Top 25 playoff teams: Oklahoma

An easy schedule and emergence of Knight give Sooners strong playoff shot

Updated: July 3, 2014, 9:17 PM ET
By Travis Haney | ESPN Insider

Trevor KnightKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesQuarterback Trevor Knight's athleticism could be a game-changer for the Sooners.

From May 27-July 3, Insider's college football experts will preview the season for the 25 teams with the best chance to make the inaugural College Football Playoff, based on Brian Fremeau's post-spring projections. This is the entry for the Oklahoma Sooners.

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Fremeau's projection

Projected finish: 10-2 (7-2)
Chance to make playoff: 53 percent
Chance to win the Big 12: 57 percent
Toughest games: Nov. 8 vs. Baylor (76 percent chance of winning), Nov. 5 at Texas Tech (77 percent), Dec. 6 vs. Oklahoma State (76 percent)


Why they will make the playoff

1. The smoothest title path for a high-end contender

It's difficult to convince me that any team beyond the top two will truly compete for the Big 12 title. Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas are maybes, but they're not on the same tier as Baylor and Oklahoma.

"It's a two-team league," a coach in another conference said.

With that in mind, Oklahoma gets Baylor at home. Advantage, Oklahoma. And the nonconference schedule addition of Tennessee (another game in Norman) is timely while Vols coach Butch Jones continues to fix leaks. On top of that, as I mentioned in the Baylor post, the fact that the Big 12 has no championship game is a playoff plus for the Sooners (or whoever wins the conference title).

I mentioned that a soft schedule could hurt Baylor in the committee's eyes. Oklahoma's isn't much stronger, but would the committee be subject to bias in favor of a brand name like OU?

That idea is more than enough to make Baylor coach Art Briles bristle, but you know the College Football Playoff folks want big names and sizzle for their debut.  

2. Mike Stoops has pumped life into the defense

The numbers don't suggest that Oklahoma's defense has suddenly become elite. The Sooners were not remarkable a year ago in most categories, with the exception of third down defense (34 percent; 18th in the FBS).

Even in what felt like a dominant showing against Alabama, OU allowed 31 points and 500-plus yards. But with that said, there's a physical edge that Stoops has brought in his return to Norman as defensive coordinator.

• Joined ESPN as Insider's national college football writer in April 2012
• Previously wrote for The Oklahoman and The Post and Courier