Tramel: Playoff committee cut OU slack for being without Stevenson & Perkins
The College Football Playoff committee treated OU quite well in its initial rankings released Tuesday night, partly because the Sooners were granted grace over the early-season absences of tailback Rhamondre Stevenson and defensive end Ronnie Perkins.
Stevenson and Perkins missed OU’s first five games this season, including losses to Kansas State and Iowa State.
The 6-2 Sooners have been scrambling ever since just to return to Big 12 Championship Game contention. Mission accomplished. But now the Sooners even have reached the fringe of the playoff discussion.
OU is ranked 11th by the committee and would seem capable of going even higher, though the Sooners would need a lot of help to crack the top four and make the playoff for the fifth time in the last six years.
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“The committee really started to talk about the last five games that Oklahoma has played,” said committee chairman Gary Barta, the athletic director at Iowa. “During that time, they beat No. 17 Texas and then last weekend they beat Oklahoma State (ranked 23rd by the committee).
“The early losses they had were, I think, by a total of 10 points. And the other thing the committee noted is that Spencer Rattler is playing at a level now that I think a lot of people thought he might play at earlier in the season.”
But that is just committeespeak. Then Barta got to the crux of the matter, from a Sooner perspective.
“I know also the committee does pay attention to who's available in games, and I think their key running back, Rhamondre Stevenson, and one of their D-ends, Ronnie Perkins, was not available earlier in the year,” Barta said. “Those are all the things, as the committee placed Oklahoma at 11, that were part of the conversation.”
This crazy COVID season has created chaos in scheduling. The committee ranked Brigham Young 14th and Oregon 15th. BYU is 9-0, Oregon is 3-0.
And the committee appears to be monitoring who has been available for games. Barta talked about Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence missing the Notre Dame game for coronavirus reasons and BYU’s best victory coming over a Boise State squad that was down to its third-team quarterback.
But the committee also knows that Stevenson and Perkins missed those five games serving NCAA suspensions for apparent failed drug tests. Stevenson has been a runaway mine train at tailback since his return, with 332 rushing yards and five touchdowns in three games. Perkins has 3.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries in three games.
Every team in America has been affected by absences, most of them COVID-related. If the committee continues to give the Sooners special dispensation over losses without Stevenson and Perkins, that will only enhance OU’s cause.