Oklahoma won’t have a chance to correct the mistake with the College Football Playoff committee this time.
The Sooners lost to Baylor 27-14 on Saturday in a matchup of ranked Big 12 teams; the early rankings shakeup in Week 12.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley played quarterback shuffle with Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler, allowed 296 rushing yards and validated the CFP committee’s decision to keep them at No. 8 in the first two sets of rankings.
In past seasons, Oklahoma bounced back from that ill-timed conference loss. The Sooners lost to Iowa State in 2017, Texas in 2018 and Kansas State in 2019. Oklahoma found a way back to the CFP each time by running the table and winning the Big 12 championship.
That won’t be enough in 2021. The Sooners’ loss will drop them — and the Big 12 — near the back of the one-loss line. Cincinnati, a future Big 12 member, now has even more hope out of the American Athletic Conference. The Big Ten trio of Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State does not have to look over their collective shoulders. Even one-loss Notre Dame has a comparable, if not better, CFP case than the Sooners.
Oklahoma’s season-long issues popped up in the loss to the Bears.
Caleb Williams, a freshman phenom, struggled on the road for the second time. Williams finished 6 of 12 for 65 yards and an interception in the first half, and he was benched for Spencer Rattler in the second half for two series. The Sooners’ tandem combined to hit 14 of 25 passes for 182 yards and two INTs. The running game sputtered with 28 carries for 78 yards.
Baylor also hammered Oklahoma with a top-10 rushing attack that averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Abram Smith rushed for 148 yards, and dual-threat quarterback Gerry Bohanon had 107 rushing yards and a pair of TDs. Oklahoma’s defense is questioned on a yearly basis, and this is yet another reference point.
Baylor coach Dave Aranda even kicked a field goal on the final play of the game to bump up his winning margin to 13 and cited the Big 12 tiebreakers afterward.
That appears to be the ceiling for the Sooners for the second straight season. Victories against Iowa State and Oklahoma State would clinch a fifth straight trip to the Big 12 championship game, where the Sooners will get a rematch with one of those teams.
Maybe Oklahoma can correct that mistake with Baylor there. In those three CFP playoff runs under Riley, the Sooners had a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback leading the offenses in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, respectively.
Saturday showed that Williams, who can get to that level, isn’t there yet.
Oklahoma doesn’t have the one-loss forgiveness factor working in its favor, at least not until it goes to the SEC. The Sooners need some serious chaos to get back in the race. They need to fix their quarterback play and run defense even more.
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