Oklahoma State football could be vying with Notre Dame for the final spot in the College Football Playoff, depending on how the conference championship action takes shape next weekend.
The latest College Football Playoff rankings unveiled on Tuesday, Nov. 30 moved the Cowboys ahead to No. 5 ahead of Notre Dame in the week before the conference championship games.
One haunting reminder for Big 12 fans should be 2014, which was the last year that OU did not win the Big 12 Conference. TCU was ranked No. 3 in the penultimate standings, only to fall unceremoniously to No. 6 after defeating Iowa State 55-3.
Decisive wins by Georgia, Michigan, and Cincinnati against ranked opponents figure to make it difficult to displace these three teams. If the Bulldogs, Wolverines, and Bearcats win their respective conference title games, the fourth and final spot in the CFP might come down to the one-loss Fighting Irish and Oklahoma State.
Short of a CFP nightmare scenario like TCU in 2014, Oklahoma State football will remain ranked ahead of Notre Dame and Ohio State with a win vs. Baylor.
This Notre Dame vs. OSU comparison scenario would only take place if the Cowboys defeat Baylor in the Big 12 championship game.
The surprising departure of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly to LSU has certainly added an interesting element to the Notre Dame vs. OSU potential comparison. While it’s likely that after 12 years, Kelly was ready for a new challenge in the SEC and stands to benefit from a 10-year, $95 million contract, there’s a sense among many pundits that Kelly had hit his ceiling at Notre Dame — that is, a contender for the nation’s top four teams but never a serious threat to win the national title.
Some might argue, too, that Kelly’s departure from Notre Dame a week before the final CFP rankings are released after the conference championship games signifies a lack of confidence in the Irish’s ability to advance. Without a series of unlikely upsets among power conference teams, Notre Dame now appears extremely unlikely to qualify as one of the four best teams.
While OSU already has two wins over fellow ranked opponents in the CFP’s Top 25, the Fighting Irish have none now that Wisconsin has suffered its fourth loss.
Simply put, Notre Dame is sitting on the couch this upcoming while OSU has the chance to add another Top 10 win among its list of accomplishments. Without a neutral-site quality win, the Fighting Irish will almost certainly remain behind the potential one-loss Big 12 champion in Oklahoma State.
If the Cowboys lose to Baylor or if the CFP Committee reconsiders a two-loss Ohio State team (accompanied losses by Cincinnati and/or Michigan, as well), Notre Dame could still lose out on its CFP chances.
For the Cowboys, the window of opportunity is now clear: win, and you should be automatically in with a Georgia win.