The Oklahoma Sooners, to quote the late great Dennis Green, are who we thought they were.
After allowing 41 points at 0-5 Baylor on Sept. 23, Oklahoma lost 38-31 to 31-point underdog Iowa State in Norman on Saturday. This stunning outcome – and by “stunning,” I mean “not stunning at all” – resulted in a Twitter frenzy, with countless lovers and (haters) of Oklahoma and Ohio State taking to their keyboards and smartphones to proclaim with fake-news certainty how one not-quite-midseason game would affect Oklahoma, Ohio State, the Big 12, the Big Ten, and the College Football Playoff. Basically life as we know it.
This is nothing new in college football, where being a prisoner of the moment isn’t a personal failing; it’s par for the course.
One win, and a program is on top of the world. A force to be reckoned with. Untouchable.
One loss, and a program is utter garbage. A fraud. Exposed.
Especially if that winning program is yours and that losing program is someone else’s.
That’s the rabid, frenzied, blatantly biased lens through which the average fan consumes college football. And then they tweet about it, 140 finger-convulsing characters at a time.
Such was the case Saturday, with countless people letting their biases and allegiances dictate whether Oklahoma’s loss was good or bad for Ohio State. Or the Big 12. Or [insert program or conference here].
Stop. Please stop.
There’s a time and place for stranger-insulting banter and devoid-of-logic “logic.” It’s called “never” and “nowhere.”
Instead of getting swept up in social-media nonsense, I submit to you an alternative. That’s right. Gather round, boys and girls, and listen closely. Uncle Sportswriter Tony is going to let you in on a little secret. Do you really want to know how much Oklahoma’s loss to Iowa State will affect Ohio State and the Big 12 and the Big Ten and the College Football Playoff and life as you know it? Do you?
Okay, I’ll tell you:
Or it might.
We don’t know.
And do you want to know why we don’t know?
Because it’s Week 7.
If you think the Sooners’ loss doomed them, or Ohio State, or anyone, you’re making a lot of assumptions and jumping to a lot of conclusions. I’ve had my doubts about Oklahoma, but for that loss to have a direct impact on the College Football Playoff, at least one of several things has to happen:
1) Oklahoma would have to win out
Why would anyone expect this to happen? Oklahoma would have to beat Texas (3-2) in the Red River Rivalry this Saturday, beat No. 24 Texas Tech (4-1), No. 14 Oklahoma State (4-1), and No. 6 TCU (5-0) in consecutive weeks, and win the Big 12 Championship, which could involve a rematch with TCU on a neutral field. That’s a tall task for any team, let alone one that almost lost to winless Baylor and did lose to a 31-point underdog at home.
There’s also this: Oklahoma has lost at least two games in 15 of the last 16 seasons, including 12 straight. No, what happened in 2002 has no bearing on what will happen in 2017, but if you’re a betting man (or woman), wouldn’t you take the over on 1.5 losses for Oklahoma? Especially given what you’ve seen in recent weeks?
All that said, if the Sooners reel off eight straight wins and are a 12-1 conference champion with a win over Ohio State, they’re almost certainly in the playoff.
2) Ohio State would have to win out
Why would anyone expect this to happen? The Buckeyes, whose best win is, what, at Rutgers, would have to beat four ranked teams – No. 3 Penn State (6-0), No. 21 Michigan State (4-1), No. 17 Michigan (4-1) and likely No. 7 Wisconsin (5-0) – to win the Big Ten Championship. That’s a tall task for any team, let alone one that was utterly embarrassed in its only test (Oklahoma) of the season. Granted, I thought – and still think – that the loss to the Sooners said more about Ohio State’s coaching, play-calling, and quarterback play than it did about Oklahoma being elite – but a loss is a loss is a loss.
All that said, if the Buckeyes reel off seven straight wins and are a 12-1 conference champion with four Top 25 wins, they’re almost certainly in the playoff.
3) The Pac-12 champion would have to be undefeated
Why would anyone expect this to happen? Right now, No. 5 Washington (6-0) and No. 8 Washington State (6-0) are both undefeated. That will change no later than Nov. 25, when these teams square off in Seattle. Does anyone think that Washington, which struggled to beat Rutgers (1-4) and has beaten absolutely no one, is going to go 13-0? Does anyone think that a Mike Leach defense that allowed 44 points to Boise State is going to go 13-0 and win an offense-obsessed conference?
Here’s what I know for sure: The purpose of this column is not to slight Oklahoma, Ohio State, Washington, Washington State, or any program or conference. The purpose of this column is to just say that, well, it’s really hard to go 13-0. Or 12-1. Going 11-2 doesn’t mean you’re a fraud or that you got exposed. It means you’re a really good football team that wasn’t quite good enough to make or win the playoff.
But all the back and forth on social media about whether Oklahoma or Ohio State will make the playoff is a waste of time. It’s not an either-or proposition – not yet, anyway. Both teams could make the playoff. Or both could miss it. We don’t know yet – regardless of what BakerMayfield4Heisman and UrbanMeyer4Life want you to believe.
As things stand now – and again, IT’S WEEK SEVEN – here’s how I see the College Football Playoff shaping up:
The ACC champion (read: Clemson) is in.
The SEC champion – likely Alabama, but possibly Georgia – is in.
The Big Ten champion – as long as it has one loss or fewer – is in.
An undefeated Pac-12 champion (Washington or Washington State) or Big-12 champion (TCU) is in. If both Pac-12 and Big-12 champions are undefeated, both would make the playoff at the expense of a one-loss conference champion, most likely from the Big Ten. If both Pac-12 and Big-12 champions have one loss, well, one of them ain’t making it – and if I had to guess, the Pac-12 would likely be the odd conference out, if for no other reason than this:
In Week 2, while Oklahoma beat Ohio State in Columbus and TCU beat Arkansas in Fayetteville, Washington stayed home and beat up on Montana, 63-7. Sorry, but a non-conference slate of Rutgers, Montana, and Fresno State just isn’t impressive – just as a non-conference slate of Rutgers, Idaho, and Portland State wasn’t impressive in 2016. I didn’t think one-loss Washington was deserving of a playoff spot last year – I would have given Penn State the nod – and unless the Huskies go undefeated, I’ll almost certainly think the same thing in 2017.
But hey, there’s still a long way to go, and a lot of teams have a lot of time to prove me wrong.
In some ways, I kind of hope they do.
Here are my top six teams in America entering Week 7:
1) Clemson (6-0)
2) Alabama (6-0
3) Penn State (6-0)
4) Georgia (6-0)
5) TCU (5-0)
6) Washington State (6-0)
I would ask you to tell me what I got wrong, but if you’re a college football fan, I already know the answer.
Tony Meale is a Chicago-based author, journalist, and content creator who uses words to inform, educate, entertain, and inspire. A Cincinnati native, he has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Louis University and a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio University. He began his career as a high school sports reporter before writing and publishing 2012’s “The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron,” a behind-the-scenes look at the greatest sports story never told. He’s been creating written and spoken content ever since.