OU football: Sooners better off beating Baylor in a close game?
OU plays at Baylor on Saturday night in the game that has the week’s most impact on the College Football Playoff. The Sooners are 8-1, the Bears are 9-0. But while OU is ranked 10th, Baylor is ranked just 13th and even fell a spot in the playoff committee’s rankings this week.
Baylor’s dubious schedule is the culprit, along with the Bears’ penchant for winning close games over inferior foes. Baylor needed double overtime to beat Texas Tech, triple overtime to survive TCU and a 17-14 final to beat West Virginia. The Big 12 has five top-25 teams. Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia are not in that group.
All of which puts OU in a dubious situation Saturday night. The Sooners, crazy as it seems, probably would increase its stock more in the committee’s eyes if it beats Baylor in a close game rather than in a blowout.
If the Sooners win 31-24, the committee’s mindset could be, hey, Baylor’s pretty good. Better than we thought. Nice win for Oklahoma.
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But if the Sooners win 52-24, the committee’s mindset apparently will be, yeah, just as we thought. Baylor’s not that good.
It’s crazy. Don’t you think it’s crazy, Lincoln Riley?
“Maybe, maybe not,” Riley said, not really buying my theory. “I still think the playoff deal is new enough that I don’t know that we know yet.”
Riley’s solution? Stop doing weekly rankings. Just go like the basketball committee used to do it. Meet at the end and vote.
“I know why they do it,” Riley said. “To build it up and TV and all that. But to me, they shouldn’t do the TV rankings until — they should just show them at the very end and here’s who’s going. Because, who cares right now?
“I mean you’ve got all the biggest and best games (to come), you’ve got all the conference championship games. I mean, nobody knows. That’s how I’ve looked at it. I’ve looked at it that way the last several years and we’ve lost a game in the middle of the year and everyone’s told me, ‘well, you ain’t going to the playoff and this and that.’
“Well, OK. Just keep winning. And that’s what you’ve got to do. I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see how the playoff system continues to play out. You get more years under its belt, more times to evaluate it. But I do know this. Go back and look where all those playoff rankings were Week 7, 8, 9 and look how it finished. It’s probably quite a bit different.
“The challenge for all of us is you can’t get caught up in it because it doesn’t matter now. You have to just go find a way to win and find a way. Last year even after we beat Kansas here — and we didn’t play very good, Kansas wasn’t very good last year — and we beat them here and everybody was like, well, you barely beat a Kansas team that struggled and no way … And it plays out.
“We’re lucky. I don’t know that people on the outside understand how strong this conference is right now. This conference is as good as it’s been in a long time top to bottom. This conference has beat up on each other a little bit and will continue to, which is a sign of a healthy, really darn good conference. And there’s obviously a lot of big, important games coming up.”
All right. We’ll see. Let’s get to the predictions:
Oklahoma at Baylor: Sooners 38-24. Not a good matchup for Baylor. To beat the Sooners, you have to score big. Kansas State 48, Alabama 45, Texas 48, Georgia 45 in regulation, Iowa State 38, Ohio State 45, Houston 33. Those are the point totals of victors over OU the last four seasons. Baylor has the eighth-best offense in the Big 12 but the best defense. Hard to beat these Sooners 27-21.
Kansas at Oklahoma State: Cowboys 49-24. Four years ago, OU’s Samaje Perine set an NCAA single-game rushing record against Kansas, 427 yards. Could Mike Gundy try to do the same for Chuba Hubbard? Hubbard needs 396 to reach 2,000.
TCU at Texas Tech: Red Raiders 25-24. Upset special. The loser likely will not be bowling. The 4-5 Horned Frogs finish with OU and West Virginia. The 4-5 Red Raiders finish with Kansas State and Texas.
West Virginia at Kansas State: Wildcats 48-14. The Mountaineers have won three straight against K-State, after starting the Big 12 era with four consecutive defeats to the ‘Cats.
Texas at Iowa State: Cyclones 30-27. The Longhorns are in the Big 12 Championship Game if they win out and OU beats Baylor.
Georgia at Auburn: Bulldogs 23-17. Game of the day. Georgia has two big wins already. This would be a monster win.
LSU at Ole Miss: Tigers 46-17. Expect a letdown for LSU, but the talent gap is so big here, it won’t matter, even in a rivalry game.
Alabama at Mississippi State: Crimson Tide 41-7. Even if Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t play, it won’t matter to the angry Tide, who have only an 83-mile busride along U.S. 82 to reach Starkville.
Florida at Missouri: Gators 28-19. Mizzou has beaten Florida two straight years and is 4-3 against the Gators since joining the SEC.
South Carolina at Texas A&M: Aggies 30-14. The Aggies are a quiet 6-3. They’ve beaten the mediocre-at-best teams on their schedule and lost to all the good teams.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt: Wildcats 24-20. UK, 4-5, still is not bowl eligible, but should get there, since they also have Tennessee-Martin remaining.
Minnesota at Iowa: Golden Gophers 26-17. Can Minnesota come back to Earth after beating Penn State? I’d recommend it. The Hawkeyes aren’t great, but they are tough.
