West Virginia, Baylor Remain Big 12’s Best Hopes At CFP

The West Virginia Mountaineers and Baylor University Bears earned dominant victories Saturday as the two schools remain the Big 12 Conference’s best hopes at reaching the 2016 NCAA College Football Playoffs.

Both schools continued their pursuit of perfection with entirely different approaches despite the fact both West Virginia and Baylor earned victories by at least 31 points. Baylor — the Big 12 Conference’s only Top 10 team — flashed their brilliant offense as the Bears drubbed Kansas 49-7. Meanwhile, West Virginia showed their defense was for real in a 48-17 victory over Texas Tech, holding one of the nation’s top offenses to their lowest point total in two years.

West Virginia is among the schools ESPN focused on after its dominant showing against Texas Tech. Writer Mitch Sherman pointed out that the Big 12 Conference fans — who have seen Oklahoma, Texas and TCU all knocked off their perch among the college football elite — shouldn’t bet against the league’s chances of landing a coveted college football playoff spot.

“Welcome to the Big 12 race, Mountaineers, and maybe the College Football Playoff conversation. Think that’s taking it a bit far? If West Virginia gets past TCU and Oklahoma State in the next two weeks, it will have inarguably arrived as a contender to be taken seriously. With the Big 12 in a weakened state and Oklahoma set to visit Morgantown in November, well, go ahead and dream.”

Heather Dinich was also high on the Mountaineers, suggesting their fictitious stock was rising. The beat writer cited West Virginia University’s stingy defense as the primary reason with the Mountaineers keeping Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes from earned multiple touchdowns in a contest for the first time this season.

West Virginia was rewarded for the blowout victory by voters in the football polls. The Mountaineers surged eight spots to No. 12 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll while jumping five spots to land at No. 13 in the Coaches’ Poll. Ironically, West Virginia has not been as high in the AP Top 25 since October 7, 2012 when the Mountaineers — owners of a perfect 5-0 record — lost to Texas Tech in Lubbock.

Baylor — owners of a 6-0 record and ranked as high as No. 8 in the Coaches’ Poll — remain among the prohibitive favorites in the Big 12 despite a scandal this summer that resulted in the firing of several administrators, including president Ken Starr and head coach Art Briles.

While some college football pundits have suggested Baylor could win out, not all media members believe the Big 12 should rest its hopes on an unproven Bears team. The Waco Tribune-Herald sports editor Brice Cherry is reminding fans that the Bears have went 6-0 to start the last three seasons, and all three Baylor teams have failed to reach the college football playoffs.

“Yes, Baylor has every right to feel giddy about its current field position on the playoff landscape. But the reasons for restraint are plentiful… the Bears have yet to play a ranked team or a game in which they were not favored. Moreover, midway through his second year as Baylor’s starting quarterback, Seth Russell still hasn’t faced off against a ranked team.”

Dallas Morning News writer Matt Mosely seemingly agreed with the assessment from Brice Cherry about the Baylor Bears. “I just don’t think anyone knows quite to make of this team, including me,” Mosely opined about Baylor. The writer further added that both winning out and picking up multiple losses could be in the Bears’ future.

“With as weak as this conference appears to be, there’s no reason Baylor can’t make a run… But I think folks are somewhat dismissive, too, because of the whole scandal. This feels like Jim Grobe is a placeholder head coach. What happens if he runs the table? Well, I’d like to find out. I think that’s highly unlikely even in this conference.”

Do you think the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Baylor Bears can still reach the college football playoffs? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Featured Images by Tom Pennington & John Weast/Getty Images]