No Huddle: Oklahoma’s Loss To Kansas State Is Better Than The Losses Of Five Past Playoff Teams

Oklahoma lost at Kansas State on Saturday, dropping the Sooners to No. 10 in the latest AP Top 25 poll, and people have thoughts about Oklahoma’s playoff hopes. Like Georgia after its home loss to South Carolina, Oklahoma is neither eliminated from the College Football Playoff nor does it have any margin for error the rest of the season if it wants to compete for a playoff bid.

Any notion that the loss, especially because it was one by seven points on the road to a Kansas State team that now ranks No. 22 in the AP poll, immediately removes Oklahoma from playoff consideration is ridiculous.

The 20 teams that have made the College Football Playoff have included 14 one-loss teams and as of right now, Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas State would rank somewhere in the fat part of the bell curve of those 14 losses in terms of “quality.”

Let’s play a quick game called “Where does that loss rank?”

Below is a list of the 14 one-loss teams that have made the CFP, along with the score, the location of the game (neutral-site games designated by an asterisk) and the opponent’s SP+ ranking – a 1-to-130 FBS ranking system (formerly known was S&P+) based on play-by-play and drive data that measures efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives and turnovers. Since the AP poll stops at 25 teams, this is a way to examine the quality of teams that fall outside of the top 20 percent of FBS programs.

I also included the one-loss teams that are currently ranked in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 – Florida, Oregon, Georgia, Utah and Oklahoma – and listed them in bold and italics.

The list below ranks the 14 one-loss teams, along with this season’s top-10, one-loss teams, from best to worst in terms of their victorious opponent’s SP+ ranking.

Where does that loss rank?

2015 Alabama: 43-37 vs. No. 15 Ole Miss (No. 3 S&P+)

2019 Florida: 42-28 at No. 5 LSU (No. 3 SP+)

2017 Alabama: 26-14 at No. 6 Auburn (No. 8 S&P+)

2016 Washington: 26-13 vs. USC (No. 8 S&P+)

2017 Georgia: 40-17 at No. 10 Auburn (No. 8 S&P+)

2019 Oregon: 27-21 vs. No. 16 Auburn* (No. 10 SP+)

2016 Ohio State: 24-21 at Penn State (No. 11 S&P+)

2014 Alabama: 23-17 at No. 11 Ole Miss (No. 14 S&P+)

2016 Clemson: 43-42 vs. Pitt (No. 23 S&P+)

2019 Utah: 30-23 at USC (No. 26 SP+)

2018 Oklahoma: 48-45 vs. Texas* (No. 32 S&P+)

2015 Michigan State: 39-38 at Nebraska (No. 33 S&P+)

2019 Oklahoma: 48-41 at Kansas State (No. 34 SP+)

2019 Georgia: 20-17 vs. South Carolina (No. 36 SP+)

2017 Oklahoma: 38-31 vs. Iowa State (No. 44 S&P+)

2014 Ohio State: 35-21 vs. Virginia Tech (No. 45 S&P+)

2014 Oregon: 31-24 vs. Arizona (No. 46 S&P+)

2017 Clemson: 27-24 at Syracuse (No. 56 S&P+)

2015 Oklahoma: 24-17 vs. Texas* (No. 62 S&P+)


While you could argue in circles about the difference between, say, a seven-point loss on the road to a top-40 team (Oklahoma) and a three-point home loss in double overtime to a top-40 team (Georgia), there have been five teams that have made the playoff with a loss to a team that’s objectively worse than Kansas State or South Carolina are through Week 9.

For what it’s worth, if Florida were to run the table, the Gators’ loss at LSU would be almost as good as any loss suffered by a team that has made the playoff. Oregon’s six-point, neutral-site loss to an Auburn team that currently ranks in the top 10 of the SP+ rankings and No. 11 in the AP poll is probably in a similar category.

A deep dive into LSU’s quick passing game against Auburn

After beating Auburn 23-20 on Saturday, LSU is ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll – for the first time since the AP poll that came out on December 5, 2011 – and the Tigers have a realistic shot at earning the top ranking when the 2019 College Football Playoff rankings debut after Week 10.

LSU has appeared in the CFP rankings more than any other program that hasn’t made the playoff and they have the Heisman Trophy frontrunner in quarterback Joe Burrow, who threw for 321 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Auburn, while also running for a touchdown.

It was Burrow’s lowest passing efficiency rating of the season (143.5) and the fewest number of passing touchdowns he’s thrown for in a game since November 10 of last season, which actually bodes well for his Heisman hopes if Week 9 remains his low mark for his 2019 campaign.

Auburn held Burrow to his lowest yards-per-attempt average of the season (7.64 yards) but he was still able to complete a high percentage of his passes (76.2%) thanks to his ability to get the ball out quickly to his receivers on slant routes and screen passes.

