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The Big 12 May Again be on the Outside Looking in at the College Football Playoff

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It seems that with each passing week the College Football Playoff selection committee finds ways to exclude the Big 12 Conference from the top four spots. This week's rankings were no different and honestly it seems the closer we get to Dec. 4 the less likely it will be the Big 12 will have a representative in the Playoff, again.

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Related: Five Thoughts on the Nov. 17 College Football Playoff Rankings

Last season the Big 12 was criticized for its lack of a conference championship game and the committee seemed to mirror that sentiment stating that a 13th game could have been a difference-maker for Baylor or TCU.

This season there is a team planted firmly in the all-important fourth spot that also will lack that elusive 13th game - Notre Dame. This is where things will get interesting.

Let’s take a look at who still has a chance to make the final four and why the committee may yet again shun the Big 12:

No. 4 Notre Dame

The Irish have a cakewalk of a game this weekend against Boston College at Fenway Park in Boston. Assuming a victory, the Fighting Irish will stay put in next week's rankings, depending on the outcome of other games this weekend.

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The final test for Notre Dame will come next Saturday at Stanford. The No. 11 Cardinal will represent a quality win for the Irish and one that would keep the Big 12 from gaining ground. Let’s be honest, the Irish will be playing in a different time zone against a highly ranked opponent, the committee loves this.

Long story short, Notre Dame wins out and the Big 12 is again on the outside looking in.

No. 5 Iowa

The Hawkeyes have been in cruise control at the No. 5 spot for the last two weeks despite less-than-convincing wins over Indiana and Minnesota. Iowa only has to win one of its final two games to earn a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. If the Hawkeyes can somehow can pull off the upset and beat presumably either Ohio State or Michigan State for the Big Ten title, then Iowa is more than likely in the Playoff and the Big 12 will have to wait and see how the committee treats the loser of a conference championship game.

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Pay attention to Iowa's game on Saturday against 2-8 Purdue. If the Hawkeyes continue to win in unimpressive fashion yet keeps a firm grip on its No. 5 position while Big 12 contenders keep winning then the committee's perceived lack of respect for the Big 12 will become pretty apparent.

No. 7 Florida

The Gators have won the SEC East and will play in the SEC Championship Game, presumably against Alabama. If the Gators can pull the upset and win the SEC, the Gators will likely move up into the final four and then the Big 12 has to hope the Crimson Tide fall out.

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Florida has a huge showdown coming against Florida State next Saturday. It would not be a shock to see the Gators leapfrog a Big 12 team if they beat the Seminoles, especially if they do so in convincing fashion.

No. 9 Michigan State

The Spartans' Playoff hopes are entirely on the line this Saturday, as they travel to Columbus to face No. 3 Ohio State. A Spartan victory would only muddy the Big Ten picture even more, while adding more variables for Big 12 backers to worry about. First and foremost, Michigan State would be in excellent position to make a significant jump in the rankings, potentially leapfrogging both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State next week.

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Why is that possible? Well Michigan State jumped four spots this week after beating a terrible Maryland team 24-7. The committee seems to love the Big Ten.

Despite being presently ranked behind the Big 12 schools, should the Spartans win out, including the Big Ten Championship Game, it would most likely put the Spartans into the top four, at the expense of both Notre Dame and the Big 12 potentially.

While Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said he did not intentionally backload the schedules this season that is exactly what has happened.

A Baylor victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday could only make the Big 12's path to the Playoff more challenging. Currently ranked 10th, the Bears need to not only win out, but also get help from several teams to put themselves back into the discussion for a spot in the top four. Further, the Cowboys losing would take some of the significance out of next Saturday's showdown at home against Oklahoma. A Sooners loss to TCU this Saturday could have the same effect.

And speaking of the Horned Frogs, they seem to have gotten the shaft from the committee more than any school in the country. After losing to the No. 6 team (Oklahoma State) two weeks ago, TCU dropped from eighth to 15th. To pour salt into the wound, the Frogs dropped three more spots this week after just getting by Kansas even though they lost their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback and No. 1 wide receiver to injuries. Struggling against a winless team loses you style points, period. The Frogs are currently the lowest-ranked one-loss Power 5 conference school in the Playoff rankings.

What makes this worse is that three two-loss teams ranked ahead of TCU have fallen to unranked opponents. Stanford lost this past Saturday to then-unranked Oregon, Utah also just lost to Arizona, and LSU lost to Arkansas. North Carolina (9-1) also sits one spot above the Frogs at No. 17. The Tar Heels' loss was to an unranked South Carolina. But let’s not muddy this with facts. TCU struggling to win against Kansas is apparently WAY worse than actually losing a game.

As you can see, the Playoff selection committee has set itself up to have multiple reasons NOT to include the Big 12 again this season. With what seems to be an ever-changing criteria both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State may very well NOT control their own destiny.

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.