Riddle me this, if any college football program with a history of winning multiple national championships had won its first three games by an average score of 54-17, would they be ranked outside of the top 5?
No, no they wouldn’t. Don’t believe me?
Penn State beat Pittsburgh 33-14 AT HOME, and yet the historic program – which includes two consensus national championships – sits two or three spots ahead of Oklahoma State. An Oklahoma State team that went ON THE ROAD to beat that same Pitt team, one week later, to the tune of 59-21.
Despite a better outing against a similar opponent, in a more difficult setting, the Cowboys still sit sixth in the AP Poll (two spots behind the Nittany Lions), and seventh in the Coaches Poll (three behind Penn State).
And it’s not like Penn State has played better opponents in its two other nonconference games – a pair of shutouts against Akron, out of the MAC that is coming off a 5-7 record in 2016 and just got railroaded by Iowa State; and Georgia State, out of the Sun Belt where it lost six conference games in 2016, including to South Alabama. PSU has won by an average score of 47-5 – less than a possession in scoring differential with OSU, but not as good of a showing against that common opponent.
Public perception of the Oklahoma State program has stunted the Cowboys in the polls once again, just like in 2011.
And it’s only the name across the chest that is keeping the Cowboys floating behind the perennial powers ahead of them: Alabama (16 claimed national championships), Clemson (2), Oklahoma (7), Penn State (2) and USC (11).
Unwilling to lobby for his team to be in the BCS championship game – at least not until after the final game of the regular season – Mike Gundy may have to be on the offensive earlier if he is to avoid a repeat of the 2011 end of the season poll. Fortunately for him this time, it is not deaf computers making the ultimate decision.
But you have to wonder three weeks in, if coaches and beat writers can’t look past the jerseys, will the College Football Playoff committee be able to?