From snap to throw, Burrow’s average pass attempt took 2.45 seconds and the average depth of his intended targets (in relation to the line of scrimmage) was 6.69 yards downfield, including 26 passes intended for a target that was five yards past the line of scrimmage or closer.

Of Burrow’s first 12 throws, 10 were short of the first down line, including to receivers who were 13, eight, three, 15, one, 10, 13, 10, 12 and five yards shy of a first down.

But LSU opened up the playbook as the game progressed.

Pass attempts Nos. 13-17 were intended for targets that were one, nine, five, 13 and 10 yards past the first down line.

Here’s a look at Burrow’s production based on how quickly he got rid of the ball.

Time From Snap To Throw Attempts Completions Completion % Y/A
Less than 2 seconds 14 13 92.8% 6.43
Between 2 and 3 seconds 18 12 66.7% 7.78
Between 3 and 5 seconds 7 6 85.7% 12.14
More than 5 seconds 2 1 50.0% 6.00


Burrow was sacked just three times by Auburn’s stout defensive front and regardless of the number of defensive players the Tigers assigned to pressure Burrow, he completed a high percentage of his throws.

Number of Pass Rushers Attempts Completions Completion % Y/A First Downs
Three 5 4 80.0% 4.40 1
Four 29 23 79.3% 7.48 10
Five 7 5 71.4% 9.43 3


