No. 7 Oklahoma's playoff outlook looks brighter after Sooners, Bears climb poll

OU’s CeeDee Lamb runs with the ball during the Red River Showdown Oct. 12 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Oklahoma’s College Football Playoff position looks more promising after the committee moved the Sooners to No. 7 in Tuesday’s poll.

The outlook is brighter not only due to OU’s jump, but Baylor’s. The committee pushed the Bears up five spots to No. 9, improving OU’s schedule strength.

“[Baylor] had a dominant win over Texas from beginning to end, but in addition, the wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State continue to improve as well, as those teams win,” CFP committee chairman Rob Mullens said. “Their only loss [was] close, to Oklahoma, who moves up to 7.”

OU beat Baylor without star receiver CeeDee Lamb earlier this month, and the teams will meet again in the Big 12 championship game Dec. 7.

Two more victories for the Sooners (10-1) — who play at No. 21 Oklahoma State this weekend — would give them a fighting chance to crash the playoff’s top-four teams if the right chips fall. The committee could also make an executive decision to jump OU over other one-loss teams, which has precedent in the CFP’s short history.

The teams ahead of the Sooners don’t have an easy road.

No. 6 Utah (10-1) and No. 14 Oregon (9-2) are on a collision course to play in the Pac-12 championship. The Utes have battled perception problems about their schedule, and second loss would be debilitating altogether.

No. 5 Alabama (10-1) is at No. 15 Auburn (8-3) this weekend. No. 4 Georgia (10-1) must play No. 2 LSU in the SEC championship (11-0).

• Murray misses on Butkus: One of linebacker Kenneth Murray’s primary goals was to put himself in the running for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker.

The OU junior fell short, missing the list of six finalists announced this week. He has enjoyed a resurgent year and could opt to enter the NFL Draft if his stock continues to rise.

“Disappointed, hurt. It is what it is,” Murray said Monday. “I’m proud of the fact of the direction this defense is headed. I know it’s not about me. It’s an individual award. I’m a team guy, I’ll always be a team guy. I’m happy with the direction of our defense, happy with the direction our coaches are taking us.”

• Motley eyeing different Bedlam: In 2017 during OU’s game at Stillwater, a young sophomore cornerback was benched in place of a freshman.

That was current senior Parnell Motley, who’s since been a mainstay in the Sooners’ starting lineup. In his return to Boone Pickens Stadium this week, he’s thinking about redemption.

“That’s why I can’t wait to go back to Stillwater because I still got some things to bang on that I didn’t like individually,” Motley said. “Especially the last time I matched up with James Washington. He’s a great receiver, doing great things in the NFL. Man, I’m happy for him, but I think I left some plays out there and definitely I got to finish up my last Bedlam. I didn’t like the way I played [last time].”

• Grinch named Broyles semifinalist: Alex Grinch was named a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant coach.

The 15 semifinalists announced Tuesday include Auburn’s Kevin Steele (defensive coordinator); Baylor’s Phil Snow (defensive coordinator/safeties); Clemson’s Jeff Scott (co-offensive coordinator/WR); Georgia’s Dan Lanning (defensive coordinator/outside LBs); Indiana’s Kalen DeBoer (offensive coordinator/QB); LSU’s Joe Brady (passing game coordinator/WR): Michigan’s Don Brown (defensive coordinator); Minnesota’s Kirk Ciarrocca (offensive coordinator/QB); Navy’s Brian Newberry (defensive coordinator/safeties); Ohio State’s Jeff Hafley (Co-defensive coordinator/secondary); Oregon’s Andy Avalos (defensive coordinator); SMU’s Rhett Lashlee (offensive coordinator/QB); Wisconsin’s Jim Leonhard (defensive coordinator); and Utah’s Morgan Scalley (defensive coordinator/safeties).

Interestingly, Hafley replaced Grinch at Ohio State last offseason when Grinch was hired at OU to take over a scuffling defensive culture.

Since, Grinch has raised most of the Sooners’ numbers and re-instilled life into a unit that had lost its way.

OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh was a semifinalist for the award last year and a finalist in 2017. OU coach Lincoln Riley won the award in 2015 as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator.

Former Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley won the 2018 award.

This year’s will be handed out Dec. 10 at an award ceremony in Little Rock, Arkansas. Five finalists will be chosen to attend.

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