The Big 12 finally moved a team -- No. 3 Oklahoma -- into the College Football Playoff's top four, but No. 7 Baylor is still right in the mix and No. 11 Oklahoma State isn't out just yet either. Here's where the conference's contenders now stand after the fourth round of CFP voting.
Record: 10-1 (7-1)
Next big obstacle: Oklahoma visits Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Reason for optimism: Oklahoma’s rather unexpected jump into the No. 3 slot suggests a Bedlam victory in Stillwater could lock up a playoff spot on Saturday night. Finishing with an 11-1 record, a seven-game win streak (including three consecutive top-25 wins, two of them on the road) and a conference title would complete an impressive resume, one the committee clearly already respects.
Cause for concern: Now that Oklahoma is inside the top four, you do have to wonder what could go down on Dec. 5 that would prompt the committee to bump a team or two ahead of OU. There’s certainly a little bit of precedent for that. We know whoever wins the Big Ten is probably in. But could Notre Dame still find a way to sneak in?
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Nebraska, Penn State, Stanford. Widening the gap between Oklahoma and teams No. 4 through 6 certainly wouldn’t hurt. If the Huskers take down Iowa or Penn State can stun Michigan State, the Sooners will sleep a bit easier next weekend. Might not want to root too hard for the Cardinal against Notre Dame, though -- they’re also lurking as a potential threat.
Record: 9-1 (6-1)
Next big obstacle: Baylor visits No. 19 TCU on Friday.
Reason for optimism: Sure seems like this committee is gaining an appreciation for Baylor. Chairman Jeff Long once again praised BU, this time for playing at a high level with third-string QB Chris Johnson, but the leap from No. 10 to 7 (and ahead of one-loss Ohio State) is far more meaningful respect. Securing another top-25 road win in Fort Worth would certainly bolster this team’s resume, and let’s not forget how the Cardale Jones wild-card factor boosted the Buckeyes in 2014. Could Johnson have a similar effect?
Cause for concern: Even if the Bears get a little help and win the Big 12, the winner of Notre Dame versus Stanford might still finish ahead of them for a playoff bid. That’s probably the chief concern today. But, again, Baylor is trying to pull this off with a No. 3 quarterback who’s about to make his first start after played receiver for most of the season. Better to focus on one game at a time than the big picture right now.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Oklahoma State. If the Sooners don’t suffer a second loss, Baylor can’t win a third consecutive Big 12 title. When asked Monday if he’ll be wearing orange on Saturday night, Baylor senior tackle Spencer Drango laughed and replied, “No comment.”
Record: 10-1 (7-1)
Reason for optimism: The Cowboys can still win the Big 12, and that means they’re technically not out of the playoff picture just yet. They’ll clinch the conference trophy this weekend if they win Bedlam and TCU upsets Baylor. As long as there’s still a shot at 11-1 and a Big 12 title, there’s still hope. Beating the nation’s No. 3 team in convincing fashion would send Mike Gundy’s squad right back up the rankings.
Cause for concern: Too many teams ranked ahead of Oklahoma State and too little time to make up ground. The fact the Cowboys just took their first loss and landed behind a pair of two-loss teams (Stanford and Michigan) isn’t a good sign. And if Baylor does win this weekend, Oklahoma State definitely can’t count on Texas to shock the Bears next weekend in Waco.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: TCU and as much chaos as possible. Auburn over Alabama. South Carolina over Clemson. All kinds of big problems in the Big Ten. The Cowboys need a real shakeup throughout the top 10 in order to sneak back into this party.