Is there any way that Oklahoma doesn't get a slot in the College Football Playoff? At this point it's hard to come up with such a scenario, even though the one blemish on the Sooners' record is the very ugly loss to Texas, which has to burn the Crimson and Cream more than the August prairie sun. Still, unless a couple of upsets spark some very unlikely multiple-team selections from another conference, OU has to be in.
Separating the bowl prospects of some very closely-aligned teams in the league standings will also be difficult. The league tiebreaker will select the Sugar Bowl representative from the pool of Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor (assuming the Bears beat Texas), but past that there will be tough calls to make. In doing so, do injuries have a say in who gets selected?
Once those two levels get shaken out, the real maneuvering begins, with schools trying to influence ESPN as to which bowls to slot them into. It would be much more fair if there was a straight pecking order and alignment, but that's not the way it works behind the scenes. There's also so many other data points to consider that it's tough to make a call that seems fair for all. Does a West Virginia win put it well clear of Texas Tech in the matching process? Does a Texas school want to go to Florida for the Russell Athletic Bowl and a Disney trip? Do previous year bowl destinations (WVU in the Liberty) or match-ups (TCU vs. Mississippi) contribute to move teams to a different location? There are so many angles to consider in the few days left before the selection process.
Since the Big 12 began a round-robin football schedule in 2011, no team has gone undefeated. Whether that speaks to competitive depth or the lack of a truly great team is a matter for debate, but this year, at least, the judgment has to swing in favor of the former. Every team suffers injuries, of course, but the November battles would have been even more epic had TCU and Baylor not lost their QBs for a stretch – not to mention several other key performers. That's to take nothing away from OU, which won the conference title fair and square.
With its first score against Texas, Baylor will take the league scoring title again. The Bears are tied with Texas Tech with 559 points this year, but it took the Red Raiders all 12 of their regular season games to reach that total.
Texas (4-7 / 3-5) gets the chance to end its season on a positive note, and in the process knock Baylor (9-2 / 6-2) down a bowl peg or two. Although the Bears are on their third-string QB, they simply have better players than the Longhorns, no matter what recruiting rankings may say. Baylor gets to a ten-win regular season and drops Texas to eighth place in the league.
Kansas State (5-6 / 2-6) appeared to be playing for its bowl life, but the shortage of teams with the requisite six wins, combined with the Wildcats' high football APR, puts them in a bowl even if they lose to West Virginia (7-4 / 4-4). Although it might appear that the Mountaineers have little to play for, the visitors are still motivated to finish the season strongly and keep its momentum pushing though bowl season. The Mountaineers are the pick to get their first-ever win over K-State.
Oklahoma (11-1 / 8-1), barring another CFP shocker, will be in a national semifinal game. With a win, Baylor figures to earn the Sugar Bowl spot, while TCU (10-2 / 7-2) and Oklahoma State (10-2 / 7-2) are expected to vie for positions in the Alamo and Russell Athletic Bowls.
Texas Tech (7-5 / 4-5) and West Virginia will be in play for the Texas and Liberty Bowls (assuming a WVU win over K-State). If the Wildcats win, they force their way into that mix, but a loss makes it the last Big 12 team to be selected, likely resulting in a Cactus Bowl positioning, pending other considerations such as bowl rematches or repeat trips.
Texas needs a win over Baylor and losses or bowl passes by several four- and five-win teams currently in front of it in the APR rankings to make a last ditch bowl run, while Iowa State (3-9 / 2-7) and Kansas (0-12 / 0-9) are done for the year.