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Tramel's ScissorTales: OSU or OU as 12-1 Big 12 champ still viable for playoff berth

Berry Tramel
Oklahoman

The Big 12’s hopes for a team in the College Football Playoff have become quite clear. 

Either OSU or OU must win out, then hope for the best. 

Of course, winning out isn’t easy, especially for the Sooners, who have proven to be far less of a football team than we thought, culminating in a 27-14 loss at Baylor on Saturday. 

It won’t be easy for the Cowboys, either, because that could mean sweeping back-to-back Bedlams, and OSU has beaten its arch-rival only twice in Mike Gundy’s 17 seasons as head coach

But at least the Cowboys are ascending. Their 63-17 rout of Texas Christian was total domination, and respect for OSU nationally is mounting. 

The Monday ScissorTales check in on the NBA Nets' trip to Oklahoma City, offer up a Waco travelblog and look at Lincoln Riley's code of sportsmanship. But we start with the Big 12's College Football Playoff hopes.

The Cowboys figure to be no higher than ninth in the playoff rankings this week, but there’s no reason to focus on all the teams ahead of OSU (or OU). 

The best way to gauge the playoff landscape is through buckets. Someone a few years ago suggested the idea, and it’s exactly right. Don’t think in terms of teams. Think in terms of buckets. Here are the buckets, ranked as I see them: 

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Georgia running back James Cook (4) celebrates a touchdown during a football game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

Bucket 1: Georgia. It’s hard to imagine the unbeaten Bulldogs losing before the Southeastern Conference title game (Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech remain), and it’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs being omitted from the playoff even should they lose to Alabama. Consider Georgia a virtual lock to make the playoff. 

Bucket 2: A 12-1 Big Ten champion. Three Big Ten teams are 9-1. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State. Ohio State hosts Michigan State this week, then plays at Michigan next week. Michigan State hosts Penn State next week. And the winner of the Big Ten East Division advances to a conference championship game, probably against Wisconsin, which is playing very well. If a Big Ten champion checks in at 12-1, a playoff berth is guaranteed. 

Bucket 3: Alabama. The Crimson Tide finishes with Arkansas and (at) Auburn. Win both games, and I see little chance for Bama not miss the playoff. If Alabama upsets Georgia in the SEC title game, the Tide will be the No. 1 seed. But should Bama lose to Georgia, would the committee discard an 11-2 Crimson Tide? Barring a rout in Atlanta, I don’t see it.  

Bucket 4: A 12-1 Oregon. The Ducks still have that September victory at Ohio State, which will trump anything a 12-1 Big 12 champion can offer. But Oregon is not Alabama. Barring total chaos, the Ducks are not getting invited into the four-team playoff with two losses. 

Bucket 5: A 12-1 Big 12 champion. OSU hosts OU on Nov. 27, and the winner gets a quality opponent in the Big 12 Championship Game. Perhaps a top-10 Baylor, or perhaps another Bedlam. So the biggest hurdle for either the Sooners or the Cowboys isn’t convincing the committee of their prowess, it’s getting to 12-1. But get to 12-1, and the Big 12 needs only a little help to make the playoff. 

Bucket 6: A 13-0 Cincinnati. The committee’s early voting is mostly for amusement only, but it’s been quite instructive when it comes to Cincy. The committee is predisposed to vote down a mid-major. A 12-1 Big 12 champion is likely to get in ahead of a 13-0 Cincinnati, even though the Bearcats would have two additional solid victories — Southern Methodist this week, then Houston in the American Conference title game. 

Bucket 7: An 11-1 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have played well since losing at home to Cincinnati. But Notre Dame has three obstacles to climb into the top four. As long as Cincinnati keeps winning, the Irish aren’t likely to challenge for a top-four berth. The committee might disrespect Cincinnati, but not to the point of jumping an unbeaten Bearcats team. Notre Dame would not have a conference championship. And the Irish’s marquee victories would not trump those of a 12-1 Big 12 champion. 

So the situation is not dire for the Big 12. OU’s loss to Baylor hurt, because an unbeaten Sooner squad would have been automatic for the playoff. But a 12-1 Big 12 champion still has an excellent chance. 

