Nov 7, 2015 8:34 PM
PLAYOFF PULSE: Oklahoma St won't be ignored; Clemson rolls
The Associated Press
Oklahoma State will no longer be ignored and Clemson is done looking up to Florida State.
The road to the Big 12 title goes through Stillwater, Oklahoma, now after the Cowboys blitzed TCU 49-29 on a Saturday that featured three marquee games with huge playoff implications.
Oklahoma State (9-0, No. 14 CFP) had been the lowest ranked unbeaten team from a Power Five conference in both the selection committee rankings that came out for the first time earlier this week and the AP Top 25.
Coach Mike Gundy's team started the season unranked, with all the attention going to the defending Big 12 co-champions, TCU and Baylor. The Cowboys spent much of the first two months of the season coming from behind and squeaking out victories.
The Cowboys undefeated record has mostly been met with shrugs. No more. The Cowboys should vault up the rankings this week and the schedule sets up nicely down the stretch. Oklahoma State visits Iowa State next week and then the remaining Big 12 contenders, Baylor and Oklahoma, will have to deal with quarterback Mason Rudolph and star defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah in Stillwater.
The Cowboys, though, have a Baylor-type problem when it comes to the playoff hunt. Oklahoma State's nonconference schedule this season was Central Michigan, Central Arkansas and UTSA. Not good. For the Cowboys to get in the playoff, it could be undefeated or bust. Still, the Cowboys have to like their chances.
Meanwhile, in Death Valley (the one in South Carolina), Clemson made the selection committee look pretty good and unseated the three-time defending ACC champions by beating Florida State 23-13.
The Tigers were given the No. 1 ranking in the first playoff rankings and immediately faced their toughest test of the season. The Seminoles had won three straight against the Tigers, and then went on to win the Atlantic Division and the conference title game. Because that's the way it works in the ACC these days.
Now, the Tigers (9-0) are ready for launch.
Clemson's next three games are at Syracuse, home against Wake Forest and then at rival South Carolina. None have winning records. It is a schedule ripe for Clemsoning if that was still a thing. Don't hold your breath waiting for the Tigers to stumble before they get to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the ACC championship.
North Carolina will be the Tigers likely opponent there. The Tar Heels are the ultimate overlooked team, not even ranked by the playoff committee. They grabbed firm control of the Coastal on Saturday by crushing Duke 66-31. The ACC can rest easy. That crazy loss by Duke last week against Miami probably won't decide the division race.
But the ACC is all about Clemson these days. The team's rugged defense, led by defensive end Shaq Lawson and linebacker Ben Boulware, allowed a long touchdown run by Dalvin Cook on the first drive for FSU and only two field goals the rest of the game.
No team in the country is better situated to reach the playoff than Clemson.
Arkansas did its athletic director a huge favor with a wild 53-52 overtime victory against Mississippi.
Ole Miss, by virtue of its victory at Alabama, was still in control of the SEC West, despite having two losses entering the weekend.
That created a potentially tricky decision for the playoff committee chairman Jeff Long and his 11 colleagues, who ranked Alabama No. 4 this week. The committee possibly faced either passing up the SEC champion for a team that lost to the SEC champion or dropping Alabama in the rankings even if it was winning games. Good luck explaining that on Dec. 6, Jeff.
All that goes away now. The winner of Saturday night's LSU-Alabama game is in control of the SEC West.
The other side of the SEC has already been settled. Florida clinched the East with an ugly win against Vanderbilt, appropriate considering the level of play in that division.
SEC haters will cry foul, but if the SEC champion has no more than one loss there should be no doubt about its playoff worthiness, whether it's Alabama, LSU or Florida.
Sorry, Ole Miss, but as far as the rest of the league was concerned, this was for the best.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoAP