Oklahoma football: Ohio State game won’t define 2017 season

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 17: Dede Westbrook
NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 17: Dede Westbrook /

It is easy to look at the 2017 Oklahoma football schedule and reach the conclusion that the second game out of the box — a little get-together in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept 9 between Oklahoma and Ohio State — will be the biggest game of the season for the Sooners.

After all, the OU-OSU (not to be confused with the conference rival that will likely be the Sooners’ second toughest opponent in 2017) showdown is set for network prime-time broadcast as the marquee matchup on the second Saturday of the 2017 season. Both teams are all but certain to be ranked in the top 10 when they go toe-to-toe at The Horseshoe in Columbus.

The winner of this game clearly will have a strong resume booster when it comes time for the College Football Playoff selection process.

The loser, on the other hand, will be faced with a big loss in a big game and will be put into a situation where it can ill afford any other hiccups the rest of the way through the schedule. But it would just be one loss in one game very early in the season. In no way, shape or form could it be construed – at that stage, anyway — as a season-breaker and far from a season-ender.

With 10 more games to play, including a potential conference championship game, there would be plenty of time to get back in the Playoff chase. As a recent reference point, all you have to do is think back a year ago, when the Sooners lost two of their first three games to start the 2016 season, including a 45-24 pasting by Ohio State at home in Norman.

After the disappointing 1-2 start last season, Oklahoma rebounded to run the table through a nine-game Big 12 schedule that put the Sooners right on the cusp of earning a second consecutive trip to the College Playoff. As it was, the Sooners were awarded one of the New Year’s Six bowl pairings, a date against 14th-ranked Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, where they extended their consecutive-game winning streak to 10 with a resounding 35-19 victory, their fourth straight over an SEC opponent.

Ohio State is easily the biggest nonconference game on Oklahoma’s 2017 schedule, but a strong case could be made that there are three or four games on the Sooners’ conference slate that are equally if not more important to the team’s overall season success than the early-season marquee contest with the Buckeyes.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

Four of OU’s nine Big 12 contests in the coming season are against team ranked in the top 25 in the recently released Amway Coaches Poll. Three of those games are away from Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, where the Sooners are 101-9 since 1999.

The Sooners have games at Oklahoma State, Kansas State and the annual Red River Showdown in Dallas against the Texas Longhorns, all over a four week period. Those same three teams are projected to finish second, third and fourth behind OU in the 2017 Big 12 Preseason Football Poll.

If there is any point in the 2017 schedule that could be considered a make-or-break stretch of the season that might just be it, considering how well Oklahoma plays at home. The Sooners play TCU and West Virginia, both ranked in the preseason top 25, on the third from the last and final weekend of the regular season.

It’s probably going to take a perfect slate or no more than a single loss in the Big 12 portion of the schedule to make it into the conference championship game, which will return in 2017 for the first time since 2010.

The Sooners are the two-time defending Big 12 champions and have been crowned champions in 10 of the 21 years the conference has been in existence, but they will have a difficult road to travel to return to the top again in the coming season. And if you don’t win your conference championship, your chances of being one of the four teams that make it into into the College Football Playoff are zero and none.

All of this to say that Ohio State may be a big and important game for the Sooners, but it is the least of the Oklahoma worries considering the bigger picture, where there are a handful of other land mines in the road over the next nine games on the OU schedule.

Circling back to the big game on Week 2 of the 2017 season, being the higher ranked team and playing at home, Ohio State will be favored against the Sooners on Sept. 9. Regardless of the outcome, though, Sooner fans should be cautioned not to put all of their eggs in one basket by cashing in or writing off the season based on this one game.

If you’re looking for a good omen: The home team has failed to win any of the three previous games in the limited all-time series between these iconic college football powerhouses.