Oklahoma Football Takes Care of Business at West Virginia; Is A Playoff Berth Possible?

Nov 12, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates with running back Samaje Perine (32) after running for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Baylor Bears at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of what transpires on Dec. 3, the Sooners will need help to get in the Playoff. One of the dominoes fell on Thursday when Houston manhandled Louisville and eliminated the Cardinals from Playoff contention. Assuming that Alabama and Clemson continue to win and capture their respective conference titles, those two teams will be part of the final group selected.

Michigan and Ohio State, the other two teams currently in the top four, meet this Saturday. And this is where it gets interesting.

If Michigan beats Ohio State, the Wolverines will go on to play Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship. If the Wolverines beat the Badgers, they win the Big 10 title and secure a spot in the playoff. In this scenario, the committee will then have to choose between a two loss Big 12 champion (Oklahoma, if they finish strong) and the Pac-12 champion for determining the final spot in the Playoff field.

If the Washington Huskies beat Washington State on Friday, they will face Colorado for the Pac-12 title. If the Huskies prevail, the committee’s choice will be simple, since a one loss Pac-12 champ will trump a two loss Big 12 champion, regardless of the differences in strength of schedule.

But, if Colorado beats Washington in the Pac-12 championship, the Sooners’ chances for the last Playoff spot are greatly enhanced, since the committee will be unlikely to elevate Colorado into the Playoff.

Likewise, if Washington State beats Washington in the Apple Cup game on Friday, the Sooners’ chances for a playoff spot will be boosted as well, because the committee is unlikely to elevate the winner of the resulting Pac-12 championship in this scenario.

The Playoff Case Against the Sooners

Oct 15, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon (25) runs for a touchdown against the Kansas State Wildcats during the first quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

If Ohio State beats Michigan, the Penn State Nittany Lions, assuming they beat a bad Michigan State team, will play for the Big Ten title. And if Penn State beats Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions will likely punch their ticket to the Playoff, even with two losses.

Combine the Big 10 scenario that has Penn State winning the conference with a Washington win against Washington State and then a victory over Colorado or Utah for the Pac-12 title, and that means Washington gets into the Playoff as a one loss Pac-12 champion. The Big 12 gets left out in the cold for the second time in three seasons.

Meanwhile, if Washington stumbles in either of its remaining games and Penn State wins the Big 10, would the committee take another look at a two-loss Ohio State and select the Buckeyes over a two-loss Big 12 conference champion Oklahoma? That scenario is very possible, given the fact that the Buckeyes beat the Sooners in Norman. But if the committee sticks to the principle that conference champions trump teams that didn’t win their conference, then that would bode well for the Sooners.

There are more permutations that can be discussed as the college football season winds down. Regardless of what happens with other teams vying for a spot in the 2016 College Football Playoff, the Sooners must beat Oklahoma State on Dec. 3 and win the Big 12 title to remain in the mix. And given how the season started, it’s an incredible accomplishment for Oklahoma to be in the playoff discussion, no matter what happens in the weeks ahead.

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