Big 12’s playoff chances depend on K-State, West Virginia

The Wildcats exit the locker room onto Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium field in Norman, OK for the Oct. 18, 2014 game against OU. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

At the beginning of the season, all roads in the Big 12 were poised to go through Norman, Oklahoma and Waco, Texas for the chance to go to the College Football Playoff. Now after the emergence of the middle of the Big 12 conference, only No. 12 Baylor remains full relevant in championship hopes.

The conference is full of one loss teams, and for good or bad, the conference’s playoff hopes revolve around the No. 11 Wildcats, who currently sit at the top of the conference. Whether the Wildcats’ win against No. 17 Oklahoma was lucky or not, they became the team to beat in the league as soon as the seconds ticked off the clock in Norman.

The conference’s downfall might be hands of the West Virginia, whose home field advantage might allow them to destroy any hope of a Big 12 team going to the playoffs with a victory over the Wildcats or No. 10 TCU.

However, it’s easier said than done.

The Wildcats have an offense that is universally hard to defend. The option confuses defenses and even the best units in the country have had issues with guarding even the most basic of option offenses.

There are two other teams in the Big 12 have a shot at reaching the inaugural playoffs in No. 10 TCU and Baylor. Both of these teams have only one loss, and – just like K-State – could compete to make the playoffs if they can manage to win out for the rest of the season.

There is only one obstacle that poses a threat for both of those teams, Bill Snyder and his Wildcats.

The reason why the conference’s playoff hopes revolve around the Wildcats is that if either the Bears or the Horned Frogs pull of a win against Snyder’s team, they could be propelled into the playoffs.

Due to their loss to Auburn early in the season, the Wildcats have been overlooked nationally as a true threat, even though they nearly downed the No. 5 team in the nation. Good news for the Wildcats, in common Snyder-esque way, the Wildcats did not allow that loss to define them and have stormed back in Big 12 play to national prominence.

While the Wildcats did drop that game, they have the advantage of not dropping a game in the conference to this point, which puts the bulls-eye on their back. This is extremely true since they have arguably the hardest schedule in the Big 12, having to take on four ranked teams on the road this season.

Having already downed the Sooners on the road, the Wildcats still have to travel to West Virginia in what could be a trap game, then to TCU, before the season in Waco, Texas, in a matchup that could end up being the de facto Big 12 Championship game if both teams win out.

The only team that poses a threat to the Wildcats, that also don’t pose a threat to the playoff race, are the Mountaineers. West Virginia owns one of the best home field advantages in Milan Puskar Stadium, a stadium that affects even the best players on the best teams in the country. They also travel to Morgantown just a week after their game in Fort Worth, which will be harder for the Wildcats to win because of playing in back-to-back road games.

This game poses the single biggest threat to the conference’s hopes. Simply put, if the Wildcats lose to the Mountaineers, the conference’s hopes of finding a team in the big dance are limited.

For the Bears, they will travel to Norman, Oklahoma on Nov. 8 in a massive matchup. It is a game that could ultimately end all hopes for their playoff dreams. Once they get past that trap game against the Sooners, it looks like smooth sailing for senior quarterback Bryce Petty until the showdown against Snyder’s team.

In all fairness, the Big 12 is not near the level of the SEC right now. With the madness that is the current state of the Big 12, they will be lobbying to get just one team in the dance, while the SEC may be lobbying to get multiple teams in by the end of the season.