An Iowa State player planted a flag at midfield at Memorial Stadium and no one blamed him at all. Now, it was quickly removed and there was little discussion about it.
The Cyclones beat Oklahoma 38-31 Saturday and the state of Iowa flag left town with the Iowa State players and fans. But they left behind something more symbolic than a conquering flag.
For the rest of 2017, Oklahoma will be swimming with a boat anchor. There’s no getting away from it, there’s no avoiding it. It will also end up drowning the Sooners, too.
A loss to Iowa State means Oklahoma is now chained to, not just a miserable, embarrassing loss, but the inability to distance themselves from the Cyclones when it’s time to talk about the Sooners’ resume, if and when it comes up during the College Football Playoff behind-closed-doors discussion.
“Yeah, but you lost to Iowa State.”
Yep. That’s the Scarlet Letter of football losses. The reddest of red lipstick doesn’t clean up ugly.
Doesn’t matter if OU beats Texas next week, or routs TCU and West Virginia. It won’t even ultimately matter if the Sooners win in Stillwater against Oklahoma State – which will likely happen. The resume is tarnished and there’s no way to avoid it being brought up.
No one’s quite sure of the criteria for making the Playoff, beyond wins. If you win ’em all, you’re in. Everyone knows that, so that leaves Alabama. Past Bama, who else is in your Final 4? And so the discussion begins. Oklahoma beat Ohio State, yes. Possible wins against ranked teams are still out there for the Sooners, too, but this loss to Iowa State will be devastating.
Sure, Oklahoma lost to a below-.500 Texas team in 2015 and rallied to make the playoff. But that’s Texas. Texas is a name. Texas has a perception. Right or wrong, mostly wrong, Texas is considered legit, even when it’s not. Consider the case of the 2017 Longhorns who started the season ranked in the top-25 for no reason that has any real logic.
Iowa State isn’t Texas. Right or wrong, and mostly right, Iowa State isn’t seen as anything other than a bottom feeder of a football program. Consider the case of the 2017 Cyclones. No quality wins, losers of 18 in a row against Oklahoma, a coaching staff that moved a quarterback to linebacker and back to quarterback in a calendar year. Saturday, Iowa State left its starting quarterback back in Ames, used Joel Lanning at quarterback for the first time this season and complemented Lanning with Kyle Kempt who came into the game a senior with two-career passing attempts. Kempt threw for 343 passing yards.
The Sooners have the best win of this season – at Ohio State. They also have the season’s worst loss. The victory over the Buckeyes wasn’t a life-preserver, but the loss to the Cyclones will be an anchor.