Were the Big 12 conference rules still the same one year ago as today, I’d say the Sooners have a slim to none chance to make this season’s College Football Playoff.
But the saving grace for the 2017 Sooners: The Big 12 Championship Game. Granted, the Sooners made the College Football Playoff two seasons ago with one loss, but that one loss was to their biggest rival, the Texas Longhorns. While those of us who follow the Big 12 closely know that Matt Campbell is building something in Ames, the loss, nationally, does not sit as well as the Texas loss two years ago.
But the Big 12 Championship is now as important as ever for OU because it gives the Sooners another chance at a great win over a highly-ranked opponent such as TCU, Oklahoma State, or whichever other dark horse finds itself in the Big 12 title discussion.
Considering there are only two Big 12 teams that are 2-0 in conference play (TCU, Texas), it’s entirely possible that their could be a two-loss team in the Big 12 Championship Game. But what Oklahoma would need to do is run the table and beat one-loss TCU in a rematch in Dallas in early December. That’s the best-case scenario for the Sooners.
If you look around the rest of the country, while Michigan was the other top-ten team to fall Saturday, we’re shaping up for a College Football Playoff that could have two teams from the same conference in it for the first time ever.
Why? There are a couple of options. The SEC, which we all know is very mediocre this season, is headed for a collision course between Alabama and Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. They don’t play each other in the regular season, so they could both enter this game undefeated. Are they both as good as we think or is the mediocrity of the SEC helping prop them up? I’m not sure, but I do know lots of folks and power brokers, ESPN included, still get a hard on at the thought of two SEC teams in the College Football Playoff.
If that happens and the Bulldogs hang tough in the title game, the committee may try to justify having both programs in (maybe a rematch in the 1 vs. 4 semifinal?). If Georgia’s final resume included a single loss to the No. 1 team in the country, that would be a pretty darn good resume.
Then there’s the Big Ten, which could have four teams in the discussion in Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Badgers are helped by the fact that they’re coming out of the Big Ten West, which is a joke. Then, there’s the Big Ten East, which could end up as messy as it did last season, when Penn State won the Big Ten, but Ohio State ended up in the College Football Playoff without even winning its division. Michigan needs help, but don’t count the Wolverines out. Michigan State is not a good loss, but it’s a rivalry game, similar to OU’s against Texas two years ago.
So back to the Sooners, whose schedule looks much tougher than it did a month ago. Texas is starting to hit its stride with a thrilling win over Kansas State on Saturday night. The Red River Rivalry is next week, followed by a road trip to Manhattan to face the Wildcats. Then they welcome in a rapidly improving Texas Tech team that is gaining confidence. As the Sooners hit November, they will play their two toughest games yet against Oklahoma State in Stillwater and then TCU at home.
Regardless, another loss and OU is out. Even if the Sooners make the Big 12 championship game with two losses and beat undefeated TCU, they aren’t getting in. A two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff, and the idea that the first team to do that would be a Big 12 team, which is notoriously disrespected nationally, is not a reality.
Baker Mayfield said it best after the loss, “We’ve got to get back to work.”
That’s especially true for this Oklahoma team.