In this highly dysfunctional year of COVID distress and dismay, about the only thing good to come out of it for Oklahoma football is the Big 12’s decision, so far, to stay the course on a fall season.
A sixth consecutive Big 12 championship would be another ideal outcome, of course, but that seems like a long way off in a world that seems to be changing daily because of the lingering dangers presented by COVID-19, which appears to remain a major concern through the remainder of this year. That takes us right through what would be a 2020 fall college football season.
The Sooners rank fifth and sixth, respectively in the two major 2020 preseason national polls — the Associated Press Top 25 and the Coaches Poll — which came out this month and take into account all 130 FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) schools, despite the fact that the Big Ten and Pac-12 had previously announced that they would not compete in football this fall.
In an ordinary year, which this year has been anything but, Oklahoma’s recent record and reputation would make the Sooners a national championship contender — after all, there haven’t been many seasons since 2000 that OU hasn’t been in that conversation to start the season — but they would fall just short of a top-four preseason College Football Playoff projection.
That was almost universally the case in the 2020 college football preview publications, most of which had the foursome of Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia as the best bets to make to college football’s version of the Final Four this season. Oklahoma snuck into a couple of them (Sporting News and Phil Steele’s College Football Preview), but in most instances, the Sooners were on the outside looking in.
Now, with namely Ohio State, but also teams like Penn State and Oregon, out of the picture for this season, a number of college football pundits and prognosticators are beginning to change their tune about Oklahoma’s chances of making it to a fourth consecutive College Playoff and fifth overall in what will be the seventh season of the four-team playoff format to determine a national champion.
Unfortunately, this change of heart toward OU’s top-four consideration does not come without some reservation. And it also is highly dependent on the Sooners, the Big 12 favorites in most every preseason poll, winning a sixth consecutive conference crown and 14th in what will be the 25th anniversary of the Big 12 Conference.
The staff writers who cover and write about college football for The Athletic have reconsidered their earlier Playoff projections, with 40 percent of the field already eliminated this season before it even starts. The primary beneficiary of this reassessment? You guessed it: the Oklahoma Sooners.
All seven of The Athletic writers who participated in the poll, posted on Monday, picked Oklahoma as one of the four teams to make it to the College Football Playoff, assuming that the season in fact makes it that far. Joining the Sooners as a unanimous consideration were Clemson and Alabama. Georgia was selected on six of the seven ballots. Florida was selected on one ballot and Central Florida also was picked by one of the writers.
Several of the writers tempered their choice of the Sooners with the belief that there is no way the CFP selection committee cannot include the conference champion of the three remaining Power Five conferences (SEC, ACC and Big 12) and that Oklahoma is the overwhelming favorite to come out on top in the Big 12.
As former Sooner head coach Bob Stoops always used to say when OU was securing a place in the controversial BCS Championships in the early 2000s — the Sooners played in four of them — “We don’t make the rules. we just play by them.”
It’s not so much a matter of how you get there…but what you do with the opportunity once you’re there. That’s what I’m going with in this unprecedented college football season.