Network Notebook: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
BEDLAM IN THE BIG 12...DOES THE WINNER OF OU/OKIE STATE STILL HAVE A CHANCE AT FINAL FOUR?
Even though this coming Saturday's game between #8 Oklahoma and #11 Oklahoma State in Stillwater is still looming very large over the college football landscape, you have to wonder if the winner still has a chance to crash the Final Four!
Both teams are currently 7-1 straight up. Finishing 12-1 straight up with a win in the Big 12 Championship game should certainly be enough to reach the brackets in most seasons. Yet...
*The SEC is virtually guaranteed one spot already with #1 Alabama and #2 Georgia facing manageable schedules the rest of the way, and then EACH OTHER in the SEC title tilt. Somebody's going to win that game. The truth is, BOTH of those teams could reach the Final Four if they stay undefeated until the head-to-head encounter and then have a good game against each other.
*The Big 10 is virtually guaranteed one spot already with #3 Ohio State and #4 Wisconsin facing manageable schedules the rest of the way, and then probably EACH OTHER in the Big 10 title tilt. Somebody's going to win THAT game. It's also possible that both of those teams get in depending on what else happens down the road. Though, it seems less likely here because OSU's margin-for-error is already gone with a loss on the ledger.
*Notre Dame has surged to #5 in the rankings...and has a very good chance of winning out. Should that happen, how would a one-loss Big 12 champion leapfrog them? Possible, but difficult.
And, as of right now, Clemson and Penn State are still ahead of Oklahoma, while Miami and TCU are still ahead of Oklahoma State. Work to be done, AND help needed.
It's helpful to think about which of OU or OSU is most capable of running the table, because that's also going to answer the question of which team is most likely to cover this Saturday's meeting. As we go to press, host Okie State has been bet up to -3.5 from an opener of -3. That tells you that some important money currently sees OSU as the superior team. Home field advantage is usually worth 3 points in college football, particularly in conference rivalry games where visiting players are familiar with the surroundings. If the line is more than three, the home team is superior in the eyes of "the market."
Is that valid? The polls have OU as the superior team. And, winning outright at Ohio State is certainly more impressive than anything Oklahoma State has done. Of course, losing at home to Iowa State is worse than losing at home to TCU!
*Oklahoma is only 1-4 ATS its last five games, with the cover only coming by two points over Texas Tech a few nights ago. They continue to be overrated by the market...which could mean that the line is still too LOW.
*OU has a new head coach who's had trouble getting distance from conference rivals. As bad as the loss to Iowa State was...the second half of the Texas game was pretty bad too. OU players seemed poorly conditioned and easily overpowered as the challenge of that battle took its toll. Visiting Stillwater could be even more tiring because it's going to be a 3.5-hour long shootout with both defenses running up and down the field all night.
*Oklahoma State has revenge off a loss last season...in fact, double revenge off losses the past two seasons.
The market is already taking those factors into account given the early line move. Is there a chance this early move is creating underdog value on the Sooners? In their favor...
*Baker Mayfield is slightly more dynamic than Mason Rudolph at the quarterback position.
Mayfield: 11.1 yards-per-pass-attempt, 23 TD, 3 INT (190 rushing yards)
Rudolph: 10.4 yards-per-pass-attempt, 22 TD, 5 INT (62 rushing yards)
Sure, that may look like splitting hairs. But, it includes a road game at Ohio State...and there's nothing on OSU's schedule that was as difficult. Plus, if the QB position is just a wash (rather than a slight edge to Mayfield)...then taking 3 points or more is going to make sense because a straight up win is possible, as is a garbage time backdoor cover if Okie State is up 8-10 points in the final minutes.
*Oklahoma players will be aware that they're a road underdog. That will put a chip on their shoulder, as it did the only two times its happened in the past three seasons (beating Ohio State 31-16 as a seven-point dog in September, beating Baylor 44-34 as a 2-point underdog back in 2015.)
JIM HURLEY has a few days to figure how he wants to play this one. This weekend is LOADED with great college matchups that will be getting NETWORK's full attention.
#3 Ohio State at Iowa
#6 Clemson at #20 NC State
#7 Penn State at #24 Michigan State
#13 Virginia Tech at #9 Miami
#19 LSU at #1 Alabama
#23 Arizona (and rising fast) at #17 Southern Cal
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