff after destroying LSU (I can’t believe people thought that LSU would win.) Clemson has a final test in Boston College, though it seems unlikely despite the weakness of the ACC (the rankings are garbage), that Clemson would get in with 1-loss. Notre Dame has largely sealed the deal too, I’d think; a game with an overrated Syracuse could be tricky and a one-loss Notre Dame would provide a lot of hot takes, but the brand is pretty strong.
Then there’s the race for #4. Right now you have six teams with any real shot at this spot (in the order of their likelihood of getting it): Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, WVU, Washington State, Georgia.
My guess is, absent Georgia beating Alabama in the title game, the winner of Michigan/Ohio State gets the nod. Oklahoma could, as a one loss team, argue they deserve the spot more since Michigan lost to Notre Dame convincingly at the start of the season and their only loss was a close one in a neutral site. Could that be enough? (There’s a whole article to be written there.) Wazzu is ahead of WVU for now, but if WVU wins out, they will jump Wazzu, they’d also need for both Ohio State or Michigan before facing each other. Not happening. Georgia’s path to the playoff involves beating Alabama.
- Orange Bowl: #1 Alabama vs #4 Michigan
- Cotton Bowl: #2 Clemson #3 Notre Dame
New Year’s Six
As noted previously, the Rose and Sugar are “contract” bowls, and I have Washington State facing Ohio State in the former and LSU and Oklahoma in the latter.
UCF still seems like a good bet to grab the Group of 6 spot, and I am still fairly certain they’re headed to the Fiesta bowl. Their opponent is pretty fluid. It could be an SEC team (Kentucky/LSU), it could be an ACC team (NC State), it could even be WVU.
The Peach Bowl seems likely to take an SEC team and I feel very strongly they’d rather have LSU than Kentucky. WVU seems like their choice against either.
- Rose Bowl (PAC-12 vs Big Ten): Washington State vs Ohio State
- Fiesta Bowl (at-large vs at-large): NC State vs UCF
- Sugar Bowl (Big XII vs SEC): Oklahoma vs Georgia
- Peach Bowl (at-large vs at-large): WVU vs LSU
- Big XII Contract Bowls
I said last week I thought the conference was going to struggle to fill it’s bowl contracts and it looks like I was correct, which has caused a few changes:
- Valero Alamo Bowl (Big XII vs Pac 12): Texas vs Utah
- Camping World Bowl (Big XII vs ACC): Iowa State vs Syracuse
- Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl (Big XII vs SEC): Texas Tech vs Texas A&M
- Autozone Liberty Bowl (Big XII vs SEC): Oklahoma State vs South Carolina
- Cheeze- It Cactus Bowl (Big XII vs Pac 12): Baylor vs Arizona State
- Lockheed Martin Armed Forces (Big XII vs AAC): Army* vs SMU