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The Path to the Playoff: What needs to happen for Oklahoma State?

A preview of the road ahead for the AP Top 10 and what needs to happen for Oklahoma State to participate in the CFP.

NCAA Football Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Making the College Football Playoff is insanely difficult. Winning it all is even harder.

One loss can eliminate you from contention, then the next week you’re back in it thanks to unexpected upsets of teams ranked ahead of you. We say it every season, “Anything can happen.” Yet, when “it” does happen, we are shocked and disgusted and we want coaches fired, all because of one game. The next week, it’s another group of fanbases sharing your sentiment while thoughts creep back into your head that, “Maybe we aren’t quite out of this thing yet...”

Cowboy Football fans have experienced the rollercoaster of emotions the first half of the year. In this post, we’ll take a look at the current AP Top 10, the hurdles they face as we enter the second half of the regular season, and which dominoes Oklahoma State needs to fall to get a seat at the CFP table.

9. Oklahoma Sooners

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas
Oklahoma has one of the more impressive wins this season, but a loss that may outweigh it.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Call me curious, George. Can the man in the yellow hat keep the Sooners on track for a Playoff appearance? After three weeks of chaos including a close call at Baylor, a home loss to Iowa State, capped by a win versus rival Texas, OU cannot afford to look past any remaining opponent, maybe save Kansas.

Should they win out, it would be tough to keep OU out of the final four. We’ve seen tough losses haunt teams at the end of the season, though. A single loss to Iowa State cost OSU a chance at a title in 2011, will the Sooners suffer the same fate?

What remains: @ Kansas State, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma State (10), TCU (4), @Kansas, West Virginia (23), *Big 12 Championship Game.

Record of opponents played: 16-22

Record of opponents remaining: 23-13

Predicted Finish: 5-2.

8. Miami Hurricanes

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a year, and a new coach, makes. Mark Richt has Miami back in relevant conversations, but the more you talk about the Hurricanes, the less impressive they become. Their undefeated record includes a win over national powerhouse Bethune-Cookman, a comeback win vs Toledo after trailing 16-10 at half, Duke, surviving 24-20 against a Florida State team without its starting quarterback, and a game-winning field goal with :04 remaining to defeat Georgia Tech. Perhaps divine intervention is accompanying the the 8th-ranked Hurricanes and they’ll continue to survive and advance.

What remains: Syracuse, Virginia Tech (14), Notre Dame (13) and Virginia visit Miami, while the Hurricanes will travel to North Carolina and Pittsburgh, ending with the ACC Championship Game.

Record of opponents played: 17-12

Record of remaining opponents: 22-17

Predicted Finish: 4-2, losses to ND and ACC Championship.

7. Clemson Tigers

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The first half of the season saw the Tigers collect three wins over top-15 teams, but an injury to quarterback Kelly Bryant and a loss at Syracuse may have derailed the Clemson freight train that was on a collision course for a CFP title-game rematch against Alabama. A bye week couldn’t come at a better time, as it gives Dabo Swinney’s team a chance to heal for their run at another championship. Bryant’s health will no doubt have an impact on Clemson’s ability to compete for a CFP appearance.

What remains: Georgia Tech, @ NC State (16), Florida State, Citadel, @ South Carolina, *ACC Championship Game.

Record of opponents played: 27-20

Record of remaining opponents: 19-11

Predicted Finish: 6-0

6. Ohio State Buckeyes

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Nebraska
Since a home loss to Oklahoma, J.T. Barrett has the Buckeyes on a roll.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State has certainly benefited from a high preseason ranking. The Buckeyes have faced one ranked opponent this season, and that was when they suffered a 31-16 loss at home to Oklahoma. Since Baker Mayfield staked his claim at midfield in Ohio Stadium, Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett has been on a mission to prove OSU belongs in the top 10. Their resume isn’t impressive at this point, as they’ve reigned victorious versus the likes of Indiana, Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska.

What remains: Penn State (2), @ Iowa, Michigan St (18), Illinois, at Michigan (19), *Big 10 Championship Game.

Record of opponents played: 23-21

Record of remaining opponents: 22-8

Predicted Finish: 4-1, loss @ Penn State.

5. Wisconsin Badgers

NCAA Football: Purdue at Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s opponents to-date have a combined record of 16 wins and 23 losses.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Badgers have the weakest regular season schedule of any team in the AP Top 10, and should win out until the Big 10 Championship game where they’ll lose to Penn State or Ohio State. At this point in the season, not one Wisky opponent has a winning record, making it impossible to tell how they’ll compete against quality competition.

