Oklahoma State football has largely been written off from the Big 12 title and College Football Playoff picture since losing to Oklahoma 62-52 on Nov. 4.
But even with two defeats, the Cowboys still have an unlikely but plausible path to winning the conference title. And if chaos prevails, Oklahoma State could find itself in a position that fans and players never imagined after the Bedlam game.
With two weeks left in the regular season left, here is all that presumably needs to happen for Oklahoma State to win the Big 12 championship and, improbably, have a shot at making the College Football Playoff.
Oklahoma State wins out
Obviously, Oklahoma State must do its part at the very least if the Cowboys want to have a shot at the conference championship. The Cowboys have games against Kansas State and Kansas to conclude their regular season — games in which they should be heavily favored. If Oklahoma State gets the job done, they’ll finish 10-2.
TCU loses to Texas Tech or Baylor
Oklahoma State’s 44-31 Sept. 23 loss to TCU gives the Horned Frogs the head-to-head advantage if both teams finish the regular season 10-2. That would enable TCU to advance to the Big 12 title game if both are tied.
TCU has remaining games at Texas Tech and at home versus Baylor — both games which TCU is sure to enter as the favorite. But weird things have been known to happen in Lubbock, and even Baylor has lost close games to ranked opponents Oklahoma and West Virginia.
If either team is able to catch TCU off guard and upset the Horned Frogs, Oklahoma State would finish with a better conference record. That would send the Cowboys to the Big 12 title game for what would likely be a Bedlam rematch.
Oklahoma State defeats Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game
The Cowboys trailed the Sooners by less than a touchdown in the final minutes of the Bedlam game on Nov. 4. If the two teams meet for a rematch on a neutral field in Arlington, Texas, there is no reason to believe Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State offense can’t get their revenge against Oklahoma.
The Cowboys would finish as Big 12 champs at 11-2 overall, with a win over what could easily be the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country by that point.
Alabama goes undefeated and wins the SEC title
Any Big 12 fan should be cheering for the Crimson Tide right now, for the sake of fewer teams to sort through.
If Alabama runs the table en route to a conference championship, the Crimson Tide would hand Auburn its third loss of 2017 on Nov. 25. Then, if Alabama provides Georgia with its second loss of the season Dec. 2 in the SEC title game, the possibility of two SEC teams being sent to the playoff is remote.
Sure, Georgia would be a two-loss team, but unlike Oklahoma State, the Bulldogs wouldn’t be conference champs. Advantage, Cowboys.
Michigan defeats Wisconsin, Big Ten East team wins conference title
No team in the Big Ten East division has fewer than two losses this season. Even if Wisconsin enters the Big Ten title game undefeated or at one loss on Dec. 2, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan could beat the Badgers — who own one top-25 win all season.
But based on history, it would help Oklahoma State if Wisconsin was handed a loss at Michigan before potentially losing the Big Ten title game. As we saw a season ago, one-loss Ohio State earned a playoff bid, despite not winning the Big Ten title.
At this point, there would be three two-loss Power 5 champions, leaving the window wide open.
USC does not win the Pac-12
The Pac-12 does not have any team left with more than two losses overall. But with USC’s only losses coming to both ranked Washington State and Notre Dame, a two-loss Trojans team with the conference title couldn’t be disregarded from the playoff.
With the struggles the Pac-12 has endured, it’s unlikely that any team could make the playoff — even with the conference crown. If Washington, Washington State or Stanford hands USC a third loss en route to a conference title, it would likely dismiss any playoff talk for the Trojans and its conference.
Stanford beats Notre Dame
Because Notre Dame isn’t in a conference, it has no 13th data point to live by and was crushed by No. 2 Miami on Saturday. A third loss to Stanford would put any lingering playoff hopes to rest for the Fighting Irish.
Miami beats Clemson in the ACC title game
Miami would be a lock for the playoff, while Clemson is out with two losses.
The big picture
If all the chaos happens above, the mess of teams to sort out would presumably look like this.
- 12-0 or 11-1 Miami (ACC champion)
- 11-2 Clemson (ACC runner-up)
- 11-2 Oklahoma State (Big 12 champion)
- 11-2 Oklahoma
- 11-2 Big Ten champion
- 11-2 Wisconsin (Big Ten runner-up)
- 11-2 or worse Pac-12 champion (not USC)
- 13-0 Alabama (SEC champion)
- 11-2 Georgia (SEC runner-up)
The playoff committee has reiterated that conference titles are a major factor in deciding the four teams with a chance to win it all. Oklahoma State would own that valuable advantage in this scenario.
One other important factor to consider as well. Oklahoma State, unlike Ohio State, would own a win over the Sooners if it came down to deciding between those schools.
Of course, we learned last season that winning your conference isn’t everything when it comes to making the playoff. Could the committee decide that two-loss Oklahoma or Georgia is still one of the four best teams out there? It’s not out of the question.
But with these results — there’s a least a chance for the Cowboys.
And that’s all they can ask with two weeks left in the regular season.