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Oklahoma State rises to top of Big 12 power rankings

Here are my weekly Big 12 rankings: 

1. Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1)

Don’t look now, but the Cowboys no longer are winning tight. Three straight blowout victories, over Kansas, West Virginia and Texas Christian. 

2. Baylor (8-2, 5-2)

Football is a funny game. The same Baylor defense that got lit up by TCU quarterback Chandler Morris shut down the Sooners. 

3. Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1)

Bad timing for the Sooners. The defense played a decent game through three quarters at Baylor, but the offense did little.  

4. Iowa State (6-4, 4-3)

The Cyclones have lost at West Virginia and Texas Tech, but somehow still haven’t been eliminated from Big 12 Championship Game consideration. 

5. Kansas State (7-3, 4-3)

The Wildcats have been eliminated from Arlington. They could finish in a tie for second at 6-3 but lose possible tiebreakers. 

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6. Texas Tech (6-4, 3-4) 

The victory over Iowa State is precisely why the Red Raiders fired Matt Wells. Can’t have a quality win like that on the résumé of a coach you want to get rid of. 

7. West Virginia (4-6, 2-5)

The Mountaineers’ hopes for a bowl skyrocketed Saturday night. Despite a WVU loss at Kansas State, the KU-Texas game showed that the Longhorns might be close to quitting. The Mountaineers finish with Texas and Kansas.

8. Texas Christian (4-6, 2-5)

Can TCU sweep its last two games (KU, Iowa State) and become bowl eligible? Not quite as easy as West Virginia’s path. 

9. Texas (4-6, 2-5)

When will it end? The Longhorns keep making news for all the wrong reasons. Football mediocrity. An assistant coach with a famous stripper girlfriend whose pet monkey makes Halloween news. A player who uses social media to release audio of another assistant coach's profanity-laced tirade. Now a home loss to Kansas, which hadn’t won a Big 12 road game since 2008. The bad news never stops. 

10. Kansas (2-8, 1-6)

My favorite part of KU’s 57-56 overtime victory over Texas was immediately after Jayhawk quarterback Jalon Daniels threw the game-winning 2-point conversion pass to non-scholarship fullback Jared Casey, and KU coach Lance Leopold hustled out, trying to wave his celebrating Jayhawks off the field. He seemed to not realize the game was over.   

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Nets paid Thunder the ultimate compliment 

The Brooklyn Netropolitans arrived in town over the weekend and paid the Thunder the ultimate compliment. 

The Nets paid attention. 

Four-game winning streaks will do that. The Thunder’s tank job was on a great track. Then the Thunder went almost two weeks between defeat. 

OKC lost to the Clippers on Nov. 1. Since then, the Thunder has beaten the Lakers, Spurs, Pelicans and Kings. The Thunder took a 5-6 record into their showdown against Brooklyn. 

“OKC won four in a row, I believe,” Nets coach Steve Nash said after a 120-96 victory Sunday night over the Thunder. “That’s a well-coached team that has a terrific player in Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) and a bunch of guys that are trying to make careers for themselves by playing extremely hard and have the freedom to step up and shoot the ball. And if they get on a roll, they can be very difficult. 

“I thought it was professional for our guys to not underestimate them and to give enough persistence for large stretches of the game.” 

The Nets, of course, are a 2014 NBA all-star team. Kevin Durant, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin. Kyrie Irving is on the roster, too, but is sitting out. Something about an aversion to needles. 

Brooklyn is 10-4, the fourth-best record in the NBA. 

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Brooklyn's Blake Griffin (2) reacts after a basket during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Brooklyn Nets at the Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021.

The Nets dominated the game Sunday night, but the Thunder refused to go away. OKC trailed by 20 early in the fourth quarter, but a lineup of Tre Mann, Ty Jerome, Isaiah Roby, Aleksej Pokusevski and Aaron Wiggins — not exactly a 2014 NBA all-star team — rallied the Thunder. And when Jerome nailed a 3-pointer with 5:45 left, the Thunder was within 101-91. 

