Oklahoma Football in College Playoff: It’s Been Redemption Season for Sooners


It’s been a year of redemption for Oklahoma football in 2015. Can the Sooners make it a clean sweep for the season by defeating Clemson in the semifinal round of this year’s College Football Playoff?

If you go by what this season’s Sooner team has done against teams it lost to in 2014, you get a pretty good feeling about Oklahoma’s path to the national championship game on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz., and a potential matchup with Alabama, the team that everyone a week ago thought would be the Sooners’ opponent in the national semifinals.

Between now and Dec. 31, however, we are going to hear and read a lot about all four of the Playoff teams are going about their business of preparing for their title shot and the likelihood of their being one of the two teams still standing on New Year’s morning.

The one thing everyone can generally seem to agree on this year, compared with the chaos and controversy from a year ago – is that the four teams that made it into the Playoff bracket this season are the teams that should be there based on their body of work for the entire season, the strength of their schedules and, importantly, the quality of how each is playing right now.

Dec 29, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Oklahoma Sooners safety Najee Bissoon (38) carries the ball during the second half of the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl against the Clemson Tigers. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

And no team is playing at a higher quality level right now in all aspects of the game than Oklahoma, which is why the Sooners are being given 9-to-4 odds of winning it all this year, according to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas. Alabama is being given the best chance, some three and a half weeks out, of hoisting the championship trophy, listed as “Even” by the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook and cited by ESPN.com. Clemson is a 5-to-1 favorite and Michigan State is 6 to 1.

You can expect all this to change, though, as the days countdown to the actual games on the field.

What won’t change, however, is Oklahoma’s record in 2015 of turning the tables on all of the teams that beat the Sooners in 2014. The Sooners are a perfect 4-0 in 2015 in reversing the 2014 defeats they suffered to TCU, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. And with the exception of TCU, the Sooners did so with an exclamation point.

All that is left to make it a clean sweep for over the teams that laid the heavy wood against OU a year ago would be to avenge the 40-6 humiliation suffered at the hands of Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Oklahoma finished the regular season with seven consecutive wins after suffering an upset loss to Texas that just may have been the trigger they needed to turn things around, and in dramatic fashion. OU outscored its opponents over the last seven outings by an average score of 52-19.

Nov 14, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine (32) and wide receiver Dede Westbrook (11) during the game against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. The Sooners defeat the Bears 44-34. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Other than the TCU rematch, the Sooners left little doubt in their wins this season over Kansas State (55-0), Baylor (44-34) and Oklahoma State (58-35).

The Sooners had TCU on the ropes in the first half of their game a couple of weeks ago, but lost starting quarterback Baker Mayfield to concussion symptoms in the second half. The Horned Frogs got the better of the battle of backup quarterbacks in the second half of that game and missed 0ut by a single point of ending Oklahoma’s bid for a spot in college football’s Final Four this season.

The head coaches and players of both Oklahoma and Clemson have been quick to point out that this year’s team is not the same as the two teams that played in the Russell Athletic Bowl last postseason. For one thing, neither of the starting quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield for the Sooners and Deshaun Watson for Clemson) played in the game last season.

At least 11 Oklahoma players on the Sooner two-deep depth chart are in their freshman year or first season at OU in 2015 and were not on the roster a year ago. Prominent on that list are running back Joe Mixon, who with almost 800 yards rushing and 345 yards receiving has been a tremendous addition to the OU offensive arsenal this season, receivers Dede Westbrook and Mark Andrews and placekicker/punter Austin Seibert.

Interviewed by ESPN’s Rece Davis as part of the cable network’s Playoff Selection show on Sunday, OU head coach Bob Stoops

The Sooners will be making their 49th bowl appearance all-time, and it is the 17th consecutive season, all during Bob Stoops coaching tenure at Oklahoma, that the Sooners have been to a postseason bowl. It all should be pointed out that this is the fifth time under Stoops Oklahoma has been among the final teams vying for a national championship (2000, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2015), the most of any team in the Big 12.

This year will be the Sooners’ 19th postseason appearance in the Orange Bowl. They are 12-6 in Orange Bowl games – oh, and by the way, four of their seven national championships have come in the Orange Bowl, including their most recent one in 2000, Stoops’ second season at Oklahoma.

In case you were wondering, Oklahoma and Clemson have met four times in history, with the two teams splitting the four games.