Posted: Wednesday November 16, 2011 11:50AM ; Updated: Wednesday November 16, 2011 2:54PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

Oklahoma's BCS title-game odds better than Alabama's; more mail

Story Highlights

Oklahoma's loss to Texas Tech was brutal, but its overall résumé is excellent

Despite losing to Baylor and SMU, TCU could find itself back in the BCS

Plus: Derek Dooley's job security; Collin Klein's challenge; MSU fallout; more

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Despite losing to Texas Tech, Kenny Stills and Oklahoma could earn a BCS title-game berth by upsetting Oklahoma State on Dec. 3.
Despite losing to Texas Tech, Kenny Stills and Oklahoma could earn a BCS title-game berth by upsetting Oklahoma State on Dec. 3.
AP
The Mandel Initiative Podcast
Stewart and Mallory have the Great Rematch Debate and break down the Heisman race. SBNation stats guru Bill Connelly joins the show to talk about Oklahoma State's defense, LSU's biggest threat and more.


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As Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley said after Saturday's Nebraska game, last week was "a week unprecedented in college football history." With hindsight, I admit I didn't fully grasp the enormity of the story or the level of emotion it would stir in readers until after I'd already written the first couple Joe Paterno-related pieces. I struggled to find a tone that lent insight and perspective while still being sensitive to the victims of the horrific crimes at the center of the story. As I soon learned, many people are so angry about this tragedy that they don't want to read anything that isn't also loud and angry.

In a typical week I receive 300-400 e-mails to sort through for the Mailbag. By last Friday I already had nearly 1,000. Of those I read, many were incredibly heartfelt and thought-provoking. Others just wanted Paterno drawn and quartered and called me a bunch of expletives for having the audacity to write anything less inflammatory. As I've said since the day the story broke, this is far more complicated and nuanced than CBS News and others would have you believe. There are 1,000 questions to be asked, not just about Paterno or Mike McQueary, but about bumbling Pennsylvania law-enforcement officials, oblivious Second Mile executives and anyone else who could have put a stop to Jerry Sandusky but failed. And the only people truly qualified to answer them are the subjects themselves.

So while I appreciate all your e-mails (even the mean ones), I don't think the Mailbag -- a generally lighthearted column featuring questions that only require a few paragraphs to answer -- is an appropriate forum for Penn State-related queries. We'll be sticking to football this week, where most of your questions also center around one particular topic: Le BCS.

If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State (which isn't that unlikely), would it get the voter support to rise to No. 2 in the BCS, or is a LSU vs. Alabama/Oregon nearly certain if Oklahoma State loses?
-- James, Arlington, Va.

In the immediate wake of Saturday's Stanford and Boise State losses, I didn't lend much credence to the Oklahoma possibility, presumably for the same reason most of you haven't: That Texas Tech loss was a deal-breaker, right? When I called CollegeBCS.com's Jerry Palm on Sunday to gauge what chance if any he felt Oregon had of eventually jumping Alabama (short answer: none), he surprised me a bit by saying "I think if you see any voter movement, it would be for Oklahoma. ... If Oklahoma wins on that last day, beating the No. 2 team in the country, I don't think people will care that they lost to Texas Tech. I think they'll care they haven't played LSU." After looking into it some more, I believe Palm is right. I also believe the 11-1 Sooners would in fact be more deserving than the 11-1 Tide.

For one thing, Oklahoma would immediately distinguish itself from Alabama in one important way: While the Tide had a chance to beat the No. 1 team in the country at home and lost, OU would have beaten the No. 2 team on the road. But it goes further than that. Oklahoma would have the better overall résumé. Based on the current BCS standings, it would boast road or neutral-site wins over No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 13 Kansas State, No. 22 Baylor, No. 23 Texas and No. 25 Florida State. Alabama would have a home win over No. 6 Arkansas, road wins over No. 21 Penn State and No. 24 Auburn ... and that's it. Oklahoma benefits from the Big 12's round-robin schedule; Alabama, if it fails to reach the SEC championship game, misses the chance to play No. 12 South Carolina or No. 14 Georgia.

Now, do I actually believe Oklahoma is a better team than Alabama? I do not. And a major reason for that is the Texas Tech game. National championship-caliber teams don't generally lose to teams that might not even make a bowl. But are we supposed to judge teams based on one game or 12 games? I believe the latter, and I think most would agree. We assume Alabama has faced a tougher grind than Oklahoma because we're so conditioned to accept SEC supremacy. It's actually quite the opposite. According to Sagarin, the Sooners have played the nation's sixth-toughest schedule, Alabama the 20th. And that disparity will grow after the Tide play Georgia Southern this week.

Having said all that, let's not forget that in its past two games Oklahoma has lost its best running back (Dom Whaley) and its best player (Ryan Broyles). The Sooners might not make it out of Waco this week, much less knock off the No. 2 team in the country.

Just a question: How is Oklahoma's résumé more impressive than Arkansas'? The only team the Razorbacks have lost to is No. 3 Alabama, where OU lost to a horrible Texas Tech program. Is it because of the all important preseason poll that had the Sooners at No. 1?
-- Jamie Smith, Vilonia, Ark.

The preseason No. 1 ranking is certainly a factor. If Oklahoma had started the year No. 13 it probably wouldn't even be in this discussion. It's unfortunate, but true. But I'd say much the same thing about the Oklahoma-Arkansas comparison as I did OU-Alabama. The Razorbacks have a chance to add a game-changing victory over No. 1 LSU to their résumé, but they got blown out by Alabama and have just two wins over current BCS Top 25 teams (South Carolina and Auburn). Both the Razorbacks and Sooners played No. 30 Texas A&M. Beating the Aggies was Arkansas' third-best win to date; by season's end the A&M win might not even crack the Sooners' top five.

And because of the SEC's unique divisional tiebreaker, Arkansas has almost no chance of reaching the SEC championship game (it would need to beat LSU, move ahead of both LSU and Alabama in the BCS standings but hope LSU somehow remained between it and Alabama). Voters have long placed importance on teams winning a conference championship. Unless either gets that opportunity, I don't see how Alabama or Arkansas would be in a different situation than Georgia in 2007, which voters had a chance to move up to No. 2 in the final poll but did not in large part because the Dawgs did not even win their division.

As I did Sunday, I'd like to take a moment now to stop and recognize that Oklahoma State is still undefeated, has been absolutely dominant and has given us no reason to think it will fail to win its last two games. All this other speculation just gives us a way to pass the time before Bedlam.

 
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