On the day the first College Football Playoff rankings will be released and during the week of Bedlam, an ESPN college football analyst has provided a motivational accelerator to the Oklahoma football team.
Jesse Palmer, a broadcast commentator and analyst for ESPN, said after Ohio State’s dramatic 39-38 victory over then-No. 2-ranked Penn State that the Buckeyes are a different team at this stage of the season and that Ohio State would beat Oklahoma “by 20” if they replayed each other today.
“Ohio State is that much better,” Palmer said.
When Palmer’s comment was brought up at Lincoln Riley weekly OU press conference on Monday, the Sooner head coach had this to say: “Well, if they think like that, we’ve got a broken system, and we’ve got to get new people making decisions if that is how they think.”
I don’t know about you, but I take exception to Palmer’s off-handed wisdom. Perhaps he’s living in a time warp and thinks he is back in 2016.
I didn’t see or hear the quote personally, but I also saw reference in one trickle-down news article that Ohio State would win by that much even if the rematch was in Norman. Sounds to me like someone may be indulging too much in fantasy football.
Rewinding back to the game on Sept. 9 in Columbus, Ohio, Oklahoma dominated Ohio State. The Sooners blew several scoring chances in the game or the outcome might have been even more than the 15-point differential that it was. And don’t give me the razzmatazz that it was just the second week of the season and Ohio State didn’t have the rust quite worked out or have their wits about them yet.
The Sooners were under the same circumstances and playing on the road in one of the most difficult venues for a visiting team in college football. And Oklahoma still prevailed by double digits.
It’s true that the Ohio State game is the best the Sooners have played all season, largely because they played aggressively and with physicality and kept it up for a full four quarters against the Buckeyes. They came out with something to prove, after the 45-24 trouncing by the Buckeyes a year earlier, and they did so.
OU has not put a complete game together since the win over Ohio State, and has shown far too much inconsistency on defense. With Baker Mayfield leading the way and surrounded by a full complement of talented offensive weapons, both on the ground and through the air, the Sooner offense is explosive and the best in the country in total yards per game. The problem has been, while Oklahoma is scoring an average of 43 points a game, four of its last five games have been decided by eight points or less, including a seven-point loss, OU’s lone loss of the season, to resurgent Iowa State.
Meanwhile. after losing to Oklahoma, Ohio State has won six consecutive games. In the five games before their thrilling comeback win over Penn State, the Buckeyes averaged 53 points a game and outscored their five opponents by the combined score of 266-56.
Given those stats, it would appear that the Ohio State and the Sooners are trending in opposite directions, even though they are just five spots apart in this week’s Associated Press Rankings, both with identical 7-1 records.
And that raises another point of controversy, which is sure to get more heated after the first installment of the much-anticipated 2017 College Football Playoff standings are revealed later today.
It is almost a sure bet that Ohio State will be ranked higher than Oklahoma when the initial CFP rankings come out. Given the fact, however, that the Sooners defeated the Buckeyes – and convincingly, at Ohio State – in their head-to-head meeting earlier this season, should Ohio State be ranked ahead of Oklahoma?
If the college football season were to end today and the four Playoff teams were determined by the order in which they are ranked by the CFP selection committee, Ohio State would probably one of the final four to make the cut. My guess is that Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame would be the other three.
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Here’s the issue, though: All things being equal – which we know is not the case in college football today – is Ohio State more deserving than Oklahoma for one of the Playoff spots if the season were to end today?
Fortunately, no one has to answer that question, not today anyway, because there is still more football left to be played, and history tells us that the original top four in the Playoff rankings will not be the same when the final rankings are released.
“I think a lot of this is going to play out,” Riley said. “There’s a lot of ball left to be played (for everybody) in the country. We like the body of work we’ve put out there, but right now that doesn’t matter.
“We’re four or five weeks out from all that stuff,” the OU head coach said. “We’ve got to stay focused on us and get ready to play a great Oklahoma State team. If we take care of business, then I don’t think we’ll be having that discussion (OU vs. Ohio State).”
Oklahoma goes up against two ranked teams (Oklahoma State and TCU) the next two weekends, and Ohio State still has games with Michigan State and Michigan, plus a potential Big Ten Championship game. So, a lot can happen, and most likely will, to change and even dismiss the argument about who is better or more worthy – Oklahoma or Ohio State – to be in the College Playoff discussion.
Ohio State has played one ranked opponent since losing to Oklahoma. The Buckeyes passed the test in grand style, beating No. 2 Penn State last Saturday. We’ll see what happens when the No. 8 Sooners travel up the road to Stillwater, Okla., this Saturday to take on 11th-ranked Oklahoma State.
As for Jesse Palmer’s vision of a rematch this season between the Sooners and Buckeyes, it makes for an interesting debate, but what if it were to actually come true? If both teams continue to win, we could find out.
To be continued…