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National links: Big 12 gets playoff boost

Tuesday night wasn't good for the Big 12's playoff hopes. Thursday night proved to be much better.

Kansas State's 26-20 win at West Virginia provided a boost that the Big 12 really needed. About 48 hours earlier, the league saw one of its playoff hopefuls, TCU, fall a spot to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff Rankings despite a win last week. Its other contender, Baylor, remained stuck at No. 7, now languishing behind Ohio State instead of Arizona State.

As ESPN.com colleague Jake Trotter wrote Wednesday: "Instead of either/or for the Big 12, it could be neither/nor."

Kansas State likely is out of the playoff chase with two losses, but the 12th-ranked Wildcats are alive in the Big 12 race. More important, they're a résumé-enhancer for TCU (which beat K-State on Nov. 8) and possibly Baylor (which hosts K-State on Dec. 6). The Big 12 can lay claim to three elite teams, more than the Big Ten, its primary playoff competitor.

Some might have seen Thursday night's game as a Catch-22 for Baylor, which lost convincingly at West Virginia on Oct. 18. But the selection committee has made it clear that impressive wins count more than unimpressive losses (West Virginia, a much improved team, is far from a bad loss in my view). Baylor needed another opportunity to impress the committee, especially on a day when the other Power 5 conferences are holding championship games.