On a gridiron Saturday in which Oklahoma football took a rare weekend off, four top-10 teams suffered upsets and a couple of other highly ranked teams narrowly escaped the same.
In some ways, that’s as good as an OU win on any Saturday. What it means is the Sooners will probably move back up into the top-10 without having to take the field. What does Saturday’s shakeup among the ranked teams mean for Oklahoma, though, if anything, looking ahead to the second half of the 2018 season?
For one thing, Texas, which escaped several throws into the end zone by Baylor with time running out to preserve a narrow six-point win, is the only remaining Big 12 team without at loss in conference play.
The Longhorns (6-1, 4-0) defeated Oklahoma a week ago in their annual grudge match with the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas sit alone atop the conference standings after sixth-ranked West Virginia fell from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday, losing 30-14 at Iowa State, a team withthat the Sooners defeated 37-27 on the same field one month ago.
Among the other top-10 teams that stumbled on Saturday were No. 2 Georgia, which lost big to No. 13 LSU, No. 7 Penn State, which succumbed to a 21-17 Michigan State come-from-behind victory, and No. 7 Washington, a 30-27 loser to Oregon in overtime. All three top-10 teams were on the road this weekend, as was West Virginia.
Speaking of road contests, that is what the Sooners have immediately ahead of them when they return to action next Saturday at TCU.
Oklahoma will put the nation’s longest active winning streak in true road games on the line next weekend in Ft. Worth. The Sooners have won 17 consecutive true road games. The last time Oklahoma lost a true road game was — wait for it — in 2014, in the same place and against the same school the Sooners will go up against on Saturday, TCU. The Horned Frogs defeated OU 37-33 that day, the only time they have beaten the Sooners as members of the Big 12.
Although Oklahoma owns a 6-1 record against TCU since the Horned Frogs joined the conference in 2012, five of the seven meeting have been decided by seven or fewer points.
The Sooners also will have huge road challenges at Texas Tech on Nov. 3 and at West Virginia Nov. 23, on the final weekend of the regular season. Both of those teams have been putting up offensive numbers on a par with the Sooners. The defining difference may be on the defensive side, where both Tech and West Virginia have appeared stronger this season than the Sooners.
Texas has challenging road games remaining at Oklahoma State in two weeks and at Texas Tech on Nov. 3. In between the Longhorns will host West Virginia in perhaps its biggest test of the year other than the rivalry game with Oklahoma.
Aside from the major road test at Texas, West Virginia’s toughest remaining games appear to be a road game at Oklahoma State on Nov. 17. That game is sandwiched between home dates with TCU on Nov. 10 and the Sooners on Nov. 23.
At this stage, it would appear Oklahoma has the most difficult road to the Big 12 championship game because of the road games the Sooners have remaining. You could also make the argument, however, that OU has played better on the road than it has at home, which is hard to comprehend considering that since 1999 the Sooners have won more conference championships (11) than the number of home losses (10). Five of those home losses have come since the last time Oklahoma was defeated in a true road game (at TCU in 2014).
No question Oklahoma is in a better place today, eight days after suffering its first loss of the season and looking up at two undefeated teams in the Big 12 conference standings. Saturday’s top-10 shake up, most notably Iowa State’s upset of West Virginia, definitely helped the Sooners. But they can’t count on others doing their work for them.
Everything is still up for grabs in the Big 12, and the door is even still ajar for the College Football Playoff if the dominoes continue to fall right for Oklahoma. But the Sooners need to take care of their own business.
No team in the Big 12 appears unbeatable. That’s good news for OU, but also serves as fair warning the Sooners can ill afford any more off weekends, figuratively or literally.
The rest of the season starts next weekend at TCU.