Big 12 Spotlight: Title matchup maybe easy, or all tied up
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
The most straightforward championship game scenario for the Big 12 would be No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 11 TCU both winning their last two games and meeting again Dec. 2.
Then again, nothing ever seems to come that easy for the Big 12.
Remember, the Big 12 brought back its championship game in hopes that it would bolster the conference's chances to be in the College Football Playoff each year. Now there is the lingering possibility that the Sooners (9-1, 6-1 Big 12), who are fourth in the CFP rankings this week, could get there and lose a title game rematch against a league opponent with at least two losses.
And what if Oklahoma losses one, or both, of its last two regular season games? While they play at last-place Kansas (1-9, 0-7) this Saturday, No. 24 West Virginia (7-3, 5-2) could still be in the mix for a spot in the Big 12 title game when the Mountaineers finish the regular season in Norman.
"The only thing that we've really talked about is understanding that we are in that conversation, and everybody wants to be in that conversation," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I think it's in the back of everybody's mind, but there's no reason for us to talk about it."
Before the CFP selection committee reveals the four playoff teams Dec. 3, the Big 12 has its first championship game since 2010. And with only two weekends left in the regular season, no team is locked into that game.
Even if they are just lucky, Big 12 schedule makers might avoid what was the biggest concern with a round-robin schedule and having an immediate rematch in the championship game. A rematch was guaranteed, but there were adjustments to the schedule, such as Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State (8-2, 5-2) playing Bedlam the first weekend in November instead of for the regular-season finale.
There still is the possibility of Oklahoma and West Virginia playing back-to-back weeks. But the remaining schedule, except for the Mountaineers' games against Texas and Oklahoma, is made up of matchups of teams still with a chance to be in the title game playing teams already eliminated from contention for one of those two spots .
"Look, there's never a perfect answer. We've always said that, and everybody knows that," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. "The best thing is you're going to have the best two teams in the league playing again there on the last week. ... That's on down the line for us. We're trying to stay locked in to playing well this week, and hopefully putting us in position to have a chance to be in that game."
A lot of things could get all tied up over the next two weekends, and put quite a few Big 12 tiebreakers in play to determine who plays in Arlington, Texas. Here are just a few of them, some maybe far-fetched, but still possible:.
- There could still be six teams finishing the season with 6-3 records in the Big 12. That would mean Oklahoma losing twice - including to a one-win Kansas team that the Sooners have beaten 12 straight times by an average margin of more than 30 points.
While out of playoff consideration, the Sooners would still get the league championship game as the home team since they would have the first spot after a series of tiebreakers. TCU, which lost 38-20 at Oklahoma last weekend, would get a rematch closer to home after another series of tiebreakers among the remaining five teams.
- Oklahoma could split its last two games and clinch the first spot at 7-2 without a tiebreaker, if Oklahoma State, TCU, West Virginia and Iowa State all finish 6-3. In that scenario, the Sooners again would play TCU, which would have the head-to-head win over Oklahoma State after round-robin records knocked West Virginia and Iowa State out of consideration for the second spot.
- If Oklahoma State beats Kansas State and Kansas, the Cowboys would be 7-2 and clinch home spot in the title game if TCU, Oklahoma and West Virginia all finished 6-3 behind them. In that scenario, the Sooners still get in the title game on a two-game losing streak.
Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia would all be 1-1 against each other, so the next step would be their outcomes against Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers would be eliminated because of their regular-season loss to the Cowboys, and Oklahoma would have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Horned Frogs since both of them beat Oklahoma State.
"We're just going to worry about the next one, practice and all of that," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "And control what we can control."
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Updated November 16, 2017