The Road to Miami and the 2020-21 national championship is underway and Oklahoma football is getting some early love from some of the ESPN college football crew.
The half-hearted 2020 college football season dipped a foot in the water on Saturday with a highly abbreviated schedule. The Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference enter the fray beginning next weekend.
In a year that will surely be accompanied by an asterisk, with only three of the five so-called Power Conferences playing this fall and the other two claiming they will attempt a spring 2021 start because of COVID-19 concerns, some are saying that there will not be a true national champion this year.
Projecting the College Football Playoff field at the beginning of any season is always going to be a moving target, but with fewer teams to choose from this year — as many as nine teams ranked among the top 25 teams in the Preseason Associated Press and Coaches Polls have opted out of fall football — the reduced sample size naturally makes the prediction process a bit easier.
Alabama and Clemson have been on practically everyone’s radar since college football experts began thinking about the 2020 season immediately following the final gun in LSU’s win over Clemson in the 2019 national championship game last January. You can count Ohio State in that grouping, as well, only the Buckeyes won’t be in the final mix because of the Big Ten having elected not to play this fall.
ESPN college football writers Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach have come out with their initial 2020 projections for the College Football Playoff and the New Years Six bowls. Both writers project Oklahoma to face Alabama in the Playoff semifinal game to be played in the Sugar Bowl. (Note: Oklahoma surprised everybody be beating the Crimson Tide by two touchdowns the last time those two teams met in the Sugar Bowl in 2014.)
Pair of ESPN analysts like Oklahoma football to make a 5th College Football Playoff appearance.
Spoiler alert: Neither writer believes the Sooners will make it past the opening game, which is an Albatross that has been hanging around Oklahoma’s neck in all four of its previous Playoff appearances. Another loss on Jan. 1, 2021, would give the Sooners an — OUch! — 0-5 record in Playoff history.
The two teams projected to be Oklahoma’s prime challengers in the Big 12 race, Oklahoma State and Texas, are also projected to appear in one of the four New Year’s Six bowl games, one in the Cotton Bowl Classic and the other in the Fiesta Bowl.
You would logically think that with only three of the five major conferences competing this fall that the champion in each of those conferences would earn an automatic berth in the College Football Playoff, which CFP officials have said will go on as scheduled on New Year’s Day for the semifinal round and Jan. 11 for the championship final.
That would mean that the Big 12 champion, unless somehow the season record is deemed not as worthy as an SEC or ACC runner-up, or perhaps a highly ranked mid-major team, would be one of the four teams competing for the controversial 2020 national championship.
Although the Sooners are expected to receive a serious challenge this season from Oklahoma State and Texas, most of those in the know in college football believe five-time defending conference champion Oklahoma will remain king of the Big 12 until someone proves otherwise.
The Sooners have found their way into the College Playoff in four of the six years that format has been in existence. It might not be the greatest claim to fame in this disjointed college season, but the odds are much higher this go-round as long as Oklahoma lives up to its end of the bargain.