Unlike most, this season it has been hard to find positive things to say about Oklahoma football.
Last weekend was a pleasant exception. But here’s something else. For the first time in a month, Oklahoma garnered more votes in the national rankings than the preceding week.
But for the second straight week, despite a thrilling victory over 19th-ranked Texas last weekend, the Sooners remain outside of the top 25. Oklahoma began the season as No. 3 in the country, but back-to-back losses, something that had not happened in over two decades, sent the five-time defending Big 12 champions tumbling like a boulder over the edge of a cliff.
After the loss at home to unranked Kansas State, OU dropped 15 spots, to No. 18, in the Associated Press poll, and the subsequent loss at Iowa State knocked the Sooners completely out of the rankings for the first time since Sept. 26, 2016.
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After the loss to Iowa State, Oklahoma received just 20 votes from the media representatives who make up the AP panel of voters. This week, the Sooner vote tally was up to 71 in the AP poll. OU also gained 24 votes in the Coaches Poll.
Based on the number of votes received, Oklahoma would rank 28th in both major polls this week if they extended out that far.
So the Sooners are beginning to inch their way back into the top-25 rankings, but to continue that climb they are going to have to continue winning, The road ahead won’t be easy, though. They have two more road games this month, at TCU on Oct. 24 and Texas Tech a week later, before returning home to host Kansas on Nov. 7 and No. 7 Oklahoma State two weeks later on Nov. 21.
And while we’re on the subject of national rankings, it’s interesting to note what ESPN’s College Football Power Index says about the current state of Big 12 football. According to the FPI, which is a prospective measure of a team’s strength looking ahead for the remainder of the season, Oklahoma ranks 15th nationally, one spot behind Oklahoma State.
You would expect 3-0 Oklahoma State to be rated higher than the 2-2 Sooners. But by just one spot?
Iowa State and Kansas State, both 3-0 in the Big 12, rank 30th and 34th, respectively, in this week’s FPI. At this stage of the season, the FPI says Iowa State has a 16.6 percent chance of winning the Big 12 and gives Kansas State a 13.6 percent chance. Oklahoma State sits in the driver’s seat, according to the FPI, with a 32.7 percent chance of taking the conference crown away from Oklahoma, which is at 9.9 percent.
Here’s where things really get weird with the FPI projections. The FPI has Texas at No. 11 nationally and lists the Longhorns’ chances of winning the Big 12 this season at 19.3 percent.
Based on the remaining schedule, Oklahoma is probably in better position to get to the conference title game than its Red River rival, and the Sooners also own the tiebreaker over the Longhorns.
Assuming that the Sooners can avoid defeat in their remaining six games — a big if, certainly — they’re going to need some combination of Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Kansas State to lose at least three of their remaining games to claw their way into the Big 12 title game.
The Sooners are used to controlling their own destiny as far as the Big 12 is concerned. Sadly, not this season.