Lincoln Riley says he doesn’t spend a lot of time watching college football games that might impact Oklahoma’s place in the College Football Playoff rankings.
He’ll have plenty of opportunities to change his mind over the next month.
Oklahoma’s got work to do at No. 9 in the committee’s first ranking this season, and will need help from other teams to reach the four-team playoff in January.
One-loss Pac-12 teams No. 7 Oregon and No. 8 Utah State are both ahead of OU (7-1), which has its lowest initial ranking since being No. 14 in Week 9 of 2016.
The Sooners’ non-conference opponents include FCS team South Dakota, as well as UCLA and Houston — those teams are a combined 10-17.
That isn’t exactly what kept Utah and Oregon ahead, however, according to CFP committee chairman and Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens.
“We don’t slice it that way,” Mullens said. “We’re looking at full body of work and the non-conference is a piece of that.”
Mullens must recuse himself when members discuss Oregon. He said the committee is “very” aware when a team has an FCS team on its schedule, but called UCLA “improved” and gave OU credit for beating Houston when D’Eriq King was still its quarterback.
K-State’s 48-41 win over OU remains the biggest dent in the Sooners’ resume, but the blow is somewhat weakened with the Wildcats 16th in the initial poll, for now.
Mullens didn’t elaborate on whether OU’s comeback late in the game, trimming a 25-point deficit to 7, helped the Sooners. But he said Riley’s traditionally powerful offense and an improved defense were taken into account.
Atop the rankings are No. 1 Ohio State (8-0), No. 2 LSU (8-0), No. 3 Alabama (8-0), No. 4 Penn State (8-0), No. 5 Clemson (9-0) and No. 6 Georgia (7-1).
Defending national champion Clemson must play its way in, and the possibility exists that three SEC teams could make a strong case for inclusion.
The Sooners will try to find a crevice for themselves somewhere. They’re accustomed to wiggling into the mix, beginning at No. 15 in 2015, No. 5 in 2017 and No. 7 in 2018 before rallying into the final four.
Results across the country must help forge the Sooners’ path. Critical games are on tap this weekend between unbeatens Alabama-LSU and Penn State-Minnesota.
Riley won’t be flipping them on.
The only game with CFP implications that he could remember watching was last year’s Alabama-Georgia SEC championship game, in which, ironically, Jalen Hurts came off the bench and propelled Alabama to victory.
“We’d done all we could at that point. And then you knew that result was going to affect us. We didn’t have another game the next week. If we had another game, I wouldn’t have been watching that game either,” Riley said. “I see the results at the end of the week. Especially if we have an early game, I occasionally flip through some of the other games.
“Until we’ve done all that we can do, none of that stuff matters. I have to do my job the best that I can. Our players have got to do their job the best that they can. If we do that, then we’ll give ourselves a chance to hopefully put ourselves in that conversation.”
This year's semifinals are set for Dec. 28 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.
The national championship will pit the two winners of the semifinals in New Orleans on Jan. 13, 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Riley puts little thought into the first ranking, or any until the last one of the regular season.
“Zero,” Riley said. “Just win. You win games, you get a chance to win your league, you win this league then things take care of themselves.”
The Sooners will need quality victories. Baylor (No. 12) and Oklahoma State (No. 23) are in the first ranking, and staying there would help OU’s cause.
“We’ve got a lot of great opportunities coming up,” Riley said. “We’ve got to take care of ourselves right now and try to win every single game we possibly can. After that, it’s out of our control. We’ve got just got to go win.”
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Iowa State at OU
When: 7 p.m., Saturday
Place: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Records: AP No. 9/Coaches No. 8 OU (7-1, 4-1 Big 12); ISU (5-3, 3-2)
Line: OU (-13.5)
Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7