Heading into this weekend’s action, some people still had questions about whether or not Oklahoma belonged in the College Football Playoff. Depending on who you talked to, either Michigan State or Notre Dame (or both) belonged in the field over the Sooners.
After Saturday evening’s throttling of Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Series, it’s clear that OU is in the College Football Playoff.
Forget about what else was going on this weekend: The Sooners’ impressive victory on Saturday was enough to earn a playoff spot even if Notre Dame, Iowa, and Michigan State had won 222-0. Sure, the ‘Pokes were without starting quarterback Mason Rudolph for this contest, but even with a healthy version of Rudolph under center, OU still would have won the game decisively. The dynamic duo of Joe Mixon (14 carries, 136 yards, 2 TD) and Samaje Perine (17 carries, 131 yards, 2 TD) was too much for the Cowboy defense to handle, even though Oklahoma State came into the game allowing just 3.82 yards per carry. Adding in Baker Mayfield’s 11-carry, 77-yard performance, the Sooners ran for 344 yards – the highest total OSU has allowed since Tulsa went for 365 back in 2011.
Likewise, OU was solid on defense. Yes, the Sooners gave up 365 yards through the air, but they still came up with two interceptions, including a pick-six by Jordan Thomas that gave Oklahoma an insurmountable 34-10 lead. The run defense was equally impressive, limiting Oklahoma State to just 132 yards on the ground. While that might not sound like a big deal, it’s worth noting that the Sooner defense posted these numbers against Walsh, who’s better known for his skills as a runner.
More importantly, Oklahoma held the Pokes to just 23 points, which was their lowest total of the season.
It’s tough to argue with those results.
So, what does this “W” mean in the grand scheme of things?
Simply put: it makes Oklahoma a lock for the College Football Playoff. While strength of schedule is such a relative term, the fact of the matter is that the Sooners closed the season with three straight wins over teams ranked in the Selection Committee’s top 25. Even the biggest SEC, Big Ten, or Pac-12 homer would have to concede that pulling off a feat like that is worthy of inclusion in the field. Most teams would kill to have a body of work like that over the course of an entire season, let alone the final three weeks.
It’s also worth noting that OU’s championship will dispel the notion that the league is at a competitive disadvantage because it doesn’t play a conference championship game. Even if all of the favorites win next week, the Sooners will be in the field when it’s announced, rendering that argument invalid.
Keep in mind that the Big 12 Championship Game — when it existed from 1996 through 2010 — knocked out a Bowl Alliance or BCS contender on several occasions.
Texas knocked Nebraska out of the Bowl Alliance’s top bowl game (the Sugar Bowl against Florida State) at the end of the 1996 season.
Texas A&M knocked Kansas State out of the first BCS title game, the Fiesta Bowl, at the end of the 1998 season. Kansas State never did play Tennessee.
Technically, Texas was knocked out of the BCS title game (the Rose Bowl) at the end of the 2001 season, but another Big 12 team, Nebraska, was able to fill that slot against Miami.
In 2007, Oklahoma knocked Missouri out of the BCS National Championship Game.
The absence of a Big 12 Championship Game in 2015 has enabled Oklahoma to avoid the possibility of a loss. This is why OU cannot slip in next week’s rankings. Given the strength of the Sooners’ performance against Oklahoma State, the lack of a Big 12 title game is a benefit, not a hindrance, for Bob Stoops and his team.