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Oklahoma State football, Big 12 tiebreakers before Bedlam

Iowa State and Oklahoma State have a chance to break the mold, but will need to overcome serious obstacles first.

NCAA Football: UL Lafayette at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Most years in the Big 12 result in a clear frontrunner and a lot of jockeying for the second spot in the annual rematch game Big 12 Championship game, but as we know this isn’t just any year.

This is 2020.

That means with four weeks left in the Big 12 regular season there are no locks and LOTS of potential scenarios. I’ll attempt to examine as many as they allow me to without writing a novel (and it is so messy forgive me if I miss a scenario). The current standings are:

The remaining schedule for the top six teams:

  • Iowa State: Kansas State, at Texas, West Virginia
  • Oklahoma State: at Oklahoma, Texas Tech, at TCU, at Baylor
  • Kansas State: at Iowa State, at Baylor, Texas
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, Baylor
  • Texas: at Kansas (postponed), Iowa State, at Kansas State
  • West Virginia: BYE, Oklahoma, at Iowa State

It is easy to see why there could be so much uncertainty in the final results. Teams already with multiple losses and the top teams all playing each other during the final weeks. The scenario that would allow WVU to make the title game would involve everyone else losing lots of games so we won’t even discuss that here.

There is only one superbly simple scenario:

If ANY of ISU, OSU, OU, or Texas win out, that team is in. However there are only a couple of possible scenarios as these teams play each other, so whoever wins out between ISU and Texas is in, likewise for OSU and OU. That means you get either the Cyclones or the Longhorns vs either the Cowboys or the Sooners in the title game.

Yep, I just said that out loud. We could very easily have a rematch of OU-Texas in the title game.

The two biggest games in this mix for OSU are Bedlam and any game ISU plays.

As mentioned in Picks From Joe’s, any tiebreaker scenarios involving 3-4 teams and OU AND Texas is a non-starter for the Cowboys as they would have lost to both teams. The tiebreaker rules for three or more teams begin with a “round robin” between those teams which would put OU at 2-0, Texas at 1-1 and OSU at 0-2, and no matter who the fourth team is among the top six it would still leave OSU out. This is why if both Texas and OU win out they are most likely in the title game depending on who ends up in fourth place (see below).

Losing Bedlam and Texas beating ISU is by far the worst possible scenario for OSU. It doesn’t completely eliminate their chances but given the remaining schedules for OU and Texas it becomes exceedingly improbable. Win Bedlam, or have the Cyclones beat the Longhorns, and things look a whole lot simpler for the Cowboys’ chances.

Win Bedlam and OSU can still drop a game on the way home and make the title game rematch.

Lose Bedlam and the Cowboys must win out AND face a myriad of obstacles. If Iowa State beats Texas then OSU would need

  • OU to drop a game, most likely at WVU, or;
  • ISU lose to both K-State and WVU

If ISU loses to Texas, then OSU would need

  • OU to drop a game, most likely at WVU, or;
  • Texas lose at K-State

The weird tiebreaker scenario most likely to get activated is the second option of the “three teams or more” section.

If OSU is in a three-way tie with, say, ISU and OU, the round robin would result in all teams being 1-1 against each other. At that point you go to the results for each team against the next highest ranked team in the conference standings. If this is Texas, then both ISU and OU would move along, assuming the Cyclones beat Texas (and had picked up a 2nd loss somewhere else). If they didn’t then the Sooners move ahead, leaving ISU and OSU, and the Cowboys win that matchup.

If K-State was somehow in 4th place, then the Cowboys and Iowa State would move on. OSU would have the advantage as they beat the Wildcats, and at that point in wouldn’t matter if the Cyclones won or lost to KState as they own the head-to-head with OU. In all Big 12 tiebreaker scenarios, the instant you only have two teams remaining after the application of a tiebreaker rule, you immediately invoke head-to-head matchup.

I mentioned above OU and Texas winning out. The one catch to that is if they end up tied with Iowa State. All three teams would be 1-1 against each other. If OSU is in fourth, OU and Texas are in. If KState is fourth, ISU and Texas would be in. If West Virginia somehow managed 4th place it wouldn’t matter as all three teams would have beaten them, so it would end up falling to either OSU or K-State.

The round robin scenario holds the most promise for OSU should they lose Bedlam. In fact, the more teams that are involved generally the better. With four or fewer teams it all depends on who is included, but there are at least four scenarios, although unlikely, that could result in five or six teams being tied at 6-3. In ANY of those OSU advances. Just to be clear, these are unlikely NOT because of upsets but because of the specific set of wins and losses needed to produce the result.

AND, every bit of this depends on OSU NOT stumbling home like a blind drunk following Bedlam, win or lose. The chances of that happening are, about we not even discuss it.