1st & 10

  1. People have thoughts on the Rutgers football opening and boy do they have a lot of them. First, to peel back the curtain a little bit on some of the processes behind my reporting, I file a lot of public records requests and sometimes it results in some pretty cool findings, if I can say so myself. Stories like a behind-the-scenes look at why Southern Miss elected not to consider Art Briles a candidate for its vacant offensive coordinator position last offseason and the Pac-12 internally admitting that other regions of the country having more interest and resources in paying student-athletes if the NCAA allows name, image and likeness payments. So after Rutgers fired Chris Ash in late September, I filed a public records request to get a sense of who Rutgers fans want to be the Scarlet Knights’ next head coach. If I was lucky, I might see who some big-money boosters were pushing for, if Rutgers’ brass was leaning towards a certain candidate or if any agents had reached out about the opening on behalf of coaches who are currently working at other schools. However, those potential findings will have to be put on hold because my request, which asked for emails that 1) were sent to/from three members of Rutgers’ leadership 2) contained one of five specified keywords 3) during a three-day span (a very specific request, as you’re taught in journalism school), resulted in 416 (!) pages of emails that fit that criteria, according to the school. A request of that size comes with a pretty hefty financial cost so I went back to the drawing board in hopes of minimizing the scope of the request without losing the substance. Rutgers is one of the worst Power Five jobs in the country, especially when you consider it competes in potentially the toughest division in college football with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State, plus two other schools – Indiana and Maryland – that have been ranked in either the top 25 of the AP poll or SP+ rankings this season. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t significant interest among its fan base, and potentially up-and-coming coaches too.
  2. Sideline reporters have a tough job because they’re judged off of how they perform in 15 to 30-second segments. Imagine if your job – whatever it may be – boiled down to how you performed in a series of small moments that added up to maybe five minutes in total over the course of a work week, rather than based on the 40-plus hours per week that you currently work. That’s a lot of pressure, before even considering the high stakes of being on national television, the time constraints of live TV or the challenge of getting a good soundbite out of a head coach whose team just underperformed for the last 30 minutes. If you stayed up late Saturday night, then you saw Washington State Coach Mike Leach run off the field at halftime after delivering a four-word answer (“Running to the football”) when asked by ESPN’s Molly McGrath what his defense was doing well against Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. And Leach is someone who has spent minutes in a press conference thoughtfully considering which Pac-12 mascot would win in a battle royale. So sideline reporters are already behind the eight-ball. But with that being said, it seems like it’s a waste of a question to ask a player or coach how confident he (or his team) is playing, or what the ceiling is of his team. It’s unlikely that any college football player or coach will answer that they’re anything less than The Most Confident or that their team can’t compete for a conference title or national championship. There’s an old adage that the only bad question is one that you already know the answer to, so if you know how a player or coach is going to answer a question about their confidence/momentum/ceiling, why ask it? This Deshaun Watson answer to a question in a post-game press conference in September is the gold standard for public athlete interviews, as far as I’m concerned, but it’s also unrealistic to expect this kind of patience and explanation from athletes and coaches on a weekly basis. I really liked the question ESPN’s Maria Taylor asked Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly at halftime on Saturday night: “What’s the biggest issue facing your offense right now?” It was simple but relevant and it ceded the floor to Kelly to answer in whatever manner he desired, without making any assumptions or preconceptions about Notre Dame’s play in the half, which can often set coaches off.
  3. Ohio State’s first pass attempt against Wisconsin came with 31 seconds left in the first quarter, after the Buckeyes had run 11 plays that were either a rush attempt or ended in a sack. Meanwhile, Michigan didn’t complete a pass until there was 11:16 left in the second quarter – on the Wolverines’ 23rd offensive play. Could we see a first half in Ann Arbor on November 30 that essentially has a running clock as Ohio State may not feel like it needs to pass often in order to beat Michigan and the Wolverines’ coaching staff may not trust their passing game enough against a Buckeyes defense that currently ranks No. 1 in SP+? Even though Michigan won 45-14 in Week 9, we saw quarterback Shea Patterson throw the football backwards with his left arm (he’s a righty) and luckily for him and Michigan, it bounced out of bounds but it was an inexplicable play for a senior quarterback.
  4. Speaking of Ohio State, what are the chances – both individually and collectively – that Ohio State is the best team in the country, J.K. Dobbins in the best running back in the country and defensive end Chase Young is the best player in the country? Because I thought about all three possibilities on Saturday as Ohio State defeated then-No. 13 Wisconsin 38-7. Honestly, it’s probably a good thing Illinois upset Wisconsin in Week 8 because if not, Saturday’s Big Ten showdown in Columbus would’ve been a complete letdown from an impartial viewer’s perspective.
  5. I honestly respect Minnesota Coach P.J. Fleck openly campaign for ESPN’s College GameDay to go to the Twin Cities for the Week 11 matchup between undefeated No. 5 Penn State and No. 13 Minnesota. Both schools have a bye week in Week 10 so Saturday was Fleck’s last chance to really make his case to ESPN. If you pay close attention to college football, you’re used to hearing sales pitch after sales pitch from coaches, whether you realize it or not. Coaches often rattle off how many freshmen and sophomores they have in order to express how young they are, how many starters they lost in the offseason to show how inexperienced they are, or how many one-score losses they had to show how close they were to a breakthrough season that never materialized. So it’s easy, and understandable, to tune out college coaches when they’re at a podium. But something resonated about Fleck’s impassioned plea that College GameDay can “pick a year, pick a game (to go to Alabama or LSU). You can go to them every game of the season, if you would like. College GameDay’s about unique stories, about unique places, about unique moments. That’s what they say they’re about.” My first No Huddle column of the season stressed the importance (or at least the value and enjoyment) of appreciating the weirdness and minutiae of college football, rather than only focusing on the College Football Playoff. Look, Alabama-LSU should be an incredible game. LSU just claimed the No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 from Alabama by two votes and the two teams’ starting quarterbacks are among the top three Heisman frontrunners. There’s a good chance that I’ll watch every snap of Alabama-LSU without caring much about what else is going on in the world of college football. But even if it projects to be the best regular season game of the season, if not in years, that doesn’t mean that College GameDay and the college football-consuming populace wouldn’t benefit from the show going to the only FBS school in the state of Minnesota for the first time ever.
  6. Speaking of Week 11’s Alabama-LSU game, we need the Crimson Tide to get one of LSU’s votes in next week’s AP Top 25 poll. Currently, LSU has 1,476 points to Alabama’s 1,474, so if LSU loses one point and it goes to Alabama, while neither Ohio State or Clemson jump the two SEC schools, we’d have No. 1 LSU vs. No. 1 Alabama. Once or twice a college football season, you might see two schools receive the same number of votes in the AP poll, which means they have the same ranking for that week, but I’m not aware of two teams ever sharing the No. 1 ranking during the week they play each other.
  7. At first glance, I really thought Oklahoma had legally recovered its onside kick against Kansas State, which would’ve set the Sooners up with great field position in the final two minutes with a chance to tie the game or win it outright with a successful two-point conversion. But Oklahoma was called for illegal touching and despite Lincoln Riley’s protests, the Sooners didn’t get the benefit of the “Forced Touching Disregarded” clause in the rulebook, which states that “A player blocked by an opponent into a free kick is not, while inbounds, deemed to have touched the kick.” If Oklahoma, which fell to No. 10 in the AP poll, fails to make the College Football Playoff as the Big 12 champion with one or two losses, the Kansas State game and that call (or missed call, depending on your viewpoint) will go down as an all-time “What if?” for that fan base.
  8. ESPN’s Mark Sanchez called Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth, who scored three touchdowns in Penn State’s 28-7 win over Michigan State, “Baby Gronk,” which is potentially fitting considering it was Freiermuth’s 21st birthday on Saturday.
  9. I didn’t expect to hear ESPN’s Chris Fowler recite the lyrics of Eminem’s “Business” during the Michigan-Notre Dame broadcast on Saturday.
  10. ESPN showed a graphic during the Penn State-Michigan State game that said the Spartans hadn’t scored since October 5. Yesterday was October 26. There was a bye week in there but still, what a graphic.


MORE: Which Schools Have Appeared The Most In The College Football Playoff Rankings?