Stoops warming up to playoff system

Tuesday, November 7th 2006, 3:41 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ The idea of a college football playoff system is growing on Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, particularly as he sees teams benefiting from what he perceives as weaker schedules.

Stoops, who previously had been opposed to a playoff, said Tuesday that he's become more open to the idea this season.

``You see more and more some of the valid reasons why maybe it would be good,'' Stoops said. ``I'm not saying I'm for it. I'm on the fence right now.''

Stoops' Sooners face an uphill battle in their quest for a fifth berth in a BCS bowl in seven years. They enter this week ranked 17th in the Bowl Championship Series standings and would need a lot of help to move up far enough to get an at-large berth, considering their final three games are against unranked opponents.

Oklahoma (7-2. 4-1 Big 12 Conference) fell as far as No. 23 in the AP poll after a loss to Texas dropped them to 3-2. Their only prior loss was a controversial one at Oregon. Pac-10 officials ruled after the game that a late onside kick should have been awarded to Oklahoma, which would have been able to run out the clock. Instead, Oregon drove for the go-ahead score and then blocked a potential game-winning field goal to win 34-33.

Stoops doesn't think poll voters have factored in the nature of the loss. The Sooners find themselves ranked No. 17 in this week's AP poll, ahead of only one team with one loss _ No. 18 Wake Forest _ and behind two other two-loss teams, No. 12 LSU and No. 13 Tennessee.

``In the end, everything is slotted by wins and losses. End of story. I knew when it happened that that's how it was going to be. In the end, you are not given any credit for playing a tough schedule or winning in a tight game,'' Stoops said.

``Had they decided that we had the ball or they did it too early and we win by six at Oregon, that's a big deal. The fact that they didn't and we weren't good enough to stop them an extra series, then we're not.''

Stoops suggested that strength of schedule should have more of an influence on who gets a BCS bid. Components rewarding teams for strength of schedule and quality wins were eliminated before the 2004 season because they were deemed redundant as part of computer rankings that make up one-third of the BCS formula.

The Sooners benefited from the BCS system before and after the changes. In 2003, the Sooners' strength of schedule was good enough to keep them in the BCS title game even after losing the Big 12 title game to Kansas State.

The next year, Oklahoma got to play for the national title again when its schedule _ through the computer rankings _ helped keep the Sooners ahead of an undefeated Auburn team.

The main difference this season is that Oklahoma lost to one of those strong nonconference foes, albeit in questionable fashion.

Stoops said he didn't plan to lobby for a BCS bowl ``because they'd tear me apart. You know what that would do.''

``No one's going to change their opinion,'' Stoops said. ``Why do I need to? Everyone knows what the situation is, so obviously they don't care about it.''

Stoops said he expected fewer teams to risk playing tough nonconference games because they're still punished for a loss, no matter the opponent.

``That's where anymore the need for a playoff shows up in those areas. Why should we play Miami next year in the end, or why should they come here to play? Just play four really easy nonconference games,'' Stoops said.

``There's nothing sure, but make sure that you've got your four wins and then you navigate your conference and set yourself up. That's basically what you're rewarded for.''

Stoops said he hadn't considered what kind of playoff system he might favor, and said he's still deciding whether he'd want one at all.

``I didn't call for a playoff system, so don't go putting, `Oh, Bob Stoops, he's complaining about the system,''' Stoops said. ``I brought up some issues that are worth discussing. So don't even go there.

``I'm not in favor of a playoff. I might be by the end of the year, I don't know. All I said is it's worth discussing. I gave some people coffee talk.''