Oklahoma gets to rest this weekend. Players hope when they return to Norman on Sunday they’ll find out more is at stake in the Dec. 3 finale against No. 10 Oklahoma State than the Big 12 Conference title and a Sugar Bowl berth.
The eighth-ranked Sooners (9-2, 8-0 Big 12) have a path to the College Football Playoff. It’s heavily congested. They are nearly out of time to get into the coveted top four.
Analogies to last season do not apply. The Sooners are a two-loss team this time. Last season’s strong non-conference victory at Tennessee served as siren to help the clear the road. This season’s losses to Houston and Ohio State mean OU is strictly relying on the playoff committee to be impressed with what OU’s done against Big 12 teams. The lack of a conference title game could also be difficult to overcome.
Upset carnage needs to occur this weekend. The seven teams ranked ahead of the Sooners are all in action over the next two days. One plays today — No. 5 Washington. The rest are in action on Saturday.
Here’s a viewing guide for what the Sooners and Cowboys need to turn the Bedlam game at Owen Field into a College Football Playoff quarterfinal.
At 2:30 p.m. today, the Huskies go to No. 23 Washington State. The winner represents the north division in the Pac-12 title game. OU would like to see the Cougars claim the Apple Cup. It would eliminate Washington as a playoff contender. Washington State is too far back to get into the top four.
Top-ranked Alabama hosts No. 13 Auburn at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The Tigers have pulled off some upsets, but this year’s Iron Bowl is at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s highly doubtful the Crimson Tide stumble at this point. Even if it did, Alabama could still stay in the top four. All that seems at stake Saturday is the Crimson Tide’s aura of invincibility.
What happens in the rest of the SEC doesn’t affect the Sooners. Alabama is the lone team ranked in the top 12.
The Big Ten Conference blocks OU’s path like four jack-knifed semis. At least one team will likely get towed out of the weigh Saturday. No. 2 Ohio State hosts No. 3 Michigan at 11 a.m. At 2:30 p.m., No. 6 Wisconsin hosts Minnesota and No. 7 Penn State hosts Michigan State.
Run the scenarios and Michigan toppling the Buckeyes is the best one for the Sooners. It creates an outline where just one Big Ten team will reach the playoff instead of two.
A Michigan win sends it to the Big Ten title game, leaving the Buckeyes a two-loss team that cannot win a conference title. Penn State has the same issue. An Ohio State win means its likely in the playoff even with Penn State claiming the Big Ten East’s berth in the conference title game. The Nittany Lions would then have a chance to secure a spot if it wins the Big Ten crown. The Badgers have to win Saturday and claim the Big Ten title to get in the top four as well. OU needs Michigan or Ohio State to win the Big Ten title.
The Pac-12’s south winner could also block the Sooners’ playoff path. No. 9 Colorado hosts No. 22 Utah. The Buffaloes still trail the Sooners in the playoff ranking. A victory secures Colorado's berth in the Pac-12 title game. That extra data point could be enough to allow Colorado to jump into the final poll’s top four. If it's the Buffaloes and Huskies playing for a conference title, it's highly likely the winner gets in the playoff.
OU is better off with No. 13 USC, which hosts Notre Dame at 2:30 p.m., Saturday earning a berth in that game. It will if the Utes pull off the upset.
The lone ACC game of consequence is a non-conference contents. No. 3 Clemson hosts South Carolina at 6:30 p.m. The Tigers are a heavy favorite, but another loss to unranked team eliminates them from playoff consideration. What it does the following week in the ACC title game won't matter.
Not all these scenarios need to occur for Bedlam’s importance to skyrocket nationally. But if you’re wondering who to root for or against over the next two days, now you have it.
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