Back in early December, the college football world was talking night and day about who should be the fourth team in the College Football Playoff. We heard about Utah, Georgia, Baylor and of course, Oklahoma. Sure enough, things worked out perfectly for the Sooners to get in. Sure, they needed some crazy things to happen such as Utah laying an egg in their conference title game along with Georgia getting blown out by LSU by 27 points in the SEC title game. But when all the dust settled, the only team left standing was the Sooners and on Selection Sunday, they didn’t have to break a sweat.
The Sooners had a very interesting season when you look at their body of work. There weren’t a lot of easy games where they blew out Big 12 opponents left and right. Instead, there was a lot of nail biters that likely drove Oklahoma fans to the brink. I mean, think about it. Five out of their last six games (before the playoff game) were close calls. From the Kansas State loss and the close victories against TCU, Iowa State and Baylor twice. None of those wins came easy but when it was over, there Oklahoma stood at 12-1 as the Big 12 champion. In fact, they were the only one-loss power five conference champion and they were right there in front of the playoff committee for the taking.
Obviously, this game didn’t go the way most people thought it would unless your name is Paul Finebaum, who thinks that the only conference that plays football is the SEC. This game made people like him smile, while it made Sooner fans grimace. From the start, it appeared that Oklahoma was not at the same level as LSU. Sure, the injuries for the Sooners defense (missing Turner-Yell and Perkins, plus Bookie getting ejected) but it was obvious early on that Oklahoma was just another team in LSU’s way.
From the start, Oklahoma went down 7-0 early, but ended up responding with a three-yard touchdown run by Kennedy Brooks to tie the game up at seven. Just as I thought the Sooners could match the momentum of LSU, I was dead wrong. What I saw after that could have been considered a crime in the state of Georgia as the Tigers would stream roll out to a 35-7 lead with nine minutes still to play in the first half. Oklahoma would add another score from Jalen Hurts but when the clock hit zero in the first half, LSU’s Heisman winning quarterback Joe Burrow had 403-yards and seven touchdown passes and still had another two quarters to play as LSU led Oklahoma 49-14.
While the second half didn’t go nearly as bad as the first half, it seemed like LSU took their foot off the gas pedal a bit as both teams ended up scoring 14 points each. Heck, even back true freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler saw a few snaps. When the game finally ended, LSU took care of business giving Oklahoma a knockout punch to remember as they won 63-28.
With the way this game went, Oklahoma was in trouble early on. As LSU’s lead continued to grow, it forced Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts to throw the football and that of course is not what the Sooners want as Jalen finished the game going 15/31 for 217 yards and no passing touchdowns. It was nearly impossible for Oklahoma to be balanced on offense with the score the way it was, and it forced their hand and the Tigers took full advantage of it. As bad as the offense was, the defense was worse as they got torched all game long through the air. Not only did Joe Burrow put on a passing clinic but LSU wide out Justin Jefferson racked up 227 yards and four scores. The Sooners had no answer to slow down the passing game with the banged up secondary and it reared its ugly head in the first half. In fact, it didn’t matter what the Sooners did in the second half because the hole they dug themselves was far too big to climb out of.
Now national writers and talking heads will likely scream, “This is why Oklahoma doesn’t belong in the playoff anymore” until the cows come home, but the fact of the matter is that it didn’t matter who was in this fourth slot. The cold hard truth is that there were three elite teams in college football and whoever was the fourth team in was going to be the odd man out. That man just so happened to be Lincoln Riley and if you are one of those people pounding the table ready to bash Oklahoma, I have some news for you. This Oklahoma team was a few close calls away from being an 8-4 or even a 9-3 team, but somehow found themselves as the last one standing when the playoffs rolled around to take the last spot at the table.
Was Oklahoma the best number four seed to knock off a team like LSU? No but other teams had their shot and blew it. Either way, the Sooners aren’t going anywhere and don’t be shocked in a year from now if they are in the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl. In case you didn’t know, those will be the sites for the 2020-2021 College Football Playoff.
**We now have FREE Big 12 Forums here at Heartland College Sports. Go sign up here and join our conversation! **