OU’s No. 15 College Football Playoff Ranking About Right, for Now


The first College Football Playoff rankings for the 2015 season were released this week, and the Oklahoma Sooners are at No. 15 in the initial standings.

That means for the next four-to-five weeks all eyes among fans of the college game will be focused on the movement within this human ranking and particularly on what happens among the teams that sit in the top four positions on the list.

The top four, of course, in the final standings (to be issued on Dec. 6) are the teams that will compete in the playoff to determine the 2015 FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) national champion in college football.

If the regular season (including the conference championships) were to end today, the four teams that would vie for the national crown and their seeding would be 1. Clemson, 2. LSU, 3. Ohio State and 4. Alabama.

This is the way things stand right now in the eyes and minds of the CFP selection committee, which, incidentally, has one representative from the Big 12 Conference among its 12 members. Kirby Hocutt, athletic director at Texas Tech, serves on the committee. Oliver Luck, formerly the AD at West Virginia, served on the committee last year before accepting an executive position with the NCAA.

Oct 31, 2015; Lawrence, KS, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Vance Galloway (85) catches a touchdown pass against Kansas Jayhawks linebacker Marcquis Roberts (5) in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Oklahoma won the game 62-7. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

It is interesting to note that only Ohio State and LSU are in the top four in the latest Associated Press and Coaches’ top-25 polls. While the teams in the top-25 rankings in the two aforementioned weekly polls and the CFP rankings are essentially the same teams, the position of the teams will vary because of the voting process, the criteria used and the makeup and structure of the people doing the voting.

The big difference, of course, is that the only poll that counts as far as who gets into the playoff is the CFP ranking. And it also follows that the criteria for selection in the CFP process is more involved and hopefully more objective than the highly subjective nature of the other top-25 national polls.

Which brings us around to how the Big 12 teams currently sit as the countdown begins in November for the final five weeks of the college football regular season. Baylor and TCU have been among the top-five teams all season in the AP and the Coaches poll, but Baylor is the only Big 12 in the top five of the first 2015 CFP standings, at No. 6 behind Notre Dame. TCU is currently at No. 8, Oklahoma State is 14th and Oklahoma 15th.

So now that the curtain has been raised and we’ve gotten our first look at how the Playoff committee views the state and strength of the college football world through Week 9 of the 2015 season, what are we to think of the Big 12’s chances of putting at least one team in this year’s football Final Four?

All season long we have been hearing college football commentators and analysts that reigning Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU were the Big 12’s best bets to be one, if not two, of the quartet of teams that would make the Football Playoff this season. Granted, the first CFP rankings are just a snapshot in time in that we know some of the best games of the season are still to come and there inevitably will be shakeups and surprises along the way that will likely change the current composition of the Playoff rankings as we know them today.

Oct 17, 2015; Manhattan, KS, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) is chased by Kansas State Wildcats defensive end Jordan Willis (75) early in a game at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The apparent mark against Baylor that dropped the Bears to 6th in the initial Playoff standings, despite seven decisive victories and an unbeaten record to begin the season, is their soft nonconference schedule.

TCU, also unbeaten to this point in the season, narrowly escaped in two games (Texas Tech and Kansas State) in which Gary Patterson’s team uncharacteristically allowed its opponent to score over 50 points. Not a very impressive marker for a team that aspires to be in the conversation as a Football Playoff contender.

In Oklahoma’s case, it is blatantly clear that the Sooners’ loss to unranked Texas is to what they owe their current ranking among the nation’s so-called second-10-best teams. Had they not lost to the Longhorns and with the way they have rolled over their past three conference opponents, most likely the Sooners would be ranked somewhere in the 5-6-7 spot, and ahead of TCU, in the AP and Coaches’ polls and probably also in the initial College Football Playoff rankings.

Even with one loss, Oklahoma has every chance to improve its final standing and move itself back up in the Big 12 championship hunt and in the national playoff picture with games straight ahead against three teams that sit in front of the Sooners in the current CFP standings: Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State.

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And we could start to see changes as early as this weekend as far as the Big 12 teams are concerned. TCU is at Oklahoma State on Saturday, and over the remaining three weekends thereafter, the top four Big 12 teams all play each other in what promise to be an all-out backyard brawl and survival-of-the-fittest to the finish line.

As a reminder of how much things can change over the final five weeks of the college football season, consider that Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss were 1 through 4 in the initial CFP rankings a year ago, but Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State were the four teams that survived their conference championship games and made the final cutdown for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The Big 12 does not currently hold a conference championship game, but if Oklahoma were to run the table in its remaining games, the final three of which are against current ranked teams, you would have to believe that the Sooners’ strength of schedule, even with one bad loss on their resume, would be good enough to make them a viable choice for one of the four playoff spots and a plush bowl appearance on New Year’s Day.

The power of positive thinking at work, for sure, but there is an extremely difficult path to be traveled between now and then before arriving at the metaphorical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

If only it was as easy as clicking our heels together…