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Peterson: Iowa State has a lot to say about OU's quest for four College Football Playoff berths in a row

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell hasn't had a ton to clap about this season with his Cyclones sitting 1-1 on the season. [AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall]
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell hasn't had a ton to clap about this season with his Cyclones sitting 1-1 on the season. [AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall]

Let’s go counter to some of the national Big 12 opinion after events of last Saturday, headlined by Oklahoma’s loss against Kansas State. Let’s not forget that Texas is a very good football team. Tom Herman is coaching a team that’s every bit a legitimate contender for the conference championship and College Football Playoffs.

Let’s remember also, that contrary to knee-jerk doomsday Big 12 reaction, the conference can’t be written out of the College Football Playoff picture just yet. The Longhorns are a very good team, despite going into overtime to beat Texas Tech. They have one of the most entertaining quarterbacks in college football. They’re probably not as bad on defense as last Saturday would make us believe. Coordinator Chris Ash’s side of the ball took many lumps, yet escaped.

Errors are correctable. Winning through adversity doesn’t mean you’re a bad team, and the last I knew, Texas is 2-0 and it’s still unpredictable 2020. That’s the lesson here.

And there’s also this, which should interest Iowa State fans during these days before the Cyclones entertain Oklahoma at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium:

Lincoln Riley’s Sooners reached the College Football Playoffs last season, despite losing against Kansas State.

Oh yeah, now I remember.

“I’ve heard the same thing for all five years I’ve been here at Oklahoma, and we’ve been in four of the last five,” Riley said Monday, about quick national weekend analysis. “That’s what people have to talk about right now.”

Some national negative reaction is justified, and I admit, it doesn’t look good when the Big 12’s favorite (OU) loses a game it should win, and when the conference goes 0-3 against the Sun Belt Conference. I get that that.

This just in: There’s College Football Playoffs life after losing against Kansas State, but losing again — like maybe on Saturday against the Cyclones? The Sooners’ three-season playoff streak would be over, so absolutely it’s appropriate to think that Riley’s team will come into Ames with a point to prove.

Campbell knows anything can and will happen during a college football season that will be more disrupted than it’s already been. To expect the Sooners will take out angst and frustration on the Cyclones after blowing a three-touchdown lead a week ago? Campbell figures this week will be business as usual in both Norman, Oklahoma and Ames, Iowa.

“I don’t know if from that standpoint, I would expect anything different (than the norm),” Campbell said on the Big 12 teleconference. “It’s an extremely talented team.”

Ball is ball. Campbell knows his team must be on top of its game, regardless of who’s on the other sideline. He knows the consequences if that’s not the case. He knows the egg his team laid in the opener against Louisiana.

“The reality of this entire season is uniqueness,” Campbell said.

He’s right about that, but it wasn’t unique for the Sooners to lose against Kansas State. That’s been done before — like in 2019.

“This is going to be a little bit of a crazy season, like they all are,” Riley said. “It’s going to be about teams that win — teams from quality conferences that win. Like four of the past five years, if we have a team in this conference that wins (and) takes care of business, it’s going to be in the college football playoffs.”

It won’t be Oklahoma, if it loses on Saturday. Two losses, and you’re out. Even in wild and wacky 2020 — when Sooners lose against Wildcats, Longhorns beat Red Raiders in overtime and when COVID causes as much uncertainty as a fourth-and-two decision — a two-loss Big 12 team isn’t making the Final Four.

Which is why Saturday’s game in Ames is so very significant.

It’s not like Campbell’s team looked great during Saturday’s 37-34 victory at TCU. His staff has some cleanup to do, too. The offensive line is improving, after showing the way for 212 rushing yards against a team that’s usually solid against the rush. Quarterback Brock Purdy can’t make a mistake like he made during the third quarter, when he gave up the ball for a TCU touchdown instead of taking a sack.

But for some of the national conversation being focused on the Big 12 likely already being shut out of the College Football Playoffs?

Oklahoma is out if it loses again; that much we can assume. Predicting total Big 12 playoff apocalypse, though, is stretching the narrative a bit too far — at least right now.

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at and on Twitter at @RandyPete.