Can the Sooners Win Out and Win the Favor of the Playoff Committee?


The Oklahoma Sooners have been slowly working their way up the national rankings for the past five weeks, but last weekend’s big win over a Baylor team many have had penciled in as top playoff contender since the start of the season, has vaulted the Sooners up five spots to No. 7 this week in the College Football Playoff standings.

It has taken five weeks and a quintet of impressive victories following a midseason loss to Texas – one that just may haunt Oklahoma all the way to Dec. 6 – for the Sooners to become relevant again this college football season.

It’s not that OU ever completely fell out of the picture after failing to show up in its annual rivalry game with the hated Longhorns. Oklahoma dropped from 10th to 19th after the Texas game. Since then, however, the Sooners have come out and played like a team possessed, battering its five opponents offensively and finishing things off with the Big 12’s best defensive effort. Oklahoma has outscored its last five conference opponents by a combined 276-84. That is an average score of 55-17.

Nov 14, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine (32) celebrates a touchdown against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Oklahoma won 44-34. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

For Bob Stoops and the 9-1 Sooners, the past month has been about more than a five-game win streak, it is about a team that refuses to be defined by one bad game and now has all of its moving parts synchronized and operating at a consistently high level. The Sooners have been energized by a fiery competitor and team leader in quarterback Baker Mayfield, who walked on at Oklahoma like he had at Texas Tech before transferring at the end of his freshman year.

Mayfield has accounted for at least three touchdowns passing and/or running with the football in every game he has played this season. His indomitable spirit and refusal to give up has spread throughout the team and is the largest single factor for the Sooners’ success this season and their recent string of dominant performances. That is not to say, of course, that Mayfield has done it all by himself. He is surrounded by multiple complementary components, but the junior quarterback who grew up in the backyard of the Texas Longhorns is the main catalyst.

A number of college football experts and media covering the sport are calling OU’s win at Baylor the biggest and most important of the college football season, even with the caveat that Baylor played the game with a backup quarterback. Like Stoops said after the game: You beat the 6th-ranked team by double digits on their field, it has to count for something.

It definitely did count for something in the eyes and minds of the College Football Playoff selection committee, which this week rewarded Oklahoma by advancing the Sooners five spots and now just behind No. 6 Oklahoma State in the only national poll that really matters.

Nov 14, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) warms up prior to facing the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

While the Sooners are back in the headlines and back in a big way this week in the talk among college football writers and those who make a living analyzing and commenting on the game as a team that could potentially play its way into the Playoff picture, there are still a lot of hypotheticals that have to play out for it to be so.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports is one of those guys who heaps praise on the Sooners, not just for what they have accomplished over the past month, but importantly how they have done it. The Oklahoma City Oklahoman published an article in its Tuesday editions reporting that Forde has Oklahoma in his current Playoff projections. The Oklahoman quoted Forde as saying:

"“Oklahoma crashes the Fab Four on the strength of the best win anyone has had this season, a double-digit victory at Baylor that ended the Bears’ 20-game home winning streak,” Forde said. “The Sooners were fortunate to face true-freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham, making just his second college start, but they were the better team all night and controlled much of the game.”"

As good as the Baylor win was, though, Oklahoma still has the loss to Texas on its season resume, which could just as easily be classified as one of the country’s biggest upsets this college season.

As far as the teams that are ahead of the Sooners among the Playoff contenders as things stand today, No. 5 Iowa and No. 3 Ohio State will potentially meet in the Big Ten championship game, which will knock out one of those two teams, and Notre Dame would likely have to lose at Stanford on Nov. 28 for the Sooners to make it into the Playoff as a one-loss team.

Oklahoma State, undefeated at 10-0, of course is also ahead of Oklahoma right now, but the Cowboys have Baylor coming in this weekend, which won’t be easy, especially with Art Briles’ bunch coming off its first loss of the season. And if OSU is able to hold home serve against Baylor, the Sooners will have a final shot at the Cowboys in Bedlam, which will eliminate the loser from Playoff consideration.

It goes without saying, certainly, that Oklahoma must take care of business this weekend in its game with TCU or all of this becomes a moot subject. And there is no real way of knowing what, of if, the Texas loss will ultimately cost the Sooners, until all the dust settles several weekends from now.

With the victory over Baylor, the stars are beginning to align quite nicely, and there is a realistic path -albeit not one that is totally within the Sooners’ control or without sizeable obstacles – that gets Oklahoma to the goal the Sooners and practically every other FBS team set for itself before the season began: the College Football Playoff.

Welcome to the home stretch of the college football season, when dreams are fulfilled for the few and fractured for a number of others.