A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Oklahoma’s College Football Playoff chances should they drop a game at some point in the season.
The final conclusion to that was simple: They better not lose a game.
Well, they did just that on Saturday being upset by the Kansas State Wildcats 48-41 in Manhattan. That was the first time Oklahoma failed to win in the Little Apple since 1996 and their first true road loss since Lincoln Riley came to Norman.
Now Sooner fans are just left with a lot of questions as far as if the season can be salvaged. Sure, Oklahoma is still in great shape to compete for a fifth consecutive Big 12 title and a New Year’s Six Bowl appearance, but that was never OU’s goal.
The goal in Norman is always a national title.
So today let’s evaluate Oklahoma’s chances for a CFP berth going forward, and what they need to have happen to sneak in.
First and Foremost, Have to Win Some Games
I know this is extremely obvious but let’s go ahead and throw it out there real quick that none of this matters if Oklahoma does not win out the remainder of their schedule.
For that to happen, the defense simply cannot get dominated like it did at the hands of the Wildcats who ran it down the throats of the Alex Grinch defense over and over.
Another thing that will need to improve is the run game outside of Jalen Hurts. Astonishingly, Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon combined for just six carries against Kansas State, they have to utilize them more to be successful.
The Sooners still have to go to Waco to take on undefeated Baylor, go to Stillwater for Bedlam, and then deal with a Big 12 championship game. Not to mention a couple home contests with Iowa State and TCU.
The schedule isn’t overly easy, but it is not insanely difficult either. The Sooners can certainly win out, which is the first step in this.
Either Alabama or LSU Need to Chill Out
In my opinion, the biggest hurdle for Oklahoma making the College Football Playoff is the fact that Alabama and LSU are clearly two of the three best teams in the country along with Ohio State.
The two both have byes this week and then face off next week in what will be one of the most highly anticipated regular season games maybe of all-time.
It would do Oklahoma a great service if that game was not competitive, and one blew out the other. Preferably, if LSU did so to Alabama.
The Crimson Tide have had quite the easy schedule to this point, where LSU already has several nice wins.
It will be hard for Oklahoma to win an argument against either of these teams if they just have their only loss being against the other, but it is a lot more likely against Alabama with a thin resume than LSU who has already defeated Texas, Florida, and Auburn. Alabama’s lone loss would be to the #1 team in the country, but if it was in blowout fashion in Tuscaloosa with out a real marquee win…OU may have a shot to win the debate.
The other thing that could happen for Oklahoma’s sake would obviously be the loser of the Alabama/LSU contest losing another game somewhere, but other than Auburn maybe upsetting Alabama, that seems unlikely.
Ohio State Needs to Handle Penn State
Same logic to the SEC situation applies to the Big 10. Ohio State and Penn State both look to be top 5 or 6 teams, with Ohio State arguably being the most impressive team all season (I think LSU deserves to be #1, for what it’s worth).
These two squads face off in a few weeks, if Ohio State beats Penn State handily, that will make it a whole lot easier for Oklahoma to win the debate against Penn State.
Truthfully, I don’t think 11-1 non-Big 10 champion Penn State gets in over 12-1 Big 12 Champion Oklahoma no matter what, but it wouldn’t certainly wouldn’t hurt things for the Sooners if the Buckeyes clobbered the Nittany Lions on November 23rd.
The wild card in the Big 10 right now is Minnesota, who still stands undefeated at 8-0. Should they upset Penn State next Saturday and somehow navigate their schedule to the point of being 12-0, they could potentially sneak in even with a loss in the Big 10 title game to Ohio State. Or, maybe just as likely, if the Golden Gophers run the table and win the Big 10, the Buckeyes will still have a great shot of making it at 12-1 despite not winning the conference.
I don’t think that will happen simply because I expect Penn State to beat them even though the Gophers will be at home, and after that the Golden Gophers still have to deal with Iowa on the road and then a home date with Wisconsin to end the regular season.
The PAC-12 Champion is Looming
Believe it or not, the PAC-12 has two teams ranked above Oklahoma right now.
Oregon and Utah both sit in the top 10 with just one loss, and have to be considered squarely in the CFP hunt right now.
The Sooners would have a good shot at winning the argument over Utah should the Utes stand at 12-1 and the PAC-12 champion, in my opinion. It would not be a given, but with Utah’s loss coming to USC (an unranked team), I have hard time imagining the Utes getting the nod from the committee over Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma.
Oregon, on the other hand, is a different story. The Ducks have lost one game this year, an opening week neutral site loss to Auburn that came on a last second touchdown.
Their resume is simply very strong, and if they win the PAC-12 having won 12 games in a row with their only loss being much more quality than Oklahoma, the Ducks could be CFP bound.
OU needs the PAC-12 champion to have two losses to be safe here, and I do think that is very much in play.
Utah plays at Washington this week, and Oregon plays at USC. The Ducks also play Arizona State on the road later on down the line.
If Utah or Oregon drops a game and then beats the other to win the PAC-12, the conference champion will have two losses and Oklahoma will be comfortably in ahead of them.
The Final Prayer
Oklahoma’s CFP situation looks fairly bleak right now, very much unlike the past few year’s where I always felt a 1-loss Oklahoma would always make it.
This year, the SEC and Big 10 offering up two very strong teams along with the PAC-12 champion possibly being in play makes it very hard for that to be the case this time.
The final prayer for Oklahoma that could save the day is also the most unlikely, and that is Clemson somehow getting upset before season’s end.
After their cupcake matchup with Wofford this week, the Tigers play at NC State, host Wake Forest, and then at South Carolina before the ACC Championship game to finish it off.
The Tigers’ schedule has been so mind-blowingly easy, that if the committee truly takes all bias out of it and just looks at this season independently from the others, there is simply no way Clemson at 12-1 should win the argument over 12-1 Oklahoma.
OU would have a minimum of three better wins (Texas, Baylor, Big 12 title game) than Clemson’s best victory (Texas A&M).
It may be hard for the Sooners to win the debate simply because of Clemson’s two national titles in the past three years, but based off this year alone (which is how it should be), the Tigers have nothing to hang their hat on in that situation.
At the end of the day, Oklahoma has put themselves in a tough predicament due to what can only be characterized as a terrible loss to a team that they were 23 1/2 point favorites against, and can only blame themselves should they not find a way to sneak into the College Football Playoff once again.
The Sooners are off this week before coming back home to host Iowa State next Saturday night.