NORMAN — So you’re telling me there’s a chance?
Jim Carey said it in 1994. Oklahoma fans might be wondering the same after the College Football Playoff selection committee dropped its first rankings of the 2023 season Tuesday night.
Three days after the Sooners’ first loss in 2023, OU entered at No. 9 in the committee’s initial Top 25, released on ESPN 69 days before the Jan. 8 national title game at Houston’s NRG Stadium. Ohio State came in at No. 1 in Tuesday rankings followed by No. 2 Georgia, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Florida State as the front runners for the four-team playoff that begins with a pair semifinals on New Year’s Day.
OU’s CFP hopes took a major hit in Saturday’s 38-33 loss to Kansas. What do the initial CFP rankings mean for the Sooners and what do they tell us about OU’s shot at sneaking into the playoff for the first time since 2020?
Where does OU stand through Week 9?
- Ranked 10th in this week’s AP Top 25, OU returned to the CFP rankings for the first time since Dec. 5, 2021 at No. 9. The Sooners landed second among five Big 12 teams in the Top 25, trailing No. 7 Texas (7-1) and ahead of No. 21 Kansas, No. 22 Oklahoma State and No. 23 Kansas State.
- OU’s place at No. 9 gives the Sooners their 47th all-time appearance in the CFP rankings and their highest since Nov. 9, 2021. OU has now appeared in the top 10 of the initial rankings five times since 2014.
- The Sooners spot at No. 9 offers an encouraging signal for how the committee values OU’s first ⅔ of the season in the wake of the Week 9 loss to Kansas. However, the Sooners (7-1) sat fourth among the one-loss teams in Tuesday’s rankings behind No. 6 Oregon, No. 7 Texas and No. 8 Alabama.
- Per ESPN’s Football Power Index, OU has the 40th toughest remaining schedule in the nation with OSU, West Virginia, BYU and TCU over the next four Saturdays.
- Are there resume building wins ahead in front of the Sooners?
Beating the Cowboys in Stillwater Saturday is imperative to OU’s Big 12 title hopes; a win in Stillwater also gives the Sooners a road win over another team ranked in the CFP Top 25. OU’s playoff bid could receive no bigger boost than through a second win over then Longhorns in the Big 12 Championship game rematch of the Oct. 7 epic. It would help if Texas showed up with only its midseason loss to the Sooners on its record.
What do the initial CFP rankings mean for OU?
In one sense, we learned very little about the Sooners’ playoff hopes Tuesday night.
After losing in Lawrence, OU’s path to the CFP in 2023 was going to require the Sooners to run the table through the Big 12 championship, likely with significant help around the country. None of that changed with the committee’s first set of rankings.
In another sense, with many OU fans still stewing in the debacle at Kansas, there can be optimism.
The Sooners’ playoff hopes were wounded massively in losing to the Jayhawks; even an unbeaten run the rest of the way might not be enough to get OU into the four-team field. But there were promising kernels in what CFP chair Boo Corrigan had to say Tuesday night, especially if you close your eyes and start picturing contenders in the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 falling in the month of November.
One particularly encouraging note: the committee, per usual, is weighing head-to-head results heavily in 2023.
“Head to head is really important,” Corrigan, NC State’s fourth-year athletic director, said after the rankings were released. “Texas has that win in Tuscaloosa. Oklahoma makes a great drive to win the game in the Red River Shootout. Factor in Kansas was able to beat Oklahoma. But there are so many other factors to play in.”
That bodes well for the Sooners’ lone loss, especially if Kansas finishes strong. It forecasts even better if OU stays unbeaten from now to the final CFP selection date on Dec. 3 with wins over OSU and Texas.
Yes, indeed — we’re saying there’s a chance.