Oklahoma football: Sooners undervalued in The Athletic’s ‘Most Dominant’ rankings

The digital sports outlet The Athletic has come out with a ranking of the 25 most dominant college football teams of the past 50 years. Oklahoma football did make the list, but not a prominently as Sooner fans might expect .

Certainly not this Sooner fan.

Two Oklahoma teams of the past five decades made the list, both from the 1970s: The 1974 Sooners are No. 11, and the 1971 Sooners are ranked No. 19.

If you are not a subscriber to The Athletic, you probably haven’t seen the recent article by Matt Brown, but here it is for you.

The Athletic staff selected the 1995 national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers as the most dominant college team of the past half century. Following Nebraska in the top five are the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, the 1971 edition of the Cornhuskers, last season’s champion LSU Tigers and the 1972 USC Trojans.

Interestingly, Oklahoma played the two Nebraska teams ranked in the top five in the years indicated as well as LSU last season. The Sooners lost to 1995 Nebraska and 2019 LSU by an average of 36 points. The 1971 game between OU and Nebraska, billed at the time as the Game of the Century, was much closer, but went in the Cornhusker’s favor, 35-31. More on that later in this article.

Nebraska and Alabama each had four different teams represented in The Athletic’s version of the 25 most dominant teams of the last 50 years. The State of Florida was well represented too, with three Florida State teams, three Miami teams and two Florida Gator team ranked in the top 25.

The first thing that jumped out at me as I scrolled through the top 25 teams was the absence of the 1950 Oklahoma teams, which arguably were  as dominant as you can get, with the 1955 and ’56 Sooner teams winning back-to-back national championships and going undefeated as part of OU’s NCAA-record 47-game winning streak.

But then I realized that the 1950s Sooner teams fell outside of the 50-year evaluation criterion. Teams that competed between 1970 and 2019 were the only ones considered. Three other major criteria that were used to help differentiate the teams were:

  • National championships (59 teams met this criteria, including split champions)
  • All other AP top-five teams with undefeated records
  • AP No. 2 teams that lost only to the final No. 1 team that season

Other factors considered in the evaluation and subsequent top-25 ranking included wins against ranked teams in the final AP poll, scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense per game, average point differential and number of games won by two-plus possessions.

OK, I get it, the 1955 and ’56 Oklahoma teams didn’t make the cut because they were outside of the 50-year range. But what about the 1985 national championship Oklahoma team.

Oklahoma was 11-1 in 1985, the one loss coming against then-No. 3-ranked Miami. And the Sooners, led by freshman quarterback Jamelle Holieway (the only true freshman QB to win a national championship before Trevor Lawrence of Clemson did it in 2018) defeated No. 1 Penn State in the Orange Bowl that season to capture the national title.

The Athletic staff also listed nine teams that fell just outside of the top 25 under the category “Closest Calls.” The 2000 national champion Oklahoma team was one of the nine teams cited in that category, but not the 1985 team. The ’85 Sooners were a one-loss national champion and not undefeated like the 2000 team, but they were clearly more dominant than Bob Stoops’ 2000 team.

There were also teams listed under a couple of additional sub-categories: “Other cuts from the ‘Closest Calls’ list” and ‘Candidates that didn’t stack up favorably in enough metrics.'” Six teams are listed in the fomer sub-category (including two Alabama teams, two Miami teams and a Nebraska team), but again not the 1985 Sooners.

The 1985 Oklahoma squad apparently didn’t qualify with enough metrics to even warrant a mention among the 19 teams that allegedly fell just short. I find that nearly unbelievable, and when you see the teams that are listed in this category, I believe you’ll see why.

The 1975 Oklahoma team also is no where to be found in the rankings — not in the top 25 or in any of the three sub-categories. The ’75 Sooners won a national championship, but they lost a game in the regular season before defeating No. 5 Michigan in the Orange Bowl to repeat as national champs for a second straight year.

And while I’m on this rant, the 1971 Sooners, ranked No. 19 among the 25 teams considered to be the most dominant college teams over the last 50 years. lost only one game that season, to No. 1 Nebraska, which happens to be the No. 3 teams in The Athletic’s ranking. Somebody please help me understand why the ’71 Sooners aren’t ranked higher?

As puzzled and miffed as I am about the Oklahoma oversight in this self-admitted subjective ranking, imagine how Ohio State fans must feel not having their beloved Buckeyes listed among the top 40 teams cited in The Athletic article. The only Ohio State mentions are the 1970 and 2014 teams, and that was only in the category labeled “Candidates that didn’t stack up favorably in enough metrics.”

This is something you have to be careful saying around the Barry Switzer Center or the Sooner Nation: The defense rests…

 

 

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