Could Oklahoma's defense alone keep it out of the College Football Playoff?
The Sooners sit at No. 5 in this week's college football rankings, but doubts still exist
When the second edition of the 2017 College Football Playoff Rankings came out Tuesday night, Oklahoma being ranked No. 5 wasn't a shock. After all, they just won a shootout at No. 15 Oklahoma State and had a 15-point win at No. 13 Ohio State in their pocket from earlier in the season -- two of the best road wins of the season in the country.
"There's only four teams higher than they are right now," CFP chairman Kirby Hocutt said. "So right now the selection committee thinks Oklahoma is a very talented team that has built an impressive resume with some quality road wins that others in the country don't have at this particular time."
Those last four words roughly translate to ... "The devil is in the details."
Oklahoma has the top offense in the country at 608.2 yards per game (8.57 yards per play), stands third at 45 points per game and boasts a Heisman Trophy front-runner in quarterback Baker Mayfield. It's also ranked 87th nationally in total defense (413.1 yards per game), 88th in defensive yards per play (5.89) and 75th in scoring defense (28.2 points per game).
That imbalance existed last year and was noted by the selection committee as a knock against the Sooners. It's back, and it could cost them yet again.
"We look at Oklahoma as a team," Hocutt said. "We study their complete body of work, their resume, on both sides of the ball, their kicking game. We look at their opponents, how they have won, any losses that may be on the record."
I'm going to stop right there, because there are two parts of that quote that should scare Oklahoma fans: "on both sides of the ball" and "how they have won."
A 62-52 win over Oklahoma State in which the defense gave up 661 yards makes Oklahoma incomplete. An eight-point win over lowly Baylor in which the Bears racked up 523 yards -- 121.7 more than their season average -- makes the Sooners defense scary in all the bad ways.
When asked specifically about the Sooners' defense, Hocutt dodged directly addressing its ineptitude like Peter La Fleur in "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story."
"Offense is very talented," he said. "Score a lot of points. Ya know, their defense got the stops they needed to get last week. So we look at Oklahoma as an entire team. We look at them for a complete body of work."
That's just the problem, though. They don't have a complete body of work because they aren't a complete team at this time.
It's easy to look at the current rankings and assume that, if Oklahoma wins out, it'll be in. After all, either Georgia or Alabama has to lose at least once -- as is the case with Notre Dame or Miami. Oklahoma can hand TCU another loss, and Wisconsin's strength of schedule is in doubt. The Sooners get No. 6 TCU this weekend and could get another highly-ranked team in the resurrection of the Big 12 Championship Game.
Is that enough, though?
Would that enough to hold off, say, a two-loss Auburn that would have to go through No. 1 Georgia this weekend, current No. 2 Alabama at the end of November and then Georgia again in the SEC Championship Game?
Would that be enough to hold of No. 8 and undefeated Wisconsin that plays No. 20 Iowa this weekend and then a Big Ten East champion that, as of right now, would be a top-15 team?
If Oklahoma doesn't show some life defensively, it doesn't sound like it.
The eye test matters. Right now, it seems like the eyes of the selection committee want to see Oklahoma evolve into a complete team.
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