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An old-fashioned Bedlam awaits

With Oklahoma and Baylor locked into the Big 12 title game, the Cowboys are reduced to the role of spoiler once again.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

While many would think Bedlam history is littered with Oklahoma State upsets that ruined Oklahoma’s season, that is not the case.

Of the 18 wins in series history, the Cowboys have only ruined Oklahoma’s chances at either a Big 12 or national title three times: 1976, 2001 and 2002. OSU’s other 15 wins were in down seasons for OU or the Cowboys were the superior team.

With the Big 12 title game set between OU and Baylor, and the Cowboys locked into third to fifth place in the conference, the only thing of great importance at stake is the Sooners’ outside shot at the College Football Playoff. The Sooners need a lot of help, but an OSU win would end any discussion.

When the Cowboys and Sooners play in prime time next Saturday, Bedlam football is mostly about good, old-fashioned rivalry pride.

The Cowboys have a number of potential bowl options based on what happens during Thanksgiving weekend.

  1. Allstate Sugar Bowl (CFP - Big 12 vs SEC, Jan. 1, New Orleans)
  2. Valero Alamo Bowl (Big 12 vs. Pac-12, Dec. 31, San Antonio)
  3. Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl (Big 12 vs. SEC, Dec. 27, Houston)
  4. AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Big 12 vs. SEC, Dec. 31, Memphis)
  5. Cheez-It Bowl (Big 12 vs. Pac-12, Dec. 27, Phoenix)
  6. Servpro First Responder Bowl (Big 12 vs. AAC, Dec. 30, Dallas)

*Big 12 bowl lineup explanation

The order does NOT determine which team goes where. It simply determines the order in which the bowl committees gets to pick from the available teams. That means finishing third doesn’t necessarily get a team the No. 2 or 3 bowl game. There are some convoluted rules that govern this, so I’ll go with the fact that generally speaking the selection process with loosely resemble the order of finish in conference play. Slight variations can happen as committees take into consideration:

  • Recent matchups (they don’t like to repeat, especially regular season opponents)
  • Potential existing matchups (regional matchups are good for a number of reasons)
  • How well does the fanbase travel?
  • Has the team played in the bowl recently? (back to back appearances are not uncommon, but three in a row is a non-starter)

So what does all that mean for OSU?

Here are the scenarios…

Win Bedlam… third place in Big 12 either outright or win tiebreaker vs Iowa State:

This would likely lock OSU into the Texas Bowl. Oklahoma would be knocked out of any remote consideration for the CFP, and Baylor definitely isn’t making it even with a Big 12 title game win over OU, meaning the Big 12 champ gets the Sugar Bowl and #2 would most likely get the Alamo Bowl.

Lose Bedlam and things turn into a bit of a tossed salad:

  • Iowa State beats Kansas State
  • Cyclones are outright 3rd place. If Texas beats Texas Tech then OSU drops to 5th as they lose the tiebreaker with Texas. If Texas loses then OSU is alone in 4th place.
  • Kansas State beats Iowa State and Texas beats Texas Tech
  • Congratulations! We have a four-way tie for 3rd place. The round-robin records would eliminate Iowa State and Kansas State, and OSU would lose the tiebreaker with Texas again ending up in 4th place.
  • Kansas State beats Iowa State and Texas loses to Texas Tech
  • The Cowboys would win the round-robin tiebreaker since they beat both the Cyclones and Wildcats, thus finishing in 3rd place.

The most likely scenario is fourth or fifth place as Texas should be favored to beat Texas Tech Red Raiders in Austin. Much like the “Big 12 Chaos” post from last week any scenario involving a Texas win is understandably bad for OSU.

I don’t see any scenarios that would induce a bowl committee to skip over a higher-ranked team for a lower-ranked team other than the Liberty Bowl, but that could potentially impact the Cowboys as they played there last year against Missouri. The Liberty Bowl folks wouldn’t mind back-to-back appearances from OSU as the fanbase travels great, their games are usually good for ratings, and I don’t see them picking Kansas State over the Cowboys.

The big change to all these possibilities is if OU made the CFP, which would essentially move every team up one spot in the bowl pecking order. Before this week I would have said no way, but chances improved greatly the past two weekends and Jerry Palm’s latest bowl projections has OU inside the top four, with OSU playing Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl. GIVE ME ALL OF THAT.

The Sooners should jump over Oregon and Penn State to No. 7 in the CFP rankings unless the committee does something crazy with Big Ten darling Minnesota. OU essentially needs to win out and:

  • Bama lose to Auburn. Auburn is good enough and the loss of Tua makes this a lot more intriguing;
  • Georgia lose, most likely to LSU in the SEC title game;
  • Utah lose, most likely to Oregon in Pac 12 title game;
  • Minnesota lose

The key is that fourth spot. LSU, Ohio State and Clemson would all stay above OU with one loss, so it keeps it much simpler if those teams win out. I don’t see how the CFP committee could keep the Sooners out as the only one-loss champion remaining between the Big 12 and Pac 12 and it would be a huge scandal if a two-loss non-champion was put in over OU. There are probably other scenarios where the Sooners could get in, but these are the most likely and all need to happen. This could also completely change depending on what the committee does this week.