Oklahoma Football: Oddsmakers Like Sooners vs. Tide


Oklahoma football fans may not be thrilled that the Sooners drew the final spot in the College Football Playoff, but the folks who set betting lines and crunch football numbers for a living apparently have a higher respect for what OU brings to the Playoff party than the selection committee.

Despite being the four seed in the party of four College Playoff bracket, Bob Stoops’ Sooners, who are making their first appearance in the new playoff format but their fifth under Stoops as one of two or four teams vying for the national championship, have been established as 3.5-point favorites in their national semifinal matchup with top-seeded Clemson. The oddsmakers are not expecting it to be a defensive battle, though. The current line on the over/under is 65 points.

We’re talking about the same team that all but annihilated Oklahoma just one year ago in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The same team by name maybe, but in reality with quite a few players gone from last season and a number of others who are new or did not play much in last year’s 40-6 whack job over the emotionally disengaged Sooners.

Nov 28, 2015; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates with wide receiver Sterling Shepard after running for a touchdown in the second half against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Sooners defeated the Cowboys 58-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

That is true on both sides, but if there is any added motivation as a result of the wide margin of victory in last year’s bowl matchup, it clearly would reside on the Sooner sidelines and in the minds of those OU players who had endure one of the worst postseason defeats in Oklahoma’s long and highly successful football history. And, yes, it was even worse than the 55-19 shellacking the Sooners took in the 2004 season national championship game against USC.

Oklahoma is certainly a different team than the 8-4 Sooners who lost to then No. 18 Clemson last year, but so too is Clemson. The only undefeated team among the participants in college football’s Final Four this season, Clemson is seeking its first national crown – and second all time – in 34 years.

For the last three or four weeks, we have been reporting that Oklahoma is the top-ranked team in ESPN’s Football Power Index, which ESPN defines as a measure of team’s strength and a predictor of a team’s performance going forward, In the current context, that means how a team is expected to do in the postseason.

Oklahoma remains No. 1 in the Football Power Index. Alabama, a current nine-point favorite over Michigan State in the semifinal game to be played as part of the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Eve, ranks behind the Sooners in the FPI. Clemson is sixth and Michigan State is all the way down at No. 14. The same people who are responsible for producing the FPI also rank the teams on the basis of overall team efficiencies. Alabama and Oklahoma rank one and two, respectively, in that statistical measurement, with Clemson No. 3 and Michigan State 16.

Here’s something else that should boost the spirits of Oklahoma football fans: According to the ESPN Football Power Index, the Sooners have the best chance of winning its next two games and winning the national championship. FPI gives OU a 39.4 percent probability of winning out, Alabama is next at 33.3 percent, Clemson is 17.2 and Michigan State 10.2.