Oklahoma football: What if OU was in SEC in 2021 season?

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 28: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners scrambles with the ball during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against the LSU Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 28: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners scrambles with the ball during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against the LSU Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

We’re still members of the Big 12, Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley said last month at Big 12 Media Days, and that’s where are focus will be for the upcoming season.

Asked his initial reaction to learning that Oklahoma was going to become part of the SEC, Riley said:

"“I think for the future, it’s going to be exciting,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a positive thing for this university, a positive thing for this athletic department, our athletes, our coaches, everybody.“So it’s exciting to think about, but I guess for me it is tempered because of the task at hand right now.”"

That task is winning a seventh straight Big 12 championship, and this group of Sooners is loaded with as much depth, experience and talent as any Oklahoma team in any of its previous national championship seasons.

Ranked No. 2 in the 2021 Preseason Associated Press Top 25 and No. 3 in the Preseason Coaches Poll, the Sooners are obviously the class of the Big 12 — although the Iowa State Cyclones might take exception to that this season.

Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz and athletic director Joe Castiglione insist that OU has every intention of fulfilling its obligation under the existing Big 12 grant of media rights agreement. That agreement does not expire until June 30, 2025. But no one who follows or covers Big 12 sports believes that will actually happen.

The two leading theories are: 1) the Big 12 will dissolve before then, with the remaining teams finding new homes, or 2) Oklahoma and Texas will agree to satisfy the financial exit penalty (which could be as much as $150 million combined) and leave a couple of years early for the SEC. Regardless, no one is buying the idea that Oklahoma and Texas will hang around the Big 12 for four more years.

With all this as backdrop — plus the growing body of public opinion that things will be much different for Oklahoma and Texas, and not necessarily in a good way, once they become part of the all-powerful and highly competitive SEC —  some folks have started to wonder what the SEC would look like if the Sooners and Longhorns were competing in the SEC this season.

If you are an Oklahoma fan, it surely makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck to hear the annoying exhortations of SEC faithful about how the Sooners will always be a notch below the Alabamas, Georgias, LSUs and even the Floridas of the college football world.

The reality is, outside of the College Football Playoff, the Sooners have fared well against teams from the SEC. OU is 0-3 versus the SEC in CFP appearances, with losses to Georgia, Alabama and LSU.  Excluding the time Missouri and Texas A&M were part of the same conference with Oklahoma, the Sooners own a 15-10-2 record all-time against teams out of the SEC.

OU has a losing record against LSU (1-2), Georgia (0-1), Ole Miss (0-1) and Texas A&M (0-1) and is 1-1 against Florida, Against everyone else in the SEC, however, Oklahoma owns a winning football record. And that includes an all-time winning record against Missouri (67-24-5) and A&M (19-12).

Paul Myerberg of USA Today Sports recently put together a power ranking of SEC teams heading into the 2021 season with both the Sooners and Longhorns integrated into the mix.
The 1-16 ranking weighs factors such as recent success, current program prestige and the odds of winning the conference championship this season.

To no one’s surprise, Alabama comes out No. 1 in USA Today’s SEC power rankings. Georgia comes in at No. 2. Oklahoma is No. 3. But if you ask me, the Sooners are better than Georgia this season, and both the media representatives who make up the voting panel for the Associated Press Top 25, as well as the 65 coaches who vote in the Coaches Poll share that opinion.

Both the preseason AP Top 25 and the Coaches Poll rank Oklahoma ahead of Georgia. The Bulldogs are No. 5 in both preseason polls.

“With Heisman-winning quarterbacks under center and one of college football’s top offensive gurus at the controls, there’s little doubt the OU offense will step right into the SEC and rank with the best the league has to offer,” Myerberg writes about the Sooners.

What he conveniently fails to mention is that the Sooner defense is not what it once was and should rate right up there with the top SEC defenses this season and for the near future. That’s what truly is going to make this OU team worthy of the best the SEC has to offer.

Oh, and by the way, Texas slots in at No. 7 in Myerberg’s analysis, behind LSU, Texas A&M and Florida.

I’m not so sure Oklahoma’s transition to the SEC won’t be more of a concern for the traditional SEC pigskin powers than the other way around. We’re going to find out, anyway.