🏈 Sooners have some work to do
The 2021 season's first set of College Football Playoff rankings dropped Tuesday, and the selection committee was not fond of the undefeated Sooners.
✌🏽 Happy Wednesday, friends. Let’s ride.
🤔 Trivia: Oklahoma is tied for the third-most College Football Playoffs appearances nationally with four. Who is the other school with the same number of playoff bids? [Answer in footnotes]
🏆 Playoff rankings
The first College Football Playoff rankings of the season were released Tuesday, and, as strange as this is to type, the 9-0 Sooners have some work to do to get into the final four.
OU was ranked No. 8 by the committee, trailing four teams with at least one loss. The Sooners only have themselves to blame for … *checks notes* … not winning by more.
“Those close calls are seen by the committee,” said Gary Barta, Iowa's athletics director and College Football Playoff selection committee chair, “just like everybody else.”
So, how bad is it?
Short answer: Not bad at all.
The positive: The Sooners are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoff if it wins out. The Sooners could pick up a pair of signature road wins against No. 12 Baylor and No. 11 Oklahoma State in the coming weeks. Iowa State climbing into the top 25 wouldn’t hurt either. The path is there for Oklahoma to punch its ticket. But it’s clear: OU needs to look the part. Lincoln Riley might need some good ol’ fashioned style points.
Worst-case scenario: OU drops a game. The Sooners aren’t getting in with one loss like they have in the past. There’s also the possibility that Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC championship game, securing both of their spots in the final four. That would potentially leave the committee to decide between myriad combinations of undefeated Cincinnati, one-loss Pac-12 champion Oregon, one-loss Big Ten champion Ohio State, undefeated ACC champion Wake Forest and undefeated Big 12 champion Oklahomafor the final two spots. It’s hard to say right now whether or not OU would 100% be one of the two.
There’s also this … OU still has to win out. So, let’s maybe not panic about this quite yet?
How do you feel about the ranking?
🗣 What they said
Barta went deeper on Tuesday’s rankings during a media teleconference. Here were a few OU-related highlights:
On what other data points, aside from advanced metrics and relative scoring, came into consideration for ranking the Sooners No. 8: “A little bit beyond that, just looking at who they've beaten, Kansas State and Texas Tech, both good wins, but the strength of schedule is considered among other things.”
On how much OU’s close calls factored in to their ranking: “Well, the committee sees all those things. First of all, they're 9-0, and so they belong being ranked eighth. They're undefeated, so they get a lot of credit for that. … [Their] defensive struggles throughout the year certainly was discussed.
“The other thing that was discussed is Oklahoma is still trying to find their identity, but certainly when they added Caleb Williams at quarterback, the committee agreed that the offense certainly changed in a positive way, but we may be seeing it impacting the whole team, defense included.
[Eight] is where they're at right now, but that switch in quarterback, I think everybody agreed, it'll be fun to watch from here forward.”
On how an undefeated team like Wake Forest compared to the rest of the teams above it: “It was very close, and a lot of discussion about Oklahoma and Wake Forest. They're both undefeated. Once we started to push them to that point between 8 and 9, which one of those should be ahead of each other. In Wake Forest's case, I think the committee would say that their best win was at Virginia. Their strength of schedule, it's not real strong. It's very similar to Oklahoma's, but when you compare it to some other programs above them, it's not real strong. They don't have a signature win.”
📚 Read options
A lot of good stuff around the OU beat that deserves to be read. Hope you all are having a fantastic bye week.
'That's not right': OU coach Lincoln Riley shares thoughts on recent Big 12 coaching departures [via OU Daily]
Caleb Williams wins Davey O'Brien National Quarterback of the Week Award [via SoonersWire]
College Football Playoff Rankings reactions: Alabama overrated, Oklahoma underrated in first top 25 [via CBS Sports]
'You have to earn those': OU's Lincoln Riley explains why Caleb Williams hasn't spoken to the media [via The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley says he was 'sick' when TCU's Gary Patterson was fired [via SI Sooners]
Riley: OU receiver Theo Wease nearing a return from injury [via Tulsa World]
⏰ On this day
Sixty-five years ago today, top-ranked Oklahoma beat Colorado 27-19. The Sooners' eight-point win was the only game they allowed a team to play within single digits of them over the entire 1956 season. The Sooners, who were crowned national champions that year, finished 10-0, which included six shutout wins and three other victories by 22 points or more.
If only the BCS rankings were still in place.
I understand this is super unlikely, but it’s fun to think about what the committee would do in this situation.
The Sooners rank No. 69 for strength of schedule, according to ESPN's power index. For comparison, Alabama ranks No. 13, Michigan State ranks No. 50, Ohio State ranks No. 74, Cincinnati ranks No. 100 and Michigan ranks No. 44.