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Harris: Pitt, Penn State among those searching for win No. 6

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NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 8: Defensive end Shawn Oakman #2 and safety Patrick Levels #21 of the Baylor Bears celebrate after the game against the Oklahoma Sooners November 8, 2014 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Baylor defeated Oklahoma 48-14. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pitt head coach Paul Chryst looks on from the sideline during the Panthers' 24-20 loss to Iowa Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, at Heinz Field.

The College Football playoffs aren’t for everyone. For five programs representing three Power 5 conferences, just making it to a bowl game will mean a successful season:

1. Pitt— The Panthers (4-5, 2-3 ACC) need two wins in their final three games — at North Carolina, vs. Syracuse and at Miami — to reach the six-win minimum to be eligible for a bowl game.

2. Penn State — The Nittany Lions (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten), who just snapped a four-game losing streak, need a home win against Temple on Saturday or at Illinois the following week to secure a bowl berth. If the Nittany Lions lose both of those games, they can become bowl eligible with a home win against Michigan State on Nov. 29.

3. Kentucky — The Wildcats (5-5, 2-5 SEC) have lost four straight and need to win at Tennessee or Louisville to qualify for a bowl game.

4. Michigan — The Wolverines (5-5, 3-3 Big Ten) can qualify for a bowl game, thanks to a 10-9 victory at Northwestern, with a home win against Maryland (Nov. 22) or a victory at archrival Ohio State.

5. South Carolina — The Gamecocks (4-5, 2-5 SEC) must win two of three against Florida, which has won two straight blowouts, South Alabama or Clemson.

Briles, Bears stay on hunt

Baylor coach Art Briles talked about expectations after winning the school’s first Big 12 championship last season — and its first outright since capturing the Southwest Conference title in 1980.

“We see ourselves as the guy fighting hard, scratching hard, to try to get some recognition and respect,” Briles said. “That’s something we’re having to deal with a little bit as perception, image of Baylor football. It’s a little different than what it has been in the past thanks to our players.”

Evidently, Briles’ players are listening. The No. 6 Bears are tied with TCU for first place in the Big 12 after demolishing Oklahoma, 48-14, in Norman last week, and they’re 19-3 overall and 13-2 in league play since the start of last season.

“We have to prepare as the hunted as opposed to the hunter,” Briles said. “We’ve always been the hunter. And I don’t want to lose that edge and that attitude and that’s something that we’re working hard to maintain.”

Baylor’s next game is against Oklahoma State on Oct. 22 in Waco.

Playoff committee looks ‘deeper’

College Football Playoff Committee chairman Jeff Long explained that the third week of the top 25 rankings will be treated the same as the first two weeks.

“We are not bound by last week’s rankings, and we watch games with a fresh perspective each week,” said Long, the athletic director at Arkansas who served in the same capacity at Pitt. “Wins and losses are crucial, of course, but we go deeper. The strength of schedule was again talked about frequently, losses against a quality opponent were considered, quality wins on the road, head to head and results against common opponents were all considered.”

The ranking could change at the top of the poll when No. 1 Mississippi State visits No. 4 Alabama on Saturday.

A Bulldogs’ victory puts them in prime position to win their first SEC title since 1941, another important element in determining playoff ranking.

“Conference championships won will be an additional factor,” Long said, “but we won’t have that information until December.”

The selection committee will prepare four more rankings after this week, including the final one Dec. 7. The top four teams in the final rankings will play in the semifinals on Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl.

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