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The improbable (yet possible) path to the CFB

The Cowboys first loss of the season came at an inopportune time, but there lies a chance in chaos for the surprise dark horse from the Big 12 to make it the College Football Playoff.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as the seconds ticked off the clock this past Saturday, what seemed like dreams of an undefeated season and a trip to the only postseason that matters were dashed, or so we thought.

The climb back will not be easy, and luck will need to find itself in Stillwater. But all is not over for the Cowboys.

Regardless of percentages or the opinions of the national sports media, in chaos lies a chance for Oklahoma State to be in the final four of college football's postseason. Here is the improbable, but possible path to the postseason.

Win Bedlam

The first part of this run will be the Cowboys part to pull off. Beating the Sooners is no easy task as generations of OSU fans will tell you, but it is possible (especially within Boone Pickens Stadium).

A win against OU will surely impress the committee, with how impressive OU has looked down the final stretch. Unfortunately for OSU, winning out is no longer the way to the CFB.

A Baylor upset

The Big 12 will need to have an outright champion this time around, lest history repeat itself. If the Cowboys can pull their upset, the Bears will need to lose one of their final two games for OSU to be able to declare itself Big 12 champions.

Even though the Big 12 has been under ranked for most of the CFP committee's rankings, a conference championship, although one determine in the regular season, will still be important to the committee in their discussions. Either team will do for this part, but a Baylor loss to a ranked team would be better in the committee's eyes than a loss to Texas.

Even with a win against the No. 3 team and a conference championship, the Cowboys will most assuredly not have enough momentum to break the top 4. This is where chaos comes into play.

What will happen

There are several difference scenarios that could potentially put the Cowboys where they need to be, but explaining each would take more than just one article. For the sake of simplicity, let's take a look at the teams behind and in front of the Cowboys to see where the best path forward is.

Behind OSU is Florida, Florida State and North Carolina. Assuming both Alabama and Clemson win out, all three of these teams will be eliminated from contention (Florida would lose to Alabama and/or the Florida State, North Carolina would lose to Clemson, and Florida State would lose to either Florida or miss out on the ACC championship.)

In this case, its better for Alabama and Clemson to win out, lest one or both of these teams be placed ahead of OSU on name brand only.

If both win out, the highest OSU can reach is No. 3.

This leaves 6 teams (provided a Cowboy win and a Baylor loss) between Oklahoma State and a postseason berth.

From there, one Big 10 team will be eliminated, Ohio State or Michigan, in their game against each other. Another Big 10 East team, will be eliminated(seemingly) by missing out on the Big 10 championship game.

And then there were 4.

Both pairs of these teams will play each other, Iowa and Michigan State/ Notre Dame and Stanford, and will effectively eliminate at least two from the equation, but OSU needs to jump three of these teams to make it to at least the No. 4 ranking.


A number of things can happen with these final four but this we know: If any of the four win out, they're in. But the status of the second team is where OSU can make its jump. The Cowboys will need one of these three scenarios to happen to make it there.

1) Iowa wins out and gives Big 10 East champion a second loss; Notre Dame loses to Stanford and Stanford either loses the PAC 12 or wins unconvincingly- This gives OSU its best chance, either moving in front of Stanford after its loss or jumping Stanford because the Cowboys have the better loss.

2) Big 10 East champion wins Big 10, leaving an Iowa team with no impressive wins and a loss on its record, but East champion has two losses (Michigan State to Nebraska being the only two loss  Big 10 East possibility); Stanford beats Notre Dame and wins the PAC 12 - Oklahoma State would need to knock of a two loss PAC 12 or Big 10 champion. This would give the Cowboys less of a chance of making the playoffs but still a good possibility of making it in.

3) Big 10 Champion wins with either 1 loss (Ohio State, Michigan State) or no loss (Iowa); Notre Dame beats Stanford- This is the scenario that would most likely end up in Oklahoma State missing out on the playoffs. Although there would be a chance to jump Notre Dame with a convincing win against Oklahoma and a Top 10 loss, it would be difficult to top the Notre Dame brand.

No one truly knows what will happen in the next two weeks, but if everything goes right, an OSU college football playoff berth is not out of the realm of possibility.