Big 12 Burnt Ends: Was Oklahoma’s collapse against Kansas State an anomaly or a sign of problems ahead?


If it feels as though no college football blue blood has mastered the art of bed wetting like Oklahoma, you wouldn’t be wrong. The Sooners’ 38-35 loss to Kansas State in Week 4 was a stunner — the undermanned Wildcats came from three touchdowns down to score the final 24 points in the game’s final 17 minutes — but historically speaking, perhaps it wasn’t that stunning. 

Chris Fallica, ESPN’s resident odds fellow for “College GameDay”, shared a noteworthy stat about the Sooners underperforming as big favorites. Going back just over a decade, no team, when favored by at least 20 points, has lost more games than the Sooners. In fact, Oklahoma doubles the next closest teams in that category. 

Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World went a step further by outlining the actual results against the spreads.  

  • 2009: 22.5-point favorite over BYU, lost 14-13
  • 2011: 29-point favorite over Texas Tech, lost 41-38
  • 2014: 20-point favorite over Oklahoma State, lost 38-35 in overtime
  • 2017: 30-point favorite over Iowa State, lost 38-31
  • 2019: 23-point favorite over Kansas State, lost 48-41
  • 2020: 28-point favorite over Kansas State, lost 38-35

If you’re favored big often enough (as Oklahoma is) then you’re bound to lose some head-scratchers now and then because college football is far from predictable. Trying to go unbeaten is like running through a minefield even for the best of teams. Still, the numbers don’t lie. Oklahoma loses as big favorites at least twice as much as anyone else. 

Why? That’s another story. Sometimes, things just happen. For instance: the Sooners lost Heisman-winning quarterback Sam Bradford in the first half against BYU. The Bedlam loss was an intersection of a penalty having the opposite effect and risk/reward meeting Tyreek Hill. Those weren’t always Oklahoma’s best teams, either, as the ’09, ’11, and ’14 Sooners had a combined record of 26-11. Good, but not great. 

Compare that to the three most recent upsets — all with Lincoln Riley as the head coach, and the latter two with Alex Grinch as the defensive coordinator. They were a combination of turnovers (-7), bad defense and disappearing for stretches at a time, either choking away big leads or scrambling to erase a deficit. However, the ’17 and ’19 upsets were also the only regular season losses for the Sooners those years, and they went on to make the College Football Playoff. 

How does that bode for Oklahoma this year coming off its loss to Kansas State for the second straight season? This loss was particularly perplexing since the Wildcats were undermanned with seven starters out. But it’s not like the Sooners of years past only played poorly in one game. Usually, and with a little bit of luck, they had the offensive arsenal to mitigate their shortcomings. 

They might have it again this year, too, but quarterback Spencer Rattler is still clearly learning from some mistakes. The harmony with the offensive line and run game could use some bolstering as well. The defense, again, is prone to giving up chunk yardage. There’s plenty for Riley to work on moving forward. 

Now, you don’t want to overreact and write Oklahoma out of the playoff race. My guess is there will be a lot of surprising results elsewhere due to the sheer number of obstacles programs are overcoming to even field a football team. After all, the defending national champions lost to a Year 1 coach right out of the gate. The struggle bus is going to make a lot of stops this year. The Sooners are susceptible to upsets — but in the same way most teams are in this unprecedented year. 

Power Rankings: Week 5

1. Texas (2-0, LW: 2): Coach Tom Herman said his defense was embarrassed with how they performed against Texas Tech. They’re not wrong. The Longhorns really might have to just outscore a lot of teams this year. Still, a win is a win. And Sam Ehlinger will make plays when this team really needs them. 

2. Oklahoma (1-1, LW: 1): The collapse against K-State was bad, but consider this: after the six big upsets mentioned above, Oklahoma went out and won their next game five times. Think the Sooners bounce back, but they don’t have a home game again until November. 

3. Oklahoma State (2-0, LW: 3): The Cowboys are undefeated and beat West Virginia by two scores, but the last touchdown was only important for wagering purposes. Chuba Hubbard eclipsed 100 yards, but something is … off. LD Brown was the more reliable runner. Having Spencer Sanders banged up doesn’t help, but the Pokes are making this a lot harder than it needs to be. That’s a lot of “buts.” I’m not totally buying this team. 

4. Kansas State (1-1, LW: 7): You don’t walk into Norman, beat the Sooners for the second year in a row and not get a bump — especially since K-State was undermanned. Coach Chris Klieman is the real deal. I’m not sure the Wildcats are a top-echelon Big 12 team yet, but they’ve shown they can beat anyone. Enjoy the W. 

5. Iowa State (1-1, LW: 6): The Cyclones bounced back against TCU. That’s not really a surprise. That Brock Purdy interception might be the worst thing I’ve seen a quarterback do in a while, though. That’s tough to shake. 

6. Baylor (1-0, LW: 5): The Bears finally played a game! Beating up on Kansas at least indicates Baylor won’t take a massive step back. The trip to West Virginia is a more interesting test. There aren’t many programs that have had a tougher transition in 2020 than Baylor. Trestan Ebner is all kinds of fun, too. 

7. TCU (0-1, LW: 4): At least we know Max Duggan was capable of coming off the bench and putting TCU in a position to win. What’s up with the Frogs’ defense, though? Some uncharacteristically big plays were given up after a good start. 

8. Texas Tech (1-1, LW: 9): The Red Raiders have to be sick to their stomach. They had Texas on the ropes and their defense actually played well for most of the second half. They just didn’t have any gas left in the tank. Hangover potential is high traveling to a pumped up Kansas State team. 

9: West Virginia (1-1, LW: 8): I don’t know that West Virginia was ever seriously going to beat Oklahoma State, but it definitely committed enough mistakes to ensure it wouldn’t. The climb continues for coach Neal Brown. 

10: Kansas (0-2, LW: 10): The Jayhawks had 328 yards on offense. Ebner had 272 all purpose yards for Baylor. That tells you pretty much all you need to know. 

Game of the Week

No. 18 Oklahoma at Iowa State: The Cyclones bounced back from their loss to Louisiana and are only about a touchdown dog against the Sooners at home. Now they can hand Oklahoma their second straight loss, something that hasn’t happened for that program in the regular season since Bob Stoops’ debut in 1999. The Cyclones have been a thorn in Oklahoma’s side ever since coach Matt Campbell arrived in Ames. Can the Sooners get right or are they in for another dog fight? I’m particularly interested to see how Rattler responds after his turnover-plagued performance against K-State. 

Player to Watch

West Virginia running back Leddie Brown: He has 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns through two games. That’s 61% of the total yardage he had last year — and he was the Mountaineers’ leading rusher. And he already has more scores. The ground game is clearly better than a year ago despite the inexperience and depth issues. Two things I’m looking for with West Virginia hosting Baylor: can they cut down on the mistakes that hurt them against Oklahoma State, and can Brown help grind this game out. 





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