Way back in Week 2 of the college football season, Central Michigan upset Oklahoma State with a Hail Mary on the final play of the game. There was just one huge problem: the play should have never happened and now it is having a huge impact on the College Football Playoff picture.
The Hail Mary came when Central Michigan was awarded an extra play after intentional grounding was called against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were simply trying to run out the clock on fourth down. The Mid-American Conference (home of the officiating crew) and the Big 12 Conference (home of the replay crew) later admitted that Central Michigan should have never been awarded the extra play.
While Oklahoma State should have won the game, and the officiating and replay crews were later suspended, the result of the game stood.
At the time, the result was considered a tough break for the Cowboys, but little was made of any potential larger implications. Oklahoma State was ranked No. 22 at the time and was not considered a legitimate playoff contender.
Fast-forward 11 weeks and suddenly the “loss” looms large and appears to be the biggest reason that Oklahoma State is not getting much consideration as a playoff candidate.
If Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma in Week 14, they will be Big 12 champions. However, even with that title and the win, it seems that Oklahoma State is still being held back from serious playoff contention because of that dreaded second loss.
Take a look a the top 15 teams in the latest playoff ranking (at right). While the committee is expected to judge teams on a number of factors, it appears that biggest factor is still the number of losses a team has.
All of the Power-5 conference teams with one loss are ranked ahead of all the teams with two losses and most of the teams with two losses are ranked ahead of the teams with three losses.
It is pretty simple and obvious pattern. But does Oklahoma State deserve to be ranked with the two-loss teams at all, especially fifth among those teams?
On the one hand, even if Oklahoma State had beaten Central Michigan, you can still argue that it would have been a bad win and could still be held against them. But it still remains that there is no one-loss team from a Power-5 conference ranked lower than fifth.
It is easy to imagine that if Oklahoma State had won that game, no matter how ugly it may have been, they would now be ranked either fifth or sixth.
While a ranking of No. 5 or No. 6 is no guarantee of a playoff spot, it is a lot easier to imagine a path to the playoff from one of those spots.
If the Cowboys were to beat Oklahoma they would almost certainly jump ahead of the loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game. Now we are talking about an Oklahoma State team with just one loss, ranked fourth or fifth, and the champions of a Power-5 conference.
At the very worst, that scenario would have the committee debating between Washington, Oklahoma State, and maybe a second Big Ten team for the final spot in the playoff. Their chances would be even greater if Washington or Clemson were to lose their conference championship game. In that scenario, Oklahoma State would almost certainly be in the playoff, simply by beating Oklahoma.
That’s more respect than Oklahoma State is getting now and all because of a botched call by MAC officials way back in Week 2.
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