Oklahoma State dominated previously unbeaten TCU, 49-29, in Stillwater on Saturday, improving to 9-0 and ascending all the way to No. 5 in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll.
But are the Cowboys – an undefeated team from a Power 5 conference – one of the best four teams in the country?
“No, I don’t believe that,” FOX Sports and FS1 college football analyst Stewart Mandel said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I know they had a fantastic win over TCU. They had been building toward that. I don’t think any of those Big 12 teams are going to make it out of this month unscathed. The Big 12’s decision to backload the schedule and put all the big games at the end of the year is great for drama and TV, but it’s just asking so much of Baylor – who I do think is arguably a top-four team – to beat three top-15 teams in a row back-to-back-to-back with no bye week. It could end up being that league’s undoing again.”
Baylor, ranked sixth in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, plays against No. 15 Oklahoma, at No. 14 Oklahoma State and at No. 8 TCU. All of those rankings, of course, will change Tuesday evening.
Nevertheless, because the Big 12 doesn’t have a traditional championship game, the conference may have backloaded its schedule on purpose. Unfortunately for the league, it runs the risk of becoming its own minefield.
“This, I guess, is their answer to the fact that they don’t have a conference championship game. I get that,” Mandel said. “But if you’re going to lose in college football, you want to lose early. And if that Oklahoma State/TCU game happened in early October and TCU turned around and won the rest of their games, it’s not a guarantee they would get in – because that’s pretty much the situation that happened last year. But if Ohio State loses and a bunch of teams around the country lose, that’s not to say that an 11-1 Big 12 champ can’t get in, but I just think losing your game on Nov. 21 is going to hurt you a lot more.”
Complicating matters further for the Big 12 is the fact that No. 5 Notre Dame’s loss came at Clemson – now the top-ranked team in the country – by just two points. If Notre Dame wins out, either the Pac-12 champion or the Big 12 champion could be in trouble.
“(This) is an added element that we didn’t have last year,” Mandel said. “You’re not going to have both an 11-1 Notre Dame and a 12-1 Stanford. That’s not on the table. That’s an elimination game right there. Utah obviously has a chance as well. An undefeated Big 12 (team) is going to get in, but if it’s a one-loss Big 12 (team), that one-loss Big 12 (team) could be competing with 11-1 Notre Dame for that spot.”