Path To The College Football Playoff: Oklahoma Sooners
What do the Oklahoma Sooners have to do to get to the College Football Playoff?
What’s Oklahoma’s path to get to the College Football Playoff?
Along with USC and Penn State, Oklahoma was part of the College Football Playoff Needs To Expand argument.
The Sooners blew it early on against Houston and at home against Ohio State, but they ripped through the rest of the slate with nine straight wins, a second straight Big 12 title, and closed out with a dominant blowout over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.
The 2016 Oklahoma team might really have been better and stronger than the 2015 version that got into the CFP.
The Big 12 is looking solid this year, and a little better from the bottom up, but OU is still going to be the overwhelming favorite to do it again, and now – unlike the last two seasons – there’s going to be a conference championship to add another game into the mix.
There’s controversy, though, and the pressure to keep up the domination after leading the nation in passing efficiency and finishing second in total offense. What’s Oklahoma’s path to the College Football Playoff?
Step One: Get Through The Offseason Without Any More Drama
From star quarterback Baker Mayfield’s arrest on charges of public intoxication and resisting arrest, to the loss of Heisman finalist receiver Dede Westbrook, to the departure of running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, to, oh yeah, the legendary head coach deciding to up and quit, Oklahoma has issues that would crush just about anyone else.
But the defense should be even better with seven starters back – even if the run D needs help up the middle – and the kicking game should be terrific. The expectations will be at a Big 12 Title or Bust level, and more. The Sooners are supposed to get to the CFP, but there can’t be injuries, arrests, or any surprises.
Step Two: Get The Machine Tuned Up vs. UTEP
Last year, Oklahoma’s season wasn’t quite over before it started with a blowout loss to Houston in the opener, but it was close. This time around, the Sooners have it much easier with UTEP coming to Norman to kick things off. Any problems from the offseason, and any concerns with the new parts being put together should go away in a tune-up of a scrimmage to kick the year off in a far more positive way. But, the have to …
Step Three: Beat Ohio State
It’s not a deathblow if OU loses, but a win would be a huge, giant help to the cause. The Sooners can lose in Columbus and roll through the rest of the schedule, go 12-1, and get to the College Football Playoff.
The Buckeyes had control throughout the win in Norman early last season, but this year OU needs to make a big statement that it can win the giant national game again – beating Auburn in the Sugar Bowl was fine, but this would be bigger. Had the Sooners won at home last year and finished 11-1, they probably would’ve ended up in the CFP.
Win, and the Mayfield Heisman campaign should get rolling, and OU should be in everyone’s top three. It would be the statement game to carry the Sooners all season.
Step Four: Maintain Big 12 Focus
Despite the loss of Bob Stoops, and the question marks around Lincoln Riley, the Sooners should be favored in every game the rest of the way after the trip to Columbus, and they need to play with the attitude and execution they had throughout the second half of last season.
That means they can’t get caught up in the Baylor reboot in the beginning of the Matt Rhule era to kick off Big 12 play on the road. They have to get past the fire, emotion, and bluster of the Tom Herman debut in the Red River Rivalry/Shootout against Texas, the danger of going to Kansas State, and the dog days at home against dangerous Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia teams.
But more than ever, if everything goes according to plan, this season the Bedlam game should be even bigger.
Step Five: Beat Oklahoma State
Normally the final game of the Big 12 season, the in-state showdown was moved up – it’s in Stillwater on November 4th – just in case there’s a rematch later in the new version of the Big 12 Championship. Last year it was for the conference title, and this season it should be even more important if the Cowboys are as good as expected.
If this is a fight between the league’s two best teams, the hype should be at just the right level to get the full and undivided attention of the CFP. But even if OU wins, it still has to …
Step Six: Win The Big 12 Championship
Here’s the problem. The Sooners could be dominant all regular season and own the Big 12 again, and it won’t matter without winning the contrived extra game – even though the matter would’ve been solved after a regular season when everyone in the conference plays everyone else.
If Oklahoma goes 13-0 with a Big 12 title, it’s done without any question – it’ll almost certainly be no worse than the No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff. Going 12-1 with a good performance in a loss at Ohio State might do it, too. But 12-0 with a loss in the Big 12 Championship? Probably not, and 11-1 without the extra game would almost certainly be enough to get in.
So … What Are The Chances Oklahoma Gets Into The 2017-2018 College Football Playoff?
It’ll help if the Big 12 is strong.
The Big 12 Championship win won’t matter much in a rematch, but if the conference is nasty in non-conference games, and Oklahoma comes up with a great record in a good year for the league, it should be in at 12-1 with a Big 12 title no matter what.
It might all come down to the Ohio State game. This year’s Oklahoma team is loaded, but the Big 12 is better and there’s almost certainly going to be a slip in a shootout against a TCU, Texas Tech or West Virginia – and those are at home.
What did we learn from Penn State and Washington last year? 12-1, sure. 11-2, nope.
The chances are strong that OU wins a third straight Big 12 title, but the odds of getting into the CFP for the second time in three years are iffy without that win in Columbus.