By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer
Oklahoma has rallied from a rough start to the season, and losses by Clemson, Michigan, Washington, Texas A&M and Auburn last Saturday opened up the field for the Sooners to possibly claim one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff if they keep winning. The eighth-ranked Sooners (8-2, 7-0 Big 12) will travel to No. 10 West Virginia (8-1, 5-1) Saturday night with a chance to claim a share of the Big 12 title and remain alive for a second straight playoff berth.
“We’re not looking into that,” Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans said of the playoff. “We see it. Some guys in the back of their mind, maybe. But it doesn’t matter if we don’t handle our business.”
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said he doesn’t worry too much about other results, though he enjoyed Iowa’s 14-13 win over Michigan. He played at Iowa and later became an assistant coach there.
“I’m rooting for the Hawkeyes,” Stoops said. “Absolutely. A big congrats to them. Outside of that, I’m not sitting there with my pompoms out.”
Oklahoma seemingly had no path back to the playoff, but since their early losses to Houston and Ohio State, they have won seven straight. In Big 12 play, the Sooners are averaging 48 points and 591.1 yards per game, both tops in the league.
“I think we have a ton of guys that were real with themselves, a coaching staff that was real with themselves,” offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. “We’ve all taken it upon ourselves individually, as a group, as a team, as a university, to see what we had to get better at. What we were doing bad, what we were doing good — we took them and we went from there.”
The Sooners beat then-No. 25 Baylor 45-24 last Saturday , and West Virginia and Oklahoma State, Oklahoma’s final two opponents, provide opportunities for quality wins late in the season.
“All that matters is what we’ve been doing each and every week,” Stoops said. “We’ll be our best Saturday night. Eight Eastern, seven Central, and we’ll be ready to play our best game. Next week will be a different week.”
Even after the Sooners started winning, a playoff slot wasn’t even a thought after the Sooners gave up 854 yards in a 66-59 win over Texas Tech .
“Only reason I think it (Texas Tech game) was good is we were still able to come out with a win in that game,” Evans said. “We’ve kind of flipped our defense around. It was a good wakeup call for us.”
Since then, Oklahoma has allowed 51 points combined in wins over Kansas, Iowa State and Baylor. The Sooners have risen to No. 3 in the Big 12 in scoring defense and total defense, No. 2 in pass efficiency defense and No. 1 in rushing defense.
“It has been a complete U-turn from that game,” Evans said. “Our intensity, our effort — guys are making more plays. The number one thing is guys are having more fun doing it. Guys are wanting to get back out there each and every Saturday and wanting to get to practice on Monday to get better and to keep it going.”
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