Oklahoma football: Committee shows Sooners respect with a No. 9 ranking
The College Football Playoff committee showed Big 12 football plenty of respect Tuesday night. Even the Sooners, which is no surprise. Be it the four-team playoff or the old BCS, college football decision-makers always have OU love.
But will that respect carry the Sooners to another playoff berth, even if OU wins five straight games and the Big 12 championship? It seems a tough climb.
That’s what the committee’s initial 2019 rankings showed, with the Sooners No. 9, not a bad slot considering OU lost 48-41 at Kansas State 10 days ago. In the Sooners’ only other game against a team that currently has a winning record, OU beat Texas. A top-10 placing for a team that has played just two of eight games against above-.500 teams is quite generous.
Lincoln Riley says that if the Sooners win the Big 12, the playoff will take care of itself.
“Just win,” Riley said. “You win games, you get a chance to win your league, you win this league, then things take care of themselves. We’ve seen that as much as anybody over the last few years.”
You can’t blame Riley for his optimism. Three times in the last four years, a conference title has carried a one-loss Oklahoma into the four-team playoff. One of those times, 2015, the Sooners were ranked 15th in the initial rankings by the playoff committee. Compared to that, No. 9 doesn’t seem so bad.
But the teams ahead of the Sooners this time make another OU rally treacherous.
Outside of Clemson, every team ranked ahead of the Sooners has or is likely to have at least one more game against another member of the top eight. No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Alabama play Saturday. No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Penn State play Nov. 23. No. 6 Georgia likely will meet the LSU-Alabama winner in the SEC title game, and Georgia also plays No. 11 Auburn on Nov. 16. And No. 7 Oregon and No. 8 Utah likely will meet in the Pac-12 championship game.
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So even as some of the teams above OU lose, it will fortify the cases of other teams.
The Sooners did get some good news from the committee’s rankings of other Big 12 teams: three made the top 25. Oklahoma State checked in at No. 23, and the Cowboys should be heavily favored to beat Kansas and West Virginia, so OSU could be safely in the top 20 by a Nov. 30 Bedlam showdown. Unbeaten Baylor was No. 12, despite an anemic non-conference schedule; the committee’s respect for Baylor was apparent, considering also-unbeaten Minnesota of the Big Ten is ranked 17th. And Kansas State is 16th and could keep rising. OU’s Nov. 9 game at Baylor and a possible Big 12 title rematch against the Bears could really pad the OU resume’.
“We’ve got a lot of great opportunities coming up,” Riley said. “We’ve got to take care of ourselves right now and try to win every single game we possibly can. After that, it’s out of our control. We’ve got just got to go win.”
But there’s just so much quality ahead of the Sooners, chaos might be OU’s only salvation. Chaos or Auburn, which hosts both Georgia and Alabama down the stretch.
Committee chairman Rob Mullens, the Oregon athletic director, was complimentary of the Sooners.
“What we see when we watch Oklahoma or what was discussed in the room, again, was a very powerful offense,” Mullens said. “Jalen Hurts has stepped right in to Coach Riley’s offense, and an improved defense.”
Ah, yes. OU’s defense. Mullens later would say the committee doesn’t look at previous incarnations of teams, but he ratted himself out. Obviously the committee has talked about OU’s defense in relation to the porous Sooner units of recent years.
And Mullens gave the Sooners some credit for what turned into a disappointing non-conference schedule.
“Oklahoma went on the road against an improving UCLA team,” Mullens said, though the Bruins weren’t improving when OU thrashed them at the Rose Bowl. “Houston, when Houston still had their quarterback.”
So that’s good news. OU gets some credit for beating the Cougars before quarterback D’Eriq King and other U of H players bolted on the season.
Again, the committee is not throwing dirt on the Sooners. The committee is giving OU a chance to make up for the Kansas State debacle. But the teams above the Sooners might not be so charitable.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.
Playoff Committee Rankings
1. Ohio State
4. Penn State