Oklahoma’s Riley: Sooners have D to win national title
The good people of Oklahoma won’t like this but the best thing for the Sooners, and the entire Big 12, is to miss the College Football Playoff.
No matter how much the Pac-12 stinks to football heaven, the Big 12 needs a stern lesson that defense must be a priority. The only thing that will do it is to miss the playoffs for the third time in five years.
Until this league learns lesson that defense wins it all, it will continue to live at the edge of the discussion of the national title rather than actually winning one.
Just reaching the playoffs cannot be the priority for a Power 5 league.
Ironically, the Sooners’ defense was the difference in their 39-27 win over Texas in the Big 12 title game on Saturday, but do not be seduced by a well-timed safety.
No Big 12 team has demonstrated it has the defense to man up with the elite teams in the nation.
So go ahead and put in Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and Notre Dame into the BcS Plus 2. If you want to throw out Georgia, fine. As much as it makes me sports sick, put in Ohio State.
The Sooners’ overall record of 12-1 should make them a lock to reach the Final Four, but by now we know the selection committee uses whatever numbers to justify a choice in what is not an exercise in analytics, but rather an expensive eyeball test.
“That is a heck of a football team and they have an unbelievable offense,” Texas coach Tom Herman said of OU.
No argument on the offense.
That Kyler Murray has been equal to Baker Mayfield’s performance in 2017 is one of the least appreciated details in this 2018 college football season. Hopefully Murray returns to Norman for one more year rather than pursue baseball.
What Riley has devised and created in replacing Bob Stoops in Norman is remarkable, and fun to watch.
It is also not enough to win the national title.
The Sooners are the only team from the Big 12 to ever reach the CFP, and they are 0-2 in both games. In those playoffs, their defense surrendered 37 points to Clemson in ‘15, and 54 to Georgia in double OT last year.
I asked Riley if he thought his team is playing defense well enough to win a national title.
“Yes. Yes I do,” he said.
“Based on we beat everybody on our schedule,” he said.
The schedule right now includes wins over three ranked teams: Iowa State, West Virginia and Texas. Its non-conference win against UCLA means little because the Bruins under Chip Kelly in Year 1 were bad; the Sooners’ OT win over Army team that finished 9-2 looks more impressive.
“You have to win by one point in these games the last time I checked,” Riley said.
Right again. College football has not figured out a way for a team to win without scoring one more point than its opponent. However, Notre Dame and Texas should be optimistic that such a plan will be in place by 2025.
“I feel like we can score points on people. I feel like we can stop people,” Riley said. “And I feel like, we are gaining traction defensively. I feel like the last couple of weeks we’ve had huge, huge gains and huge moments against dynamic offenses.”
Before Saturday, the Sooners had allowed at least 30 points in six of their previous eight games. In four straight games, they allowed at least 40 points, which includes Kansas. In Norman.
“I don’t think we have played our best yet and I think we’re going to get there,” Riley said. “I know how close we were to it last year to being in the (national title game). And I have every bit of confidence in this team, this offense, this defense and this special teams as I did sitting on this stage last year at this time. I know we can.”
For the upmteenth year, the Oklahoma Sooners are the class of the Big 12 and are the best the league can offer the nation. Not only did they earn the right to flash “Horns Down” unpenalized all over the field on Saturday, they are the best option for the CFP selection committee from the Big 12.
Texas beat them once, while Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and West Virginia gave the Boomer a good scare.
UT had the Sooners nearly beat again on Saturday, until defensive back Tre Brown executed a brilliant blitz to sack Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the endzone for a safety with 8:27 remaining in the game.
Ehlinger never saw him coming. That set up the Sooners for their game-clinching touchdown on their next drive.
The Sooners are again the best of the league, and may yet land another playoff berth against opponents they simply are not good enough to stop.
We’ve seen those matchups and we know how they finish.
The best thing for the Sooners, and the league, is to miss the playoffs so maybe then they will concentrate on the little detail that will win them the national title... defense.