Oklahoma strolls into the final stretch of the regular season with momentum matched by few, and the first College Football Playoff poll reflected that.
The Sooners (6-2) have rattled off five consecutive victories, winning by an average margin of 28.4 points, since a 1-2 start. The Playoff committee rewarded OU’s hot streak with a No. 11 ranking in its initial poll.
Gary Barta, University of Iowa athletics director and first-year College Football Playoff committee chair, was asked during a teleconference Tuesday evening how the committee landed on such a high ranking for the Sooners, considering they have two losses.
“The committee really started to talk about the last five games that Oklahoma has played,” Barta said. “During that time they beat No. 17 Texas and then last weekend they beat Oklahoma State. The early losses they had were by a total of 10 points.”
OU’s victories over its rivals should continue to work in its favor as long as both the Longhorns and Cowboys can stay competitive the rest of the way.
The Sooners’ maturation is also benefitting their buzz, specifically the play of quarterback Spencer Rattler, who’s tossed for 2,319 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions.
The committee also acknowledged OU didn’t have defensive end Ronnie Perkins or running back Rhamondre Stevenson, both of whom were suspended, in its losses to Kansas State and Iowa State.
“Spencer Rattler is playing at a level now that I think a lot of people thought he might play at earlier in the season,” Barta said. “I know also the committee does pay attention to who’s available in games, and I think their key running back, Rhamondre Stevenson, and one of their [defensive] ends, Ronnie Perkins, was not available earlier in the year. Those are all the things as the committee placed Oklahoma at 11 that were part of the conversation.”
Even if the Sooners win out, it won’t be easy to sneak back into the College Football Playoff top four as they have in recent years. A two-loss team has yet to make the College Football Playoff.
The Sooners might break that trend if they continue to play at a high level, a few teams in front of them lose and, perhaps most importantly, pick up another resume-building win.
The Sooners would be in the Big 12 championship game if they beat West Virginia on Saturday and Baylor on Dec. 5.
If OU does earn a fourth consecutive Big 12 title game bid, it’s likely to face the winner of No. 13 Iowa State and No. 17 Texas, which meet at 11 a.m. on Friday.
Amid a pandemic, maybe it’s not so far-fetched for the Sooners to be out of the playoff. The committee certainly has accepted this season is not like ones in the past.
“The committee came into this year knowing it was going to be different, knowing that as we were talking the last two days we were comparing teams that had played three games to teams who had played as many as nine,” Barta said. “Certainly that challenge, we knew it coming in, but everybody embraced it, and I think that really made it flow really nicely.”