The Big 12 hasn't received a lot of love from the College Football Playoff committee thus far, but perhaps the conference can attract some national attention this weekend and influence some members of the panel.
Oklahoma (8-2), the top-ranked Big 12 team at No. 9, travels to No. 14 West Virginia (8-1) in a prime time national matchup. A victory for the Sooners, who have won seven straight, combined with an Oklahoma State loss gives them the championship. If they win out, and enough calamities strike the teams in front of them, they might be able to sneak into the top four?
The Mountaineers claim the Big 12 if they can win their last three beginning with Saturday night. A one-loss record might look attractive but the committee likely isn't impressed by an early-season game against Youngstown State of the FCS. The Sooners played a tougher nonconference slate even though they lost to then-ranked Houston and Ohio State.
No. 11 Oklahoma State, which handed West Virginia its only loss, tries to stay alive with a win at Texas Christian. The Cowboys finish their season in two weeks against archrival Oklahoma.
So how impressed is the CFP committee with a team that runs up a big margin in victory? It's hard to say.
Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt, the athletic director at Texas Tech, said the panel does not take margin of victory into account.
"We talk about how that team has performed each and every week," Hocutt said in an Associated Press story. "I believe in certain games, a convincing win can be a 14-0 score, and in other games it can be a 35-7 score. I think in the game of college football, a convincing win can vary. But in no way do we incent margin of victory."
Jeff Sagarin, who has his own rating system to rank teams, said he thinks the committee indeed considers scoring margin. He felt that Ohio State's 59-0 victory over Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten championship game prompted the panel to jump the Buckeyes over TCU.
"Their problem is, if they ever verbalize, 'Oh, we look at scores,' then people will castigate them for encouraging teams to run up the score, so they have to pretend they don't," Sagarin said.
Navy, which had competed in football as an independent for 134 years before beginning play in the American Athletic Conference last season, can qualify for its first-ever conference title game with a win over East Carolina. The Midshipmen, who have won four games this season by a total of 10 points, tied Houston for the West Division title last season but lost on a tiebreaker.
"These guys are way smarter than me, so they know how big this game is for our program," coach Ken Niumatalolo told the Washington Post. "Our main focus is on ECU . . . The implications of this game are obvious but if we don't win, it doesn't matter."
The Mids likely would host the Dec. 3 AAC championship contest. If Temple wins its final two games of the season, the Owls will be the opponent.
Danny Etling and Austin Appleby became friends while competing for the starting quarterback job at Purdue. Etling lost his job to Appleby during the 2014 season and transferred to Louisiana State. Appleby was replaced as the starter last season and moved on to Florida as a graduate transfer. The two of them will reunite Saturday when the Tigers and Gators meet in Baton Rouge.
"Who would have thought that?" Etling asked.
One former Purdue quarterback who is watching with deep interest is NFL veteran Drew Brees, who told the Associated Press, "It's just been great to see those guys succeed elsewhere and with two really great programs. I'll be tuning into that one."
So who thought that Washington State and Colorado would be playing a game this late in the season with Pac-12 championship implications on the line? The Cougars, leaders of the Pac-12 North, are riding an eight-game winning streak and can grab a berth in the conference title game with wins Saturday and next week against rival Washington. Quarterback Luke Falk leads a productive passing game that is second nationally with 385.5 yards per game. But Colorado allows only 177 yards passing (10th in FBS) per game and has posted 29 sacks, nine from 6-foot-5, 230-pound linebacker Jimmie Gilbert. The Buffs need to keep winning to hold off Southern California in the Pac-12 South race.
Senior slotback Calvin Cass Jr., who starred at St. Augustine Prep in South Jersey, has helped Navy as a backup running back and punt returner. The 5-foot-10, 206-pound Cass has rushed 18 times for 103 yards in eight games. His only touchdown was a memorable one - a 37-yard run against Notre Dame that created the third of five lead changes in the Midshipmen's 28-27 win.