“Now in the league, it’s any given Sunday,” Durant said. “You can lose any night, to any team, regardless of your record, because the 3-point line is so heavily involved in the game. 

“Teams can stay in it by knocking down 3’s, and if you’re not focused, little stuff matters. Rebounds. Little details matter. Young teams, they're going to go out there and play extremely hard every possession. Try to create possessions for themselves.” 

The Thunder didn’t shoot lights out Sunday night, but with 5:45 left in the game, OKC had made 14 of 42 3-pointers, which by this team’s standard is Steph Curry level. 

Of course, there’s an antidote for a young, hungry, scrappy team. Put Durant in the game. 

That’s what Nash did. Mark Daigneault hurried in his players, too — Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, Josh Giddey, Darius Bazley — but that’s no problem for Durant. 

He hit a running one-hander, then drew a foul from Dort and made two foul shots. It was 105-91 and the game was over again. 

“They had been playing well,” Harden said. “They had won four straight. We didn’t take them very lightly.” 

Harden, Griffin and Aldridge looked like 2014 all-stars. A little past their prime. But Durant had 33 points on 9-of-17 shooting, making 13 of 14 foul shots (and none of the calls were cheap). He had eight rebounds and four assists. What a player. I’ll be writing more about Durant and his return for the Tuesday Oklahoman. 

The New York media asked Nash about Durant’s shoulder, which I guess has been hurting. 

“A little tweak,” Nash said, then he glanced at the box score. “But the ball still goes in the hole. He’s hanging in there. He’s kind of playing through. It’s not terrible.” 

Neither is this Thunder team. And the Nets knew it. 

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Waco Travelblog: Wild times at McLane Stadium 

We stayed in Dallas for our trip to Waco for OU-Texas. It’s the economically-prudent thing to do. 

Hard to get a decent hotel rate in Waco the last decade, with the emergence of Baylor football, plus the explosion of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia brand. 

So as I drove our rented Nissan down Interstate 35 on Saturday morning, OU writer Ryan Aber updated me with Friday night scores from Oklahoma high school football. And it gave us a chance to discuss Oklahoma geography. 

Like this. Boise City played at Maysville on Friday night. I had looked up the mileage distance for the school on the western edge of the Panhandle, to the Garvin County hamlet south of Purcell: 374 miles. It’s less than 300 miles from Norman to Waco. 

Suddenly, 100 miles of I-35 on a Saturday morning didn’t seem so daunting. 

That’s been one of the charms of the Big 12, for OU and OSU. Despite being in the vast Southwest and Plains, Sooner and Cowboy fans have been in a compacted league. Easy drives to Baylor and Texas Tech and the Kansas schools and Texas and Texas Christian. 

That will change for OU when it enters the Southeastern Conference. And Sooner fans took advantage of it Saturday – a lot of crimson in McLane Stadium. Not that they enjoyed themselves; Baylor’s 27-14 victory was dominant, and OU fans had to be discouraged. 

But at least they could get home quick. It’s 174 miles from Waco to the Red River, and you can go through Dallas or Fort Worth on a Saturday evening, so traffic isn’t awful. 

Heck, even traffic in Waco was reasonable, which is newsworthy, because I-35 is being massively overhauled through Waco, and backups are awful. Driving through Austin is better than driving through Waco these days. 

But we sailed through to the stadium, with only a short, minute-or-two slowdown in north Waco. 

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McLane Stadium is a lovely new stadium (this is the Bears’ eighth season to play right on the Brazos). It’s a great post-game setup, too, for the media, with an elevator taking us straight down to the press conferences, though for the visiting teams, there’s a healthy walk around the ground concourse. 

Not that OU is staging post-game press conferences this year. The Sooners still are using Zoom to talk after games. There are advantages and disadvantages to such a setup. It’s impersonal and not nearly as productive; however, it saves all kinds of time. Time matters. 

I don’t have anything to add about the nonsense at the end of the game. Other than to explain the setup at McLane Stadium. 

Baylor has this wonderful tradition of students gathering outside the stadium’s southwest gate, where at an appointed time, they all are led down the ramp and sprint onto the field en masse and form a human tunnel, through which the football team jogs onto the field. 

