Are the Sooners Still in the Hunt?

The Sooners rolled into Arlington with high expectations for the start of the 2009 season, and they walked out with some of those expectations having taken a huge hit.

OU's offense got off to a slow start, then junior quarterback Sam Bradford exited the game early after a second quarter shoulder injury, and the Sooners never really could get a solid grip on a game they should have won.

But even though the Brigham Young Cougars pulled off the season's first major upset over the Sooners, here are the top three reasons OU could still achieve all its goals, including a shot at the national championship.

3. It's only the first game
Yes, losing the first game of the year is an awful way to start the season, especially when it's a one point defeat in which there were many failed opportunities to put the game away. But it is exactly what it is, a loss in the first game of the season under a postseason system that has proved time and time again to punish teams that lose later in the season as opposed to those that drop a game throughout the first few weeks of the year. So, there's one reason to be optimistic that the Sooners could still make the national championship.

2. They still slightly control their own destiny
This doesn't seem like it could be true after the Sooners dropped their first game of the season, but think about it. OU gets to play both Texas and Oklahoma State; SEC teams such as Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and LSU will beat each other up; USC and Ohio State play next week, so one of those teams must lose. That's eight teams that are ahead of the Sooners in the national rankings, and teams lose throughout the season. If OU can win and keep winning, they'll undoubtedly climb the ranks as some of these other teams lose.

1. It wasn't a conference loss
I'll go ahead and say it right now, and everyone knows it. If the Sooners could run the table the rest of the way, wins over higher ranked teams like Texas and Oklahoma State, part of a BCS power conference, could outweigh a loss to BYU, who plays in a mid-major conference for that reason. Many of the voters will place greater stock in winning a major conference and working through a brutal conference schedule while remaining undefeated rather than penalizing them for losing a tough out-of-conference match-up the first game of the season. The Big 12 and the SEC are highly regarded as the two best conferences in college football, and if the Sooners were to move along and win the conference with an undefeated mark the rest of the way, it would speak volumes.

Next are the three reasons why a national championship might be out of the realm of possibility.

3. The loss solidifies the BCS argument
For the last few years, mid-major schools, in particular those from the Mountain West Conference last year, have been fighting for a playoff system that will give them a better chance at winning a national championship. The argument really surfaced in 2006 when the Western Athletic Conference's (WAC) Boise State carried a 12-0 record into the Fiesta Bowl against the Sooners and beat OU 43-42, completing a perfect season. Then, last year, Utah, a member of the Mountain West, completed a perfect season after defeating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. And now there's even more reason to argue for the mid-majors' case. BYU, also a member of the Mountain West, defeated OU on a more than OU-favored field. This will fuel the BCS debate, and many voters now could be reluctant to place OU over BYU or Boise State.

2. OU can't lose another game
Let's face it. If the Sooners ran the table this year, it would be very impressive. Games against Texas in Dallas, Oklahoma State at home and Miami, Kansas and Nebraska on the road, just to name a few, all are potential losses on the schedule. And OU might have been able to afford to lose one of those and still slip into the national title game had it not lost to Brigham Young. Now, there's no room for error. Another loss and it goes without saying, the Sooners must wait until 2010 for another shot at a national title.

1. The Sooners must have help
After losing a game and trying to catch up on other teams in the rankings, this is always the hardest part: getting the upsets all to happen. Even if some of the SEC teams lose a game and OU beats every opponent on its schedule throughout the rest of the year, teams like Florida, USC, Ohio State or Penn State could run the table, leaving the Sooners without even a remote chance of making it back near the top. So, OU must control its own business, but they also need a ton of help from other teams.


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