What remains: Maryland, @ Illinois, @ Indiana, Iowa, Michigan (19), @ Minnesota, *Big 10 Championship Game.

Record of opponents played: 16-23

Record of remaining opponents: 20-16

Predicted Finish: 5-2, losses to either Indiana or Michigan and in Big 10 Championship Game

4. TCU Horned Frogs

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Christian
TCU is in the driver’s seat for a Big 12 crown and CFP appearance.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Hill came into the 2017 season with something to prove. Few, if any, gave the Horned Frogs a chance to finish ahead of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State to claim a Big 12 Championship. TCU cleared two hurdles by winning in Stillwater and surviving at home against West Virginia. Road games at Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma appear to be the primary opportunities for Gary Patterson’s Frogs to stumble before the conference title game.

What remains: Kansas, @ Iowa State, Texas, @ Oklahoma (9), @ Texas Tech, Baylor, *Big 12 Championship Game

Record of opponents played: 18-18

Record of remaining opponents: 17-19

Predicted Finish: 4-2 with losses to Iowa State and/or OU, or in Big 12 Championship Game

3. Georgia Bulldogs

NCAA Football: Missouri at Georgia
Will a single loss to Bama in the SEC Championship keep Georgia in the CFP?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Minus a 1-point victory over Notre Dame in South Bend, Georgia hasn’t been tested the first half of their schedule. Other than a road trip to Auburn, it doesn’t appear they’ll have too much resistance on their way to an SEC Championship date with Alabama. Depending on results for those teams ranked around them, will one loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide be too much to keep UGA out of the playoff picture?

What remains: Florida, South Carolina, @ Auburn (21), Kentucky, @ Georgia Tech, *SEC Championship Game

Record of opponents played: 24-19

Record of remaining opponents: 21-11

Predicted Finish: 5-1, loss to Alabama in SEC Championship Game

2. Penn State Nittany Lions

NCAA Football: Penn State at Iowa
Can Saquon Barkley and Penn State survive a tough stretch to close out the regular season?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Nittany Lions deserve their current ranking, but they’ll earn it as they face three ranked opponents in consecutive weeks. With a Heisman candidate at running back it’s no wonder the attention has been on the offense, but Penn State’s defense may be the key to a Big 10 and CFP title run. The PSU defense has only surrendered 54 points through their first six games; however, the season’s toughest tests await.

What remains: Michigan (19), @ Ohio State (6), @ Michigan State (18), Rutgers, Nebraska, a@t Maryland, *Big 10 Championship

Record of opponents played: 19-18

Record of remaining opponents: 24-14

Predicted Finish: 7-0

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Alabama
No opponent has shown the ability to slow down the talented Crimson Tide.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama is doing Alabama things in 2017. Not only are they winning, they’re dominating. We’ve seen dominant Crimson Tide squads get beat before, but it’s hard to imagine that happens before the National Championship game...

What remains: Tennessee, LSU (24), @ Mississippi State, Mercer, @ Auburn, *SEC Championship

Record of opponents played: 24-20

Record of remaining opponents: 21-12

Predicted Finish: 6-0

Record scratch ... You didn’t really think we’d forget about Oklahoma State, did you?

10. Oklahoma State Cowboys

NCAA Football: Baylor at Oklahoma State
OSU will rely on the arm of Mason Rudolph to navigate the narrow road to the CFP.
Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

For Oklahoma State to scale the wall of teams ranked ahead of them, it will take an undefeated record the remainder of the season. Even still, they may need some cooperation in the form of losses by other top-10 teams. A second loss will likely end any opportunity at a playoff appearance. The only scenario which that wouldn’t be true would be an unlikely barrage of upsets within the AP Top 10. Miami, Ohio State and Wisconsin will likely lose and an undefeated finish by the Cowboys would include victories over Oklahoma in the regular season, and a win in the Big 12 Championship against either TCU or a Bedlam rematch. Assuming Clemson finishes without another loss, and either Georgia or Alabama take a loss in the SEC Championship, that likely leaves open the #4 spot in the College Football Playoff. It’s not an impossible path, but Oklahoma State will have to play their best football to close out the regular season.

What remains: @ Texas, @ West Virginia (23), Oklahoma (9), @ Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas, *Big 12 Championship Game

Predicted Finish: Use your imagination and get the Pokes to the Playoff!