It’s a cool spectacle and a great tradition. I don’t know how many students are involved. I’d guess a couple of thousand. 

The only way it works is by having the students sit in the first few rows of seats, in this case located right behind the visitor’s bench. It takes a few minutes to get all the students off the field and back into the stands. 

Turns out, it wouldn’t be their only field removal of the day. Such geography lets the students get onto the field quickly, and when Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon took a knee with about 40 seconds left in the game, and the play clock didn’t restart, the game apparently was over. And should have been. 

So here came the students. Don’t blame them. They knew when the game should have ended.  

But Baylor coach Dave Aranda had other ideas. He called timeout with three seconds left but dozens of Baylor students were already on the field, with hundreds more joining every few seconds.  

So we had what he had. Total anarchy. The Sooners pushed their way through the crowd and headed to the locker room. Lincoln Riley went full throttle on referee Kevin Mar, who declared the game was not over. 

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After probably 10 minutes, the field finally was cleared, 11 solitary Sooners returned and lined up as Aranda sent out his field-goal unit not so much to kick the ball through the upright but the Sooners right in the teeth. 

It was a sordid affair, all caused by the mild-mannered Aranda exacting a pound of flesh. Seemed to me it took away, at least outside of Waco, from the monumental quality of Baylor’s day. 

Here are other takeaways from the trip: 

► The drive from Waco back to Dallas – and even during dinner back in Big D – was spent watching and/or following football games on our various devices. 

I watched OSU-Texas Christian, and Texas-Kansas drew the other eyes. Justin Martinez, our newest addition to the OU coverage team, is a Texas grad, so we had extended conversations about the viability of the Longhorns actually losing to the Jayhawks.

We started putting percentages on it. As KU took a 14-point lead, we’d estimate Texas’ chances of winning the game. Still well over 50 for me. 

Modern technology allows you to keep up with football much better than in the old days. Our WiFi went out from time to time, so I missed a few OSU-TCU plays, but I saw most of the game. But such trips fly when you’re following good ballgames. 

► Driving back through Waxahachie, on the southern edge of Greater Dallas, we were pulled over by a Waxahachie peace officer. That’s always a little off-putting – if the highway patrol gets you, those are the breaks, but a city cop on the freeway just doesn’t seem right. 

Turns out, this officer wanted to inform us we had no tail lights. Said it probably was on the switch. And he was right. 

The danged Nissan rental somehow had a setting that would activate the headlights but not the tail lights. If someone can explain that, I’m all ears. The cop just checked out driver’s licenses and the rental agreement, then let us go. Even gave us a card with a phone number, if we wanted to register a complaint about the stop. Uh, no. If anything, we need to call the Waxahachie police department and register a thank-you. 

► For dinner, we stopped off in the historic Bishop Arts District of North Oak Cliff, which is just south of downtown Dallas and the Trinity River.  

I’ve spent very little time south of downtown Dallas. I’ve heard of Oak Cliff my entire life, primarily because of South Oak Cliff, the high school that once was a Texas football power house. 

But North Oak Cliff is a trendy area, and the historic Bishop Arts District is home to more than 60 independent boutiques, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and art galleries. It touts itself as one of Dallas' most unique neighborhoods, with a small-town feel, hidden-gem appeal and close-knit community. 

The Bishop Arts District was the site of Dallas' busiest trolly stop in the 1930s. It has a variety of eclectic shops – still open at 8 p.m. Saturday – and non-chain restaurants. 

We ate at Eno’s Pizza Tavern. We sat outside, for reasons that are unclear to me. There was a 45-minute wait for indoor dining, even though half the tables were open. Outside, a waitress served us immediately. So it didn’t seem to be a staffing issue. 

Oh well. It was a little chilly. Mid-50s. But the pizza, a little foo-foo for my taste but that’s OK, was good, and the people watching was superb, and we had football on our phones. 

We got back to the Marriott Suites and all gathered in a room to watch the end of Texas-Kansas. Amazing. Simply amazing. 

