Why the Sooners Need to Do More Than Just Win Out


It seems that all the talk about the Oklahoma Sooners moving into contention as a potential Playoff team centers around the notion of “win out and you’re likely in.”

The Sooners are clearly playing at a high level right now, winning their last five games rather handily, including a big win over previously unbeaten Baylor on the Bears’ home field. Everything would be looking very rosy for Oklahoma and the College Football Playoff picture had the Sooners not stubbed their toe in a midseason loss to a Texas team that is still struggling to find its true identity under second-year head coach Charlie Strong.

The loss to Texas is the only blemish on an otherwise stellar resume. Other than the seven-point loss to Texas, Tennessee and Baylor have come the closest to beating Oklahoma this season, losing by 7 and 10 points, respectively. The Sooners other seven wins have been by an average of 36 points, including five games in which they have scored 50 or more points.

The wide margins of victory is one of the things that has caught the attention of the College Football Playoff committee and the voters in the weekly national polls, who have steadily moved Oklahoma up in the rankings, to No. 7 this week after dropping all the way back to 19th after the stunning loss to the Longhorns.

Nov 14, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners fullback Dimitri Flowers (36) celebrates a touchdown catch with wide receiver Jarvis Baxter (1)against the Baylor Bears during the second half at McLane Stadium. Oklahoma won 44-34. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Many of the analysts as well as the writers and broadcasters who make their living following college football are projecting that if OU wins out in its final two regular-season games against TCU this Saturday and Oklahoma State next weekend, the Sooners could displace a one-loss Notre Dame for the fourth and final Playoff spot. That, of course, assumes that Iowa, currently No. 5, would lose one of its two remaining regular-season games or in the Big Ten Championship, and that the other three teams currently ahead of Oklahoma – Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State would win out and remain status quo.

Should the Sooners defeat TCU and Oklahoma State and win the Big 12 football crown and one of the teams currently in the top three Playoff spots would stumble, OU’s chances of making it into the Playoff would be even further enhanced.

But let’s assume that there are no changes among the top three teams and that Notre Dame wins out and finishes with the same 11 record as Oklahoma. Iowa would have fallen out of the picture (likely by losing to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game) in order for Ohio State to remain where they are.

That scenario would leave the Sooners and the Fighting Irish as the two highest-rated one-loss teams after a one-loss Alabama (assuming the Crimson Tide wins the SEC title). Who would the Playoff committee pick between OU and Notre Dame? Considering that Oklahoma’s one loss was to Texas, a team Notre Dame beat 38-3 to open the season and that the Fighting Irish’s only loss was by a mere two points to now top-ranked Clemson, a likely Playoff team, you would have to say that the advantage goes to Notre Dame.

Fortunately, the Playoff committee weighs heavily how teams are playing at the end of the season, and since losing to Texas, no team in college football is playing better right now in all aspects of the game that the Sooners.

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It is fairly universally understood that if you are a team from a Power Five conference and you finish the season undefeated, chances are very good that you will be one of the four teams in the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) in the College Football Playoff. It’s when the discussion gets down to Playoff contenders with one or even two losses, that things get sticky. Outside of comparisons against common opponents, who you have beaten, where and how impressive those wins are important evaluation criteria when the Playoff selection committee has to choose between teams and come up with the final Playoff seeding.

This is why it is not only vitally important that Oklahoma wins its final two regular-season games – both of which, importantly, are against ranked teams – but also the manner in which the Sooners win.

Let’s be candid, a 15- or 20-point win over a high-profile team like TCU and Oklahoma State is much more impressive than a 3- or 7-point victory over the same team, and a good indicator of how well a team is playing, especially if those wins come back to back and, in OU’s case, over three consecutive games against the best teams in one of college football’s premier leagues.

Style points are important, even more so at this late stage of the season when you are one of the Playoff contenders, but currently on the outside looking in. If Oklahoma is able to finish off the run and beat TCU and Oklahoma State as impressively as the Sooners played at Baylor, that should be a sound enough body of work, even with the one unexpected loss, to get OU into the Playoff with a shot at an eighth national championship.