Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State is a giant game every year, especially for college football fans in the Sooner State, but on Saturday considerably more is at stake than in an average year.
Nov 28, 2015; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine dives into the end zone for a touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the second quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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Bragging rights are always at issue, and this year, as in several in the recent past, the regular-season finale between these longtime in-state rivals will decide the Big 12 champion as well as who will be the conference representative in the Sugar Bowl.
It appears that the Big 12 champion will be left out of the College Football Playoff for the second time in the three years the new format has been in place. That may upset a large number of fans, especially those in the state of Oklahoma, where arguably the best two teams in the Big 12 this season reside.
But let’s be realistic for a moment. Big 12 football is not as strong this season as it has been in the past. We’ve already seen what Ohio State, currently the No. 2 team in the Playoff rankings did against Oklahoma – at Oklahoma, no less.
Yes, you could make the argument that this is a different Sooner team at this point in the season than the one back on Sept. 17 (with Dede Westbrook and Samaje Perine, to name just two, not completely healthy and Baker Mayfield not having the complete trust in his receiver packages), but I would bet you that if these same two teams met again now, Ohio State would still prevail…and by 10 points or more. I wouldn’t say the same about Houston, however.
Anything can happen on any given day in college football – we’ve already seen that in spades this season – but under ideal conditions, I don’t believe any Big 12 team belongs on the same field this season with the top-four teams currently in the Playoff rankings, and you could add No. 5 Michigan into that mix.
Oklahoma got whacked pretty good by Clemson in last year’s Playoff (although the Sooners’ actually led at the half; the second half was totally one sided), and that Sooner team was a much more complete group (offense and defense) than this year’s OU team.
To those Oklahoma fans who believe that this year’s Sooner football team is good enough and deserves to be one of the four teams playing for the national championship, all I can say is pull your head
out of the sand and grab a shovel. The 2016 Oklahoma Playoff run was officially pronounced dead at approximately 6:10 p.m. Tuesday evening and is ready for burial
With Colorado jumping over the Sooners in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings, that puts both of the Pac-12 championship teams and both of the Big Ten teams who are playing in the conference championship game this weekend ahead of Oklahoma.
The winner of those two conference championships will clearly finish higher than the Sooners in the final Playoff rankings, which come out this Sunday. With Alabama and Ohio State virtual locks for Playoff spots regardless of what happens this weekend, even a Clemson loss wouldn’t help Oklahoma because Michigan is sitting at No. 5 and ready to recoup its invitation to the New Year’s Eve party at the slightest stumble among the current top four.
This may be the most explosive team offensively that Bob Stoops has had in his 18 seasons at Oklahoma, but while offenses light up the scoreboard and are fun to watch, defense is what wins championships at the national level, and that is a place this year that the Sooners clearly do not belong. And, incidentally, neither does Oklahoma State.
O.K., so a Playoff spot is no longer in the offing. There is still plenty to play for if you’re Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. A Big 12 championship is nothing to stick your nose up at, and to the winner goes a spot in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, a pretty sweet prize if you get left out of the select four teams that will compete for the national championship.
The Sugar Bowl, which will be contested this season on Jan. 3, is one of the New Year’s Six Bowls, considered to be prime postseason assignments. Plus, the Sugar Bowl opponent of the Big 12 champion will be the second-best team in the SEC, likely to be Auburn, which means two high-quality opponents will be matched up in the game, not to mention Big 12 vs. SEC.
So get your head up, all you naysaying Oklahoma Sooner fans, and consider all of the good things that will still come out Bedlam Football 2016. Of course, we’re only talking about the team that wins the game on Saturday.