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► En route to Dallas on Friday afternoon, we jumped off I-35 at Purcell and went south to Maysville, then southeast back to Pauls Valley, all to avoid interstate backup, due to construction. How’s that – two Maysville references in one travelblog. 

Anyway, the detour didn’t cost us much time, if any, and it made for a lot more pleasant drive. 

We stopped at Pappadeaux and had dinner in Dallas before even checking in. Justin needed to monitor the OU basketball game, and I had lots of hoops to watch myself. Pappadeaux had tons of empty tables, but we still had to wait about 25 minutes – and that absolutely was a staffing issue. Lack of workers is a real thing, let me tell you. But my grilled seafood platter was fabulous as always. 

Back in the hotel, I tried to watch Thunder/Kings, OU/Texas-San Antonio and OSU-Oakland. 

ESPN Plus got me riled up. Turns out on the Big 12 streaming – Big 12 Now – your options are either watch the game in real time, or wait 48 hours. So I had to check into OSU-Oakland with 16 minutes left in the game. Missed the entire first half. 

I watched first half of OU-UTSA, then bailed, since the Sooners led 33-10. By then, the Thunder game was over, so I could start watching from the start on ballysports.com. I’d rather watch from the beginning whenever I want, but not every enterprise has grasped the new technology. 

I know. First-world problems. 

► The drive home Sunday morning was spent figuring out the Big 12 Championship Game scenarios. And not one of them included point differential.  

I could have told Dave Aranda that on Saturday afternoon. 

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Mailbag: Lincoln Riley & sportsmanship 

Some readers took exception to Riley’s outrage over the final few seconds of the OU-Baylor game Saturday. 

David: “Was surprised Lincoln Riley pulled out the ‘Code of Sportsmanship’ card Saturday in Waco. Has anyone in the media asked him where that code was at the end of his team’s game in Lawrence? Let me reset that situation: Sooners lead 28-23, facing a third-and-3 from the Kansas 4(-yard line) with 42 ticks left on the clock. KU is out of timeouts. What Code of Sportsmanship says ditch the obvious — which universally would call for a victory formation or two to end the game? Riley’s code called for a 4-yard touchdown run. I’ve seen other Big XII fans/media now recall similar ‘going against the Code’ situations during his extremely successful tenure as OU’s head coach. Will anyone in local media bring these to his attention? My guess — probably not, unless he pulls out the card again in upcoming games this season. Your thoughts?” 

Tramel: My thoughts are, through your email and the platform of ScissorTales, we’ve just brought them to Riley’s attention. I can’t argue with your point. You’re right. Kicking the field goal in Waco was unnecessary. Scoring the touchdown at Kansas was unnecessary. 

Aranda kicked the field goal to rub it in. Riley ordered the touchdown to make OU’s résumé look better. I don’t see where either decision is overly virtuous. 

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Classic Flick Pick: “The Maltese Falcon”  

A cast of Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Syndey Greenstreet(!) and Mary Astor. 

Directed by John Huston. 

A plot that provided the first major film noir, a genre that dominated the post-war decade and introduced a mood of pessimism, fatalism and menace.  

How do you miss with those elements? “The Maltese Falcon” didn’t. 

One of the best movies Hollywood made, the 1941 mystery thriller was an instant classic and remains riveting theater 80 years later. 

Based on Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 novel of the same name and built around an unforgettable character in private eye Sam Spade, Bogart plays Sam Spade to the hilt, in Bogey’s typical anti-hero manner. 

Bogart and Huston are as good of an actor/director combination as Hollywood ever experienced, with “The Maltese Falcon” being followed by “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “Key Largo” and “The African Queen.” 

This was Greenstreet’s acting debut, at age 62, and what a treasure. He and Lorre also were mainstays with Bogart in “Casablanca.” 

And “Maltese Falcon” takes a backseat to none of those films. The compelling story centers around Spade and three shady adventurers angling to obtain a jewel-encrusted falcon statuette.“The Maltese Falcon” was nominated for three Academy Awards – best picture, Greenstreet for best supporting actor and Huston for best adapted screenplay. None won — “How Green Was My Valley” won best picture – but “The Maltese Falcon” has won out over time, as a movie for the ages. 

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.