OU football: Good news for the Sooners; the playoff committee suddenly likes Baylor
ESPN resorted to its usual dramatic presentation of the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night. It saved the top 10 for last.
Teams 25-21 were revealed, then teams 20-16, then teams 15-11. And the fighting Baylor Bears didn’t appear.
Church bells rang throughout the states of Oklahoma and Texas, and not just from the Baptist persuasions. Baylor had jumped into the top 10; the committee had let the Bears out of the doghouse. That is fabulous news for the Big 12’s playoff hopes.
Baylor, banished to No. 14 a week ago after a 34-31 loss to the Sooners, rose to No. 9 this week. It’s almost as if the committee capitulated. Cried uncle after a couple of weeks of criticism over treatment of Baylor.
Provided Baylor beats Kansas (no problem) and OU wins Bedlam in Stillwater (problem), the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 7 in Arlington will be a top-10 showdown. That gives the winner more ammunition for its argument that it deserves one of the four slots in the playoff.
Much can happen over the next two weekends, but if the favorites hold serve, that final slot could come down to a 12-1 Utah, a 12-1 Oklahoma and an 11-1 Alabama. Fifth-ranked Bama and sixth-ranked Utah are ranked ahead of the Sooners, so Baylor suddenly entering the good graces of the committee is welcome news in this part of the country.
Committee chairman Rob Mullens, the Oregon athletic director, was asked about the market correction for Baylor. He mentioned that two teams above Baylor lost last week, and that the continued success of Iowa State and Oklahoma State, both in the committee’s top 25, enhances the Bears’ resume’.
“We do start with a clean sheet each week,” Mullens said. “Baylor had the dominant win this week (24-10 over Texas), following the close loss against a highly ranked Oklahoma team, to add to their resume’ where they already had two wins against ranked opponents.”
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Give the committee credit. The chairman every year consistently talks about a “clean sheet” every week, and the rankings Tuesday night is an example. The best example: the final rankings of 2014, when Ohio State jumped both TCU and Baylor to reach the playoff.
Also, it seems Mullens was sufficiently chastised, maybe not coast to coast but from Canada to Mexico in Middle America for his constant references to Baylor’s putrid non-conference schedule. The references to Rice, Stephen F. Austin and Texas-San Antonio were notably absent Tuesday night.
The tone of Mullens’ answers about OU and Baylor were much different this week. He was asked about the discussions between the Sooners and Utah.
“Obviously two very good teams,” Mullens said. “When you look at Utah, the strength of their defense, and experience at quarterback and running back. Only loss being on the road to a 22nd-ranked USC, where (tailback) Zack Moss missed the majority of the game with an injury.
“Then Oklahoma obviously beat No. 9 Baylor on the road without (star receiver) CeeDee Lamb. They also have a win over a ranked Iowa State, only loss to a close, quality K-State team.”
The OU/Baylor vs. Utah/Alabama debate comes down to this. The Sooners and Bears have more quality wins, and that won’t change with whoever emerges as the Big 12 champ. But both Utah and Alabama have been more dominant. Both OU and Baylor have a variety of close calls in conference play.
“It’s never just one factor, right?” Mullens said. “That’s the beauty of having 13 football experts in the room who watch the games, who study it. So that’s exactly the kind of conversation you would have. Who are the wins against it? Who are the losses against it? What do you see when you watch the games?”
Will OU jump Utah and Alabama if they all win out? I don’t know. But the Sooners’ chances are much better than they were a week ago, because the committee suddenly likes the Baylor Bears.
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.