BYU entered Conference Championship Saturday ranked No. 12 and needing some help to secure a spot in a coveted New Year’s Six bowl, likely needing to leapfrog one of Michigan State or the loser of the Big 12 title game.
The Big 12 matchup between Oklahoma State and Baylor is where BYU’s New Year’s Six hopes likely died. The best case scenario would have been for No. 5 Oklahoma State to beat No. 9 Baylor in a manner that would’ve dropped Baylor below BYU but also not so much that the Cowboys make the College Football Playoff. This would have given Oklahoma State the automatic Sugar Bowl bid, likely leaving three-loss Baylor out of the NY6 conversation completely.
Fellow Vanquish the Foe writer Robby McCombs laid it out previously.
“BYU would need to hope that the committee drops a 3-loss Baylor below BYU. That is far from a guarantee since Baylor beat BYU head-to-head and the committee may not punish the Bears for losing a conference title game, but that’s what BYU needs to hope for! If Oklahoma State leapfrogged Cincinnati or Alabama into the CFP, then it wouldn’t matter if Baylor is ranked below BYU — they would get the Big 12’s automatic bid into the Sugar bowl.”
None of that happened on Saturday.
Baylor came out swinging from the jump and had the Pokes on their heels all game long. Oklahoma State battled back, given anxious Cougar fans hope, only to watch Baylor crush Cougar fans’ dreams for a second time this season, with an epic goal line stand at the finish. Baylor won the Big 12, which knocked Oklahoma State out of the College Football Playoff picture. Baylor will now head to the Sugar Bowl but now the question will be, would the committee really drop OSU, who previously was No. 5, all the way below BYU for barely losing a conference title game on a neutral field? My gut says no. That would mean Oklahoma State would merit an at-large bid before BYU. That is a giant problem for the Cougars, maybe the problem.
The fact that it was a close game instead of one team out-classing the other also works against the Cougars. That means neither team will merit a free-fall below BYU.
On the other end, No. 3 Alabama beating No. 1 Georgia almost assures there will be two SEC bids in the playoff as well as No. 4 Cincinnati. Had Georgia beaten Alabama soundly, the Crimson Tide likely would have been knocked out of the playoff picture and taken up yet another precious at-large spot from BYU.
Another glimmer of hope is Utah State’s unexpected Mountain West Conference title by virtue of thrashing SDSU on Saturday, 46-13. This gives BYU another conference champion, along with Utah in the PAC 12, on their resume as a big win. That is a decent boost to the strength of schedule.
No. 2 Michigan destroyed No. 13 Iowa, ending any possibility of the Hawkeyes jumping BYU.
That’s about all the help the Cougars got on Saturday. Is it enough? Not likely. Oklahoma State losing to Baylor in a close game basically torpedoed BYU’s chances of a bid to the Fiesta or Peach Bowl.
Could the CFP committee shock the world and put BYU ahead of a fellow idle team like Michigan State due to a boost in strength of schedule? Not impossible, but do not hold your breath Sunday morning. It is time to emotionally prepare for the Independence Bowl against a Conference-USA foe.