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Time for the Big 12 to panic about its playoff standing

It's time for the Big 12 to panic.

The second edition of the College Football Playoff selection committee's rankings revealed the Big 12 could be in danger of missing the playoff again -- no matter what happens within the league's back-loaded schedule the rest of the way.

There were several troubling signs for the Big 12 in Tuesday's rankings.

Even after one of the most impressive victories thus far of any playoff contender -- a 49-29 romp over then-eighth-ranked TCU -- undefeated Oklahoma State moved up only six spots to No. 8.

The Cowboys came in behind one-loss teams Notre Dame (No. 4) and Stanford (No. 7) as well fifth-ranked Iowa.

"Oklahoma State had a good win," committee chairman Jeff Long, explaining why the Cowboys weren't ranked higher, "[but] that was the first piece of real strength we've seen from them."

The Cowboys actually had a great win, that trumps any victory the Irish, Cardinal or Hawkeyes have delivered so far this year. Oklahoma State's strength of schedule, according to ESPN Stats & Info, also ranks ahead of Iowa's (54th to 62nd).

And, the Cowboys have, well, yet to lose -- though the committee is giving Stanford some degree of a pass for its season-opening defeat at Northwestern, noting the game was played at 9 a.m. PT.

"Absolutely," Long said, when asked if that played a factor in Stanford's ranking. "Yeah, I think that it's a significant thing."

Long indicated the Cowboys could still jump into the top four by winning out. So could Baylor and Oklahoma.

"Obviously having this schedule so strong at the back end," Long said, "it will have a dramatic effect."

But the rankings also showed that it's possible the Big 12, like last November, does not control its own destiny -- largely because of Notre Dame.

Long said the committee spent the most time deliberating on teams 5-through-8, but that Notre Dame was the clear-cut No. 4 team. The Irish can pad their résumé in the eyes of the committee, too, with a win Nov. 28 over Stanford.

"If Notre Dame wins out," said ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, "they're not going to be left out of the top four."

Their placement probably would come at the expense of the Big 12, since Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State are firmly in the top four, and seem likely to be locks for the playoff should they all win out.

That would leave the Big 12 vying with Stanford and Notre Dame for the final spot. And at the moment, the committee holds the latter in higher regard than the Big 12, which is not resonating with the committee despite its four teams having a combined record of 33-2.

Case in point: TCU dropped one spot more for losing to Oklahoma State, than Michigan State did for losing to 3-6 Nebraska. And Iowa jumped four spots to move ahead of Baylor, even after an unremarkable win over Indiana.

Baylor coach Art Briles maintained Tuesday the Bears "are still in control of their fate."

It's looking less and less as if that will be the case.

"Oklahoma State, to me, should've been in the top four -- that was a significant victory in this college football season," said ESPN and SEC Network analyst Paul Finebaum. "I hope this doesn't happen again. ... there could be a firewall that prevents the Big 12 [from making the playoff].

"I'm concerned about that."

The Big 12 should be concerned, too.

Because the league is staring down the possibility of having worthy teams. And yet being left out of the playoff, once again.