Tramel's ScissorTales: OU fans, get ready for Lincoln Riley in the College Football Playoff

Lincoln Riley coached in seven Bedlam football games.

You know the scores well. A sampling: 62-52, 48-47, 58-23, 37-33.

Saturday night, when on Owen Field the Bedlam Series score returned to a 28-13 sense of normalcy, Riley’s new show was on display in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with a Bedlam script.

His Southern Cal Trojans beat UCLA 48-45 in a shootout that did many things, including souring the stomachs of celebrating Sooner fans.

Riley lost the 2021 Bedlam game in Stillwater and less than 12 hours later had jumped the Sooner Schooner to ride side saddle with Tommy Trojan.

Now SC is sprinting towards the College Football Playoff, with a quite-familiar quarterback and a quite-familiar script. Big-time offense, getting hot at the right time of the year.

Loathe Lincoln or despise Lincoln, give him this. The guy can coach football. The guy can develop quarterbacks. The guy can produce offense at stunning levels.

More:What OU football coach Brent Venables said about Sooners' recruiting staff, Texas Tech

Lincoln Riley hugs quarterback Caleb Williams after the Trojans' 48-45 victory over UCLA on Saturday night. MARK J. TERRILL/The Associated Press
Lincoln Riley hugs quarterback Caleb Williams after the Trojans' 48-45 victory over UCLA on Saturday night. MARK J. TERRILL/The Associated Press

Riley’s Trojans are 10-1, ranked fifth nationally and likely will make the playoff by beating Notre Dame on Saturday and winning the Pac-12 Championship Game the next weekend.

Ugh, says the crimson side of Oklahoma.

Riley is persona non grata to the Sooners, for having the audacity to leave one blueblood job for another. A million Oklahomans have cursed Riley, sworn a plague upon his Malibu mansion, declaring that it’s not because Riley left, because of how he left.

But that’s nonsense. It was indeed that he left, and took Caleb Williams with him, as if that roster move wasn’t an automatic.

There are grudges (Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin), there are feuds (Alexander Hamilton/Aaron Burr) and then there is OU fans’ feeling for Lincoln Riley.

But it’s not going to change anything. Riley is going to win at USC. Win big. Maybe not a national championship, but Riley will do the same thing in South Central he did in Norman. Score points and win ballgames in bunches.

The only thing that will stop Riley from winning in LA is the only thing that stopped him from winning in Norman.

Bolting town.

“Great game,” Riley said after beating UCLA in the Rose Bowl. “Iconic type of game. Lived up to the billing.

“College football on the West Coast and here in LA is alive and well. The people that were in the stadium tonight, whether you were a UCLA fan or USC fan, they won’t forget nights like that.”

The Sooners knew many a night like that under Riley. This kind of USC season does not help the mental health of OU fans trying to deal with the Brent Venables rebuild. About 30 minutes before the Trojans survived UCLA, OU got bowl eligible with that 28-13 Bedlam victory.

Williams was spectacular against UCLA. His dramatics of October and November a year ago seem a distant memory, a ship who passed in the night.

He’s the same kind of quarterback; in fact, Williams’ USC numbers are similar to his OU numbers.

Sooners: 64.5% completions; 21/4 touchdown to interception ratio; 169.6 passer rating.

Trojans: 64.9% completions; 33/3(!) TD to interception ratio; 167.6 passer rating.

And Williams was sensational against UCLA: 470 yards on 32-of-43 passing, two touchdowns.

Watching Venables learn the head-coaching ropes and Dillon Gabriel quarterback the OU offense is frustrating for fans who remember the Riley/Williams combo.

Forgetting Riley is not an option. This sport won’t let anyone forget. USC is riding high, and while the Trojans could lose this week or next or both, there won’t be many Riley defeats in LaLa Land.

He’s too good of a coach. Too good at luring elite quarterbacks and making them even better.

If Riley avoids the siren song of the National Football League and sticks around for Big Ten days, USC will prosper.

Have you seen the Big Ten landscape? Except for Ohio State games, Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams will seem like extraterrestrials in the Big Ten. The likes of Iowa and Wisconsin and even Penn State might just lay down their swords.

The Sooners’ only counter to their Riley toxin is success. You can’t go all Aaron Burr and challenge him to a duel. Winning big with Venables is the ticket to mental health, and that will take time, as Riley wins big in Los Angeles.

More:Oklahoma State football rewind: Top players, bowl odds & redshirt tracker

Seven teams in playoff hunt

Seven teams remain in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the four-team field wouldn’t include some combination of Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas Christian, Louisiana State, USC or Clemson.

