By late October, conference championship talks are serious, and in the Big 12, Oklahoma State football is still in the conversation.
Despite just suffering their first loss of the season to Iowa State on Saturday, the No. 15-ranked Cowboys still have no reason to cancel any plans for their first trip to Arlington for the Big 12 championship game.
OSU’s loss gave undefeated OU sole possession of the top spot in the Big 12 standings. But, for now, it doesn’t seem like OSU fans (or fans of any other Big 12 school) have any need to worry about that No. 1 spot in the conference.
OSU is part of a three-way way tie for second place in the Big 12. What needs to happen for the Cowboys to play in Arlington for a conference title?
OU is firmly at the top, and whether we want to admit it or not, probably won’t be falling from it this season, so we will worry about the teams vying for a chance to play OU at AT&T Stadium and end the Sooners’ conference title streak.
Second place in the Big 12 standings is a three-way tie between OSU, ISU and Baylor. All have one conference loss, with ISU also having a non-conference blemish to Iowa.
As we all know, college football is even weirder than Austin. Proof of that, other than literally every Saturday in the fall, can be found in the Big 12’s second-place loss triangle.
OSU beat Baylor, Baylor beat ISU and ISU beat OSU. Every team tied for second place right now has already played each other, and that didn’t get anyone absolutely anywhere.
Yes, every team must keep winning to keep its chances alive, but at the end of the day, none of these teams are really in full control of their own destiny.
So what should OSU fans be hoping for, besides third-quarter and third-down improvements?
Simply, Cowboy fans should root just as hard against ISU as they do for the Pokes. The Cyclones have to lose more conference games than OSU for the Cowboys to play for a Big 12 title, as ISU owns the tiebreaker because of the recent win.
And, the truth hurts, but OSU actually probably needs ISU to lose two more, not just the one, as the Cowboys still have a matchup against OU left. OSU hasn’t won a Bedlam game since 2014.
The Cyclones also have OU left to play, as well as West Virginia, Texas, Texas Tech and TCU. OU and Texas are real possibilities to beat ISU, and obviously in the Big 12 any week could be an upset for any given team, so don’t rule out the others either if ISU gets by OU or Texas.
Speaking of Texas, the Longhorns are in third place with two losses. Unless OSU drops two more games, Texas can’t steal the Cowboys’ spot, and if that did happen, it most likely wouldn’t matter anyway at that point.
OSU would have to lose again to worry about Baylor stealing its ticket to Arlington. Baylor would also have to stay unbeaten the rest of the way.
The Bears have Texas, TCU, OU, Kansas State and Texas Tech left on their slate. More than likely, Baylor will stumble against at least one of those opponents and fall out of the Big 12 title race.
Every team tied for second right now still has OU left to play, so an upset of the Sooners could very well be the deciding factor in who (most likely) plays OU again in Arlington.
OSU definitely has the easiest remaining schedule of the trio, as the Cowboys have already played every team in the top half of the conference besides the Sooners.
ISU and Baylor both still have to play Texas, which was ranked until losing back-to-back close games to OU and OSU, respectively.
Excluding a minor miracle, OU is the only ranked opponent left on OSU’s schedule. At the moment, Texas Tech is the only other team besides OU with a winning record left on the calendar for the Cowboys.
And next is about as easy as it gets for OSU: a homecoming matchup against 1-6 Kansas. Well, easy for everyone except OU.
But, despite the easy week and Big 12 title chatter, Mike Gundy says those conversations aren’t happening inside the OSU locker room.
“Honestly, I mean I would love to help with the story, but (the players) don’t bring that up. Maybe because I don’t,” Gundy said at his weekly media luncheon on Monday.
“We need to work on Kansas. This is a team that has gotten considerably better, and so there shouldn’t be anybody thinking about that because we need to play well against Kansas first.”