John Hoover

John E. Hoover: As defense withers and playoff rankings tumble, Sooners’ postseason hopes fade

John E. Hoover: As defense withers and playoff rankings tumble, Sooners’ postseason hopes fade

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) talks with Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, right, following an NCAA college football game between Iowa State and Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma’s dream of returning to the College Football Playoff for the fourth time in five years may not be dead just yet, but the grave has been dug and the casket is closing.

The Sooners dropped a spot in this week’s CFP rankings, falling from No. 9 to No. 10 after avoiding a major upset Saturday night against Iowa State.

Nearly as damaging to the Sooners’ hopes, this week’s opponent — undefeated Baylor — needed several miracles to beat TCU in triple overtime and also fell in this week’s rankings, from 12th last week to 13th.

Baylor (9-0) is the lowest-rated undefeated team in FBS, while OU (8-1) is the lowest-rated one-loss team from a Power 5 conference.

Selection committee chairman Rob Mullens—also the athletic director at Oregon — said on a conference call Tuesday night that Oklahoma’s defensive performance against the Cyclones did not go unnoticed.

“As we look across the board, obviously they still have a powerful offense,” Mullens said, “and the improvement the defense had shown earlier in the season has dropped off a little bit.”

The Bears host the Sooners on Saturday night at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. ESPN’s “College GameDay” originates from Waco this week, but last week’s results and this week’s rankings diminish the national appeal.

“Well, two things,” Mullens said. “One is, we don’t project ahead. And as we’ve mentioned several times, we start with a clean sheet of paper every week. And as you look at it overall, Minnesota with their win over No. 4 Penn State jumped a lot of teams and slid a lot of teams back one spot.”

Had Oklahoma maintained its 21-point fourth-quarter lead against Iowa State on Saturday night in Norman, the Sooners probably would have been ahead of Penn State this week and might have jumped one of the Pac-12 contenders, if not both.

The CFP selection committee adjusts its rankings each week to compensate for how teams perform, so a large jump isn’t out of the question. But there are only four weeks left in the season, and the Sooners’ remaining schedule doesn’t favor a big surge.

LSU (9-0) jumped one spot to No. 1 after winning at Alabama last week. The Crimson Tide (8-1) fell two spots from third to fifth this week. Ohio State (9-0) dropped to No. 2, and Clemson (10-0) moved up to No. 3. Georgia (8-1) claims the No. 4 spot this week.

Oregon (8-1) and Utah (8-1) of the Pac-12 Conference climbed to No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, and Minnesota vaulted nine spots from 17th to No. 8 this week after a comfortable win over then-No. 4 Penn State. The Nittany Lions (8-1) fell to ninth this week, one spot ahead of the Sooners.

Elsewhere in the Big 12 Conference, Texas entered the CFP rankings at No. 19, while Oklahoma State moved up a spot to No. 22. Kansas State fell from 16th last week to No. 24 this week.

Mullens said Texas’ win over then-No. 16 K-State was a new piece of information by which to grade the Longhorns.

Mullens also explained why Minnesota jumped nine spots with one big upset victory (over Penn State in Minneapolis last week), while Baylor dropped a spot despite winning road games over two CFP-ranked teams earlier this season (Kansas State and Oklahoma State).

The Gophers’ strength of schedule ranking, according to teamrankings.com, is 57th, while Baylor’s is 45th. According to the Jeff Sagarin/USA Today rankings, Minnesota’s schedule ranks 70th, while Baylor’s is 58th. The NCAA’s official rankings, however, show Minnesota’s schedule ranked 45th and Baylor 114th. 

“If you were to go into the room, you’d see us have the ability to have teams’ full resume up there,” Mullens said. “So we’re seeing games 1 through 9 or 10, however many they’ve played, and we’re able to dissect the entire schedule. And sure, a win against a highly ranked Penn State is there, but we also understand that Baylor does have good road wins at K-State and Oklahoma State. So it’s all part of the discussion. And it’s an art, not a science, and the members have to vote based on the information that’s discussed.”

 

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Formerly co-host of “Further Review” and “The Franchise Drive,” columnist John E. Hoover is a college football insider on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover co-hosts The Franchise “Inside OU” Podcast with Brady Trantham and Rufus Alexander, and the Locked oN Sooners podcast on the Locked oN Podcast Network. He also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his YouTube channel at YouTube.com/c/JohnHoover, and his personal page at johnehoover.com.

 

  1. LSU (9-0)

  2. Ohio State (9-0)

  3. Clemson (10-0)

  4. Georgia (8-1)

  5. Alabama (8-1)

  6. Oregon (8-1)

  7. Utah (8-1)

  8. Minnesota (9-0)

  9. Penn State (8-1)

  10. Oklahoma (8-1)

  11. Florida (8-2)

  12. Auburn (7-2)

  13. Baylor (9-0)

  14. Wisconsin (7-2)

  15. Michigan (7-2)

  16. Notre Dame (7-2)

  17. Cincinnati (8-1)

  18. Memphis (8-1)

  19. Texas (6-3)

  20. Iowa (6-3)

  21. Boise State (8-1)

  22. Oklahoma State (6-3)

  23. Navy (7-1)

  24. Kansas State (6-3)

  25. Appalachian State (8-1)

John Hoover
@JohnEHoover

John Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he was co-host of "Further Review" and "The Franchise Drive." Now he's The Franchise college football insider: Oklahoma's state Heisman rep, a voter in the FWAA Super 16 poll, an FWAA media access liaison, and a Big 12 writer at Sporting News and Lindy's preseason magazine. In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist and won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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