The losses by Tennessee, a bonafide playoff contender, and North Carolina, a fringe playoff contender, clarified the landscape with two Saturdays left before the selection committee chooses the four teams.

The committee is blessed. Almost all of its decisions will be automatic. The results will determine the field.

Sure, there could be some spirited debate between a 12-1 TCU or 12-1 Clemson or an 11-1 Ohio State-Michigan loser. But the playoff field basically is a pecking order.

Here is how the potential finishes rank.

1. 13-0 Georgia: The Bulldogs will be the No. 1 seed if they win out, against Georgia Tech and LSU.

2. 13-0 Big Ten champion: The Ohio State-Michigan winner, so long as it wins the Big Ten championship game against a West Division weakling, will be no worse than the No. 2 seed.

3. 13-0 TCU: If the Horned Frogs win out against Iowa State and Kansas State or Texas, they will be no worse than the No. 3 seed. An LSU upset of Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game could move up the Frogs.

4. 11-2 LSU: If the Tigers win out, against Texas A&M and Georgia, they’re almost surely in the playoff, even over a 12-1 USC or a 12-1 Clemson.

5. 12-1 Georgia: Georgia seems a lock for the playoff. If the ‘Dawgs fall to 12-1, that means 13-0 Georgia is off the list, so they remain in the top four.

6. 12-1 USC: The Trojans finish with Notre Dame and either Oregon, Washington or Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game. One simple act — Georgia beating LSU — removes two of the potentials above the Trojans, so USC should make the playoff by winning out.

7. 11-1 Ohio State-Michigan loser: The Buckeye-Wolverine loser will be sitting around on Championship Week, hoping for some help, which could come.

8. 12-1 Clemson: Would the committee take an 11-1 Big Ten runner-up over a 12-1 Atlantic Coast Conference champion? I say yes. Clemson finishes with South Carolina and North Carolina.

9. 12-1 Big 12 champ: This is possible only if TCU loses to Iowa State on Saturday. The last-place Cyclones likely would knock the Frogs from playoff contention.

10. 10-2 Alabama: What is Bama’s playoff path? A Clemson loss. A USC loss. An LSU loss. Probably two TCU losses. Then we’d have a playoff of Georgia, Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State.

Here are my weekly rankings:

1. Georgia 11-0: The résumé difference between the Bulldogs and the other unbeatens is getting narrow. Ohio State could jump Georgia with a victory over Michigan.

2. TCU 11-0: The Horned Frogs have no great wins. But they’ve got a bunch of good wins. Eight wins over teams with winning records.

3. Ohio State 11-0: Notre Dame’s surge — the Fighting Irish are 8-3 — helps the Buckeye cause.

4. Michigan 11-0: The Wolverines are TCU Light. No great wins, but a decent number of good wins.

5. Tennessee 9-2: The Volunteers looked awful against South Carolina, but someone else will have to drop Tennessee way down. Those wins over Alabama and LSU mean too much.

6. LSU 9-2: Can the Tigers be the first two-loss team to make the playoff? LSU was the first two-loss national champion, back in 2007.

7. Oregon 9-2: Another good win for the Ducks, beating Utah.

8. Clemson 10-1: The loss to Notre Dame still stings, and the Tigers don’t have a big-time win, but they are somewhere between TCU and Michigan in good wins.

9. Southern Cal 10-1: The Trojans got a marquee win, their first, against UCLA. Don’t sweat USC’s No. 9 ranking. The Trojans will rise by winning.

10. Alabama 9-2: The Crimson Tide’s best wins are road conquests of Texas, Arkansas and Ole Miss.

More:OU football rewind: With Andrew Raym out, Sooners looking for consistency at center

The List: Thunder’s league rankings

The Thunder has played 17 games, which means the season is more than 20 percent completed. At least enough time to get a true reading on the Thunder strengths and weaknesses.

Speaking of the former, here are five statistical categories in which the Thunder ranks highest in the NBA:

1. Field goals: The Thunder ranks No. 1 in the league in both shots attempted (94.7) and shots made (44.5). There are both good and bad things about this ranking. The averages are a result of pace of play; the Thunder has played uptempo, much to Mark Daigneault’s delight. He’s always trying to get OKC to play more quickly. But also, the high number of shots means the Thunder isn’t getting to the foul line — and indeed, OKC ranks 28th in the 30-team league in foul shots. That’s the result of little inside physical presence. The Thunder has some drivers extraordinaire, but otherwise, OKC is little threat in the lane, where fouls mushroom.

