In 2014, a Virginia Tech team traveled to Columbus and pulled off an immaculate upset. The Buckeyes had lost to a team that eventually went 6-6 and went on to win their bowl game. Meanwhile, Ohio State kept chugging along. They survived a scare to an unranked Penn State team in Happy Valley, won a close one in Minnesota, and then went on to steamroll Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game 59-0. This lead them to the College Football Playoff after an early (week two) season loss to a team who did not belong on the same field. The Buckeyes went on to win the first National Championship in the Playoff Era.
In 2015, Oklahoma found themselves in familiar territory. A win at Tennessee helped bolster that résumé, but a loss to a 5-7 Texas team made them look in the mirror. The only scare the rest of the way after the Red River Showdown (Rivalry, Shootout, whatever) came against TCU after Baker Mayfield went down. They survived that game, won in Stillwater, and then firmly planted themselves in the College Football Playoff.
In 2016, Clemson barely beat a 7-6 NC State team. The Tigers needed overtime to beat them at home the second week of October. They then played horrible against an 8-4 Pittsburgh team and lost on a field goal that potentially shattered their Playoff hopes…but it didn’t. Dabo Swinney and Co. rounded the horses together, won the ACC, and then eventually won the second National Championship for Clemson.
History does this weird thing of repeating itself. Nobody has any understanding of why that happens, but it does. It’s really simple for a team to lose a game nowadays and point towards those situations from the last three years to show that a season is far from over. However, the hunt for the 2017 Playoff is already seeing teams lose their hope at a National Championship. At this point in the season, if a team is not a consistent conference champion, they are likely seeing the door with one-loss.
After yesterday’s loss to Iowa State, the question of the College Football Playoff rightfully came up. Will the committee put a team that lost to a team like Iowa State in the Playoff? The answer is yes. This is one of those years that Lincoln Riley needs to remember who scheduled that Ohio State series. That win in Columbus ultimately cancels out the loss to Iowa State for Oklahoma’s Playoff hopes. The loss is shocking and surprising, but did it truly hurt Oklahoma’s chances at the Playoff? No. It just complicates it more.
With that being said, is Oklahoma State still in the hunt? The loss to TCU is nowhere near the magnitude of the loss that Oklahoma took yesterday. The Cowboys have every reason to think they are still in this race with a chance at a 12-1 season and a Big 12 Title. They have just as much of an argument as any Tier Two or Three team in college football this season. If the Cowboys can survive trips to Austin and Morgantown, win Bedlam, and win in Dallas, they will be one of the top six teams in college football.
Unfortunately, a new reality for the Playoff has set in: Two teams from the same conference, and I’m not talking about the Big 12. Yep, the worst nightmare for a contending team outside of the Big Ten and SEC is if those conferences produce more than one elite team. In 2017, the Big Ten is looking at a possibility of sending two teams to the Playoff, and as of right now, it is completely justifiable.
Penn State and Wisconsin two have thrown a wrench into the usual “one-loss” thinking. The issue? Both of those teams have earned the right at the College Football Playoff to this point, and neither of them will eventually win their conference. The Buckeyes of Ohio State will likely crash that party at the end of October when Penn State travels to the Horseshoe. Ohio State will then control their destiny in that division and likely face Wisconsin in the Conference Championship game. If Wisconsin loses that one, then they will be 12-1. If Penn State’s only loss is to Ohio State, they will be 11-1. The worst part for opposing conferences? Ohio State makes the playoff in this scenario, and those two teams only lost to a Playoff team. Don’t forget that the College Football Playoff committee has already proven that conference championships are not the end-all-to-be-all after Ohio State last season.
It is a situation that is unprecedented early in the Playoff Era, but the likelihood of two Big Ten teams getting a bid to the College Football Playoff is increasing by the week. Oklahoma’s loss to Iowa State only helps that idea as it could be hung over their head in an argument between them, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Oklahoma State’s only loss coming to TCU may help them if TCU continues the path they are on, but they are ultimately sitting behind Penn State and Wisconsin due to conference affiliation.
Most years, fans are hoping for chaos throughout college football. For Oklahoma and Oklahoma State fans, this is setting up to be a year that complete anarchy will need to take place for their programs to reach their goals. Not only are the toughest Big 12 games ahead for the in-state schools, but they will also need teams like Penn State, Wisconsin, and then Washington out west to play themselves out of the Playoff.
It’s unprecedented, but it’s simple: 12-1 just might not be good enough anymore.