Indiana at Penn State: Nittany Lions 37-25. This game is an experiment on confidence. The Hoosiers are 7-2, but they’ve beaten Ball State, Eastern Illinois, Connecticut, Rutgers, Maryland, Nebraska and Northwestern. They’re about to go from the jello bowl to the frying pan.
Wisconsin at Nebraska: Badgers 30-14. The Cornhuskers, even when down, usually are good for a rise-up game. But this year seems different. Almost like an Arkansas futility for the Huskers.
Michigan State at Michigan: Wolverines 31-10. Michigan is getting better. Michigan State is getting worse. Not a good combination for the Spartans.
Ohio State at Rutgers: Buckeyes 62-0. Chase Young was suspended for two games. Against Maryland and Rutgers. How will Ohio State ever survive?
Massachusetts at Northwestern: Wildcats 38-6. One of the worst matchups in college football history. There are eight teams in major-college football with fewer than two wins – 0-10 Akron, 0-9 New Mexico State, 0-9 Rice, 1-9 Massachusetts, 1-9 Old Dominion, 1-8 Northwestern 1-8 Texas-El Paso and 1-8 South Alabama. Now Northwestern and UMass meet. Do you know how hard it is to stage a game with 17 combined defeats? With only two victories, this late in the season? And what’s worse, this won’t be any fun. Northwestern is favored BY 40 POINTS.
Wake Forest at Clemson: Tigers 51-21. The Clemson schedule is starting to get old. The Tigers do not have a victory over a team in the College Football Playoff top 25 and probably won’t, when the committee makes its selections.
North Carolina at Pittsburgh: Panthers 23-13. Pitt remains in the running for the ACC Coastal title, but Virginia is in the driver’s seat.
Syracuse at Duke: Blue Devils 37-27. Syracuse is 0-5 in the ACC. How do you go 0-5 in the ACC?
Louisville at North Carolina State: Cardinals 41-31. N.C. State has beaten East Carolina, Western Carolina, Ball State and Syracuse. But if the Wolfpack can win two of three against Louisville, Georgia Tech and North Carolina, a bowl game will come. What a country.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech: Hokies 48-21. The Hokies are one of three teams in the ACC Coastal with two losses (5-2 Virginia, 3-2 VPI and Pitt). And the Hokies have both Virginia and Pitt left.
Alabama State at Florida State: Seminoles 48-10. I’d a lot rather see Alabama-Florida.
UCLA at Utah: Utes 37-20. The Bruins are getting better. But can they rise up and knock Utah out of the playoff picture? Probably not.
Arizona at Oregon: Ducks 41-30. Oregon is getting better. They don’t have a great win, but virtually win in the Pac-12 is decent, because there appears to be no bad teams.
Arizona State at Oregon State: Sun Devils 35-30. ASU, 5-4, becomes bowl eligible with a win. The 4-5 Beavers need two wins for bowl eligibility, and with Oregon remaining, this needs to be one of them.
Southern Cal at California: Golden Bears 27-26. Upset special. The Trojans are better, but they’ve had a disappointing season. The Golden Bears have been up and down, but they beat USC 15-14 last season and knocked off Washington State last week.
Stanford at Washington State: A matchup of 4-5 teams in which the loser probably won’t make a bowl.
Navy at Notre Dame: Fighting Irish 28-27. Remember when Notre Dame had a 43-game winning streak against the Midshipmen? Since 2006, Notre Dame is only 8-4 against Navy.
Cincinnati at South Florida: Bearcats 29-10. The Bearcats can seal a place in the American Conference title game with a win here and a Temple loss to Tulane.
Memphis at Houston: Tigers 49-20. We talk about how tough the American Conference is this year, with Cincinnati, Navy, Memphis and SMU. But if Houston had stayed the course and kept fighting, the Cougars would have been right up there, too.
Tulane at Temple: Owls 26-24. Don’t forget the Green Wave when talking about tough American teams. Tulane is 6-3.
Fresno State at San Diego State: Aztecs 24-20. A Fresno State victory would give every team in the Mountain West’s West Division at least three conference defeats.
Wyoming at Utah State: Cowboys 28-24. The Cowboys played Boise State tough last week, but tough is not enough in the Mountain West.
New Mexico at Boise State: Broncos 38-10. There are not a bunch of easy outs in the Mountain West, but the Lobos qualify for such status.
Air Force at Colorado State: Falcons 28-27. CSU is tied for fourth in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division, at 3-2, but if the Rams win out and get a little help, they could win the division.
Hawaii at Nevada-Las Vegas: Rainbow Warriors 32-22. UNLV is 0-5 in the Mountain West. How about that. A Mountain West woebegone has a victory over an SEC school (Vanderbilt).
Idaho State at Brigham Young: Cougars 45-10. BYU has produced quality schedules since going independent, but the well runs dry in November. Liberty last week. Idaho State this week. UMass next week.
VMI at Army:Black Knights 34-12. Virginia’s military institute against the United States’ military institute. Easy call.
Last week: 23-13. Season: 377-122.