2. Blocked shots: This is crazy. But the Thunder ranks fourth in the NBA in blocked shots per game, 6.4. And Serge Ibaka is long gone. Credit three players. Aleksej Pokusevski ranks fifth in the NBA at 1.9 blocks per game. Those long arms are coming in quite handy. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, another member of the Long Arm Club, is tied for 13th in the NBA with 1.4 blocks per game. Many of his blocks are on drivers who don’t realize SGA’s timing and length will wreak havoc on their shot. And Darius Bazley is averaging 1.4 blocks, also. He has shown excellent timing, without fouling, on defending the rim. He’s got an NBA future because of this skill developed over the last couple of years.

3. Steals: Some day, the Thunder hopefully will play elite defense because it has the physicality and size to match up with most any team. But not now. Now, the Thunder has to scrap and claw to keep up defensively. OKC is 22nd in defensive rating and tied for 17th in defensive efficiency, two metrics that are closely aligned. But the Thunder is well above average in taking the ball from opponents. SGA is sixth in the NBA in steals per game, 1.8, and Bazley, Luguentz Dort and Santa Clara Williams have shown an aptitude for theft, too.

4. Turnovers: The Thunder does not take great care of the ball. OKC ranks sixth (worst) in the NBA with 13.8 per game. SGA’s turnover rate (turnovers per 100 possessions used) isn’t high, 11.3, but Josh Giddey’s learning curve remains steep, with an 18.8 turnover rate. Santa Clara Williams (15.2) and Poku (15.1) also have let the ball get away too often.

5. Points: OKC ranks sixth in points per game, 116.4. Scoring average is not a great stat, but the Thunder also ranks a solid 13th in offensive efficiency (109.8 points per 100 possession). That’s one spot above Golden State! The Thunder is 15th in offensive rating. About average. So the Thunder this season has gone from a defensive team to an offensive team.

More:Carlson: NBA sells Victor Wembanyama potential while telling teams not to tank. Hypocritical much?

NFL picks: East Divisions rule

The East Divisions of the National Football League rule. Who saw that coming?

The AFC East has been bullied by the Patriots for most of the century, and when Buffalo finally turned into a powerhouse, New England fell off.

The NFC East has been a musical chairs division for 20 years, and while the Eagles and Giants have had occasional grand success, it wasn’t sustained.

But that has all changed.

All four teams in the AFC East are at least two games above .500 — the Bills and Dolphins each are 7-3; the Patriots and Jetropolitans each are 6-4.

All four teams in the NFC East are over .500 — the Eagles are 9-1, the Cowboys and Giants each 7-3, and the Commanders are 6-5.

The AFC East has as many winning teams as the rest of the American Conference combined, 4-4.

The NFC East has more winning teams than the rest of the National Conference combined, 4-3.

And now, a Thanksgiving blessing. Each game of the NFL’s Thursday tripleheader involves at least one team from the AFC East or NFC East.

Buffalo at Detroit. The Giants at Dallas. New England at Minnesota.

Before the advent of four-team divisions in 2002, every division had at least one losing team.

And in the last 20 years, no division has included all winning teams.

But six divisions could accurately boast that its last-place team had an 8-8 record — the 2002 AFC East, the 2002 AFC West, the 2007 NFC East, the 2007 AFC South, the 2008 NFC South and the 2008 NFC East.

Notice the trend. Three years in which two divisions avoided any team finishing below .500.

Finishing .500 is difficult these days, with a 17-game schedule. But extra parity seems to create multiple divisions without bad teams, and that’s playing out in 2022.

Maybe both the AFC East and NFC East can hit the bonanza of every team finishing above .500.

Let’s get to the predictions:

Berry Tramel's NFL Week 12 predictions

Bills at Lions: Buffalo 23-20. The Bills played in Detroit last Sunday against Cleveland, after a snowstorm sent them fleeing Buffalo. But the Bills didn’t stay over in Detroit for a game four days later. Strange.

Giants at Cowboys: Dallas 31-10. It’s been a long time since we could say this, but the Cowboys look like a Super Bowl team.

Patriots at Vikings: New England 16-13. The Vikes’ offensive line is in tatters.

Buccaneers at Browns: Tampa Bay 27-20. The Bucs can forge a 6-5 record with a win. Not many thought Tampa Bay would see the north side of .500 the rest of the season.

Bengals at Titans: Tennessee 25-17. Surely the Titans remember their debacle of a playoff loss to Cincinnati last January that sent the Bengals on a Super Bowl journey.

Texans at Dolphins: Miami 34-7. Houston seems to be content to chase Victor Wembanyama.

Bears at Jetropolitans: Chicago 26-17. The Jets have found their team but the Bears have found their quarterback.

Falcons at Commanders: Washington 20-17. Atlