Soon­ers rise to fourth in rank­ings

The Oklahoman - - SPORTS - Berry Tramel btramel@ok­la­homan.com

The Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off com­mit­tee loves Clem­son. And the Soon­ers can live with it.

That’s the land­scape af­ter the com­mit­tee’s lat­est rank­ings el­e­vated Clem­son to No. 2, be­hind only Alabama, and moved OU up just one spot, to No. 4, de­spite a 38-20 rout of pre­vi­ously six­thranked TCU.

As far as the Soon­ers are con­cerned, the com­mit­tee rank­ings have be­come FAO. For amuse­ment only.

OU’s re­sume’, a 9-1 record and three vic­to­ries over teams ranked in the top 13, two of them on the road, means the Soon­ers don’t have to worry about the com­mit­tee. Win out, and Ok­la­homa is as­sured of a berth in the four-team play­off.

And that’s a good thing. Be­cause the com­mit­tee seems to still be hold­ing OU’s de­fen­sive trou­bles

against it.

Two weeks ago, com­mit­tee chair­man Kirby Ho­cutt in­di­cated that OU and Clem­son were closely bunched. Since then, the Soon­ers have won at Ok­la­homa State and at home against TCU; both were ranked high at the time and con­tinue to be ranked high. Mean­while, Clem­son has won at North Carolina State and at home to Florida State; the for­mer is ranked, the lat­ter is not. But Clem­son seems to have dis­tanced it­self from the Soon­ers.

“I wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily agree with that state­ment,” said Ho­cutt, the ath­letic di­rec­tor at Texas Tech. “Teams one through five are all close this week and com­pa­ra­ble. I said ear­lier, Ok­la­homa with their three wins (against top-13 teams), their road wins again Ohio State and Ok­la­homa (State), very im­pres­sive.

“I would still say close, not sure that mar­gin has sep­a­rated.

“Lots of de­bate on teams one through five. Specif­i­cally on Ok­la­homa, we talked a lot about the Soon­ers. We talked a lot about their of­fense. It’s the loss to Iowa State that did not al­low Ok­la­homa to rank higher this week.”

Of course, Clem­son also lost, at Syra­cuse. The Tigers trailed the Or­ange when quar­ter­back Kelly Bryant was in­jured and missed the rest of the game. Ho­cutt said Bryant seemed to be hob­bled when that game started and the com­mit­tee con­tin­ues to fac­tor in that in­jury, while OU had no such ad­ver­sity while los­ing to Iowa State.

Ho­cutt said the com­mit­tee was im­pressed with the de­fenses of Clem­son and Mi­ami.

“Two teams that look very sim­i­lar,” Ho­cutt said. “Both are play­ing elite de­fense.”

Ho­cutt said com­mit­tee mem­ber Ty­rone Willing­ham, a for­mer coach at Notre Dame, Stan­ford and Washington, “one of the most dis­ci­plined men I’ve ever been around, made the com­ment watch­ing Mi­ami play­ing de­fense makes him want to wear the turnover chain,” which the Hur­ri­canes have pop­u­lar­ized with their ball hawk­ing de­fense.

“Very close sep­a­ra­tion be­tween those two teams. What gave Clem­son the edge over Mi­ami was the win against Auburn.”

It’s all great de­bate fodder, which can in­fu­ri­ate and puz­zle those of us who fol­low col­lege foot­ball.

But the good news is: It shouldn’t mat­ter. If the Soon­ers can beat Kansas this week, West Vir­ginia next week and win the Big 12 Cham­pi­onship Game on Dec. 2, Ok­la­homa will be in the play­off.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@ok­la­homan.com. He can be heard Mon­day through Fri­day from 4:405:20 p.m. on The Sports An­i­mal ra­dio net­work, in­clud­ing FM-98.1. You can also view his per­son­al­ity page at newsok.com/berry­tramel.

[PHOTO BY STEVE SISNEY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Soon­ers Will John­son, 12, Steven Parker, 10, and Chance Sylvie cel­e­brate a stop dur­ing OU’s 38-20 vic­tory Satur­day over TCU.

[PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Ok­la­homa coach Lincoln Ri­ley waves to fans Satur­day af­ter OU’s 38-20 vic­tory over TCU.

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