Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders throws a pass during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Arizona State on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in Stillwater, Okla. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Big 12’s Path to the Playoff

With big changes coming to the Big 12 Conference in 2023, the conference will be losing some of its powerhouse teams. With that being said, the conference still has some talented rosters that could make a push for the College Football Playoff, this year. Here’s the Big 12’s path to the playoff.

Sooner (Rather Than Later)

With the Oklahoma Sooners poised to join the SEC by 2025, their time to win the Big 12 and return to the College Football Playoff is dwindling. While a playoff appearance is certainly not out of reach for the Sooners, the four-time participants will play a tougher schedule moving into the SEC alongside CFP frequents Georgia and Alabama. However, with the playoff expanding to 12 teams in 2026, there is still a major opportunity.

The Sooners head into week three ranked No. 6 after back-to-back dominating performances to open their 2022 campaign. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel has looked phenomenal in his first two contests throwing for over 500 yards and five touchdowns. Additionally, he has yet to turn the ball over.

There were a lot of questions in Norman after the departure of head coach Lincoln Riley, starting quarterback Caleb Williams and a slew of assistant coaches. The team also lost highly ranked recruits.

Nonetheless, the ground and air attack of Eric Gray and Marvin Mims have given first-year head coach Brent Venables a lot to be happy about.

The looming Big 12 schedule is yet to begin for the Sooners, but they still hold a chance to make some noise in the CFP conversation.

Championship Craving Cowboys

In 17 years with Mike Gundy at the helm, Oklahoma State has only missed a bowl game once: his first year back in 2005.

However, the Cowboys have not won the Big 12 since 2011.

In the current playoff format, it is almost impossible to come out of the Big 12 without the conference championship and make the CFP. So what does Oklahoma State need to do to take those steps this year?

Quarterback Spencer Sanders, who had his best year in 2021, returns with revenge on his mind after a loss to Baylor in last year’s Big 12 Championship.

However, he does lose both the leading rusher and leading receiver from last year’s team in Jaylen Warren and Tay Martin.

In order for Oklahoma State to make another run to the playoff, they’ll need to replace the offensive production they lost from last year as well as find some consistency on defense.

The Cowboys gave up 44 points to Central Michigan in their opening game, which will be a disadvantage against some of the more explosive offenses in the conference.

Holding on to Hope

Texas and Baylor are the only other teams that appear to have a chance at the CFP. But they both hold a 1-1 record after the Bears fell to BYU and the Longhorns fell to Alabama, last week. What does this mean for both team’s playoff chances?

If last year taught us anything, it’s that they don’t have to go undefeated. However, two losses could be the difference between the playoff and the Music City Bowl. Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State in the middle of the season last year and entered the Big 12 Championship ranked No. 5. It was almost guaranteed that a win over No. 9 Baylor in the championship game would have lifted Oklahoma State into the CFP.

So the road is still open for both the Bears and Longhorns but it certainly becomes more difficult with the need to win out to get into the Big 12 Championship.

Texas will be without starting quarterback Quinn Ewers for the next couple of weeks due to a neck injury. It will be up to Hudson Card to define the direction Texas will go. Card will likely be the starter against Oklahoma in October, which will be a make-or-break game for the Longhorns.

As for Baylor, the Bears lose their starting quarterback Gerry Bohanon, leading rusher Abram Smith and leading receiver Tyquan Thornton. Bohanon transferred to USF while Smith and Thornton left for the NFL.

On the defensive side, Jalen Pitre, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American, was also lost to the NFL Draft.

The Bears have the talent, but they’ll need to knock off Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State for their hopes of a playoff berth to remain alive.

About Matt Quartararo

Matt is a third-year journalism major specializing in sports media and is also completing a sports management certificate. He also participates in sports broadcasting.

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