It goes against the grain for Oklahoma football fans to root for the Texas Longhorns in any way, shape or form. The mere thought of it borders on sacrilege.
Conventional wisdom tells us that a Texas loss would elevate the No. 8 Sooners back to even with the Longhorns atop the Big 12 standings. And that would be a good outcome, right? In this case, however, that would not be an ideal scenario for Oklahoma.
Right now Texas heads the race for the Big 12 title with a perfect 4-0 record in the conference, and one of those four wins, OU fans are painfully reminded, is over the Sooners.
With two other teams besides Oklahoma sitting on one loss — West Virginia and Texas Tech — heading into this weekend’s games, the Big 12 race is still very much up for grabs, but there is no chance of a Big 12 team making it into the College Football Playoff with two losses.
And that’s why what Texas does from here on out in the 2018 season is more important than what OU does in terms of the Sooners chances of making a return trip to the Playoff and their third in five seasons.
First of all, the Sooners must win out over their next five games, beginning with Kansas State at home this weekend. Any other outcome insofar as Oklahoma is concerned makes the Playoff discussion moot. With two losses, chances are good that the Sooners wouldn’t even be playing for the Big 12 championship. That honor, most likely, would go to Texas and the other conference team that prevails over the Sooners.
But let’s back up a minute. Oklahoma still has difficult road tests left with Texas Tech (next weekend) and at West Virginia on Black Friday (Nov. 23). West Virginia is now 4-1 in the Big 12 after demolishing Baylor 58-14 Thursday night, but the Mountaineers have games remaining with Texas (at Texas on Nov. 3) and at Oklahoma State, plus home dates against TCU (Nov. 10) and OU (Nov. 23).
Texas Tech has a giant three-game stretch beginning this weekend at Iowa State (which handed West Virginia its only loss of the season earlier this month), followed by Oklahoma next weekend and Texas the week thereafter. The Red Raiders get the Sooners and Longhorns at home, however.
Texas, the No. 6 team in the country in this week’s Associated Press poll, is far from out of the woods, as well. The Longhorns are at Oklahoma State this weekend and are only a two and a half point favorite, according to Las Vegas oddsmaker Sportsbook Review. Then comes a trio of games against West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State on successive weekends.
This weekend’s games are important for another reason. Next Tuesday is the day the first College Football Playoff rankings for 2018 come out. After Tuesday, the CFP weekly rankings are all that will matter in the college football world.
The Longhorns’ season-opening loss to Maryland already puts them in some jeopardy concerning the possibility of earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. Texas has won six straight games since then, however. ESPN senior writer Heather Dinich points out that the last time the Longhorns won six consecutive games was in 2013, when the streak was stopped by…Oklahoma State.
Assuming that the Sooners take care of business the rest of the way and win out to secure a spot in the Big 12 Championship — which we’ve pointed out is their only way of making it to the Playoff — a Red River rematch with a higher-ranked Texas is the best case Oklahoma can make to earn a Playoff spot. Otherwise, West Virginia is the only remaining ranked team on OU’s schedule, unlike previous years when the Sooners finished out against two or more ranked teams (2015, 2016 and 2017)..
So that brings us full circle back to our original premise: Any Texas loss in the Longhorns remaining five regular-season games likely would bring the fat lady to center stage as far as Oklahoma’s 2018 College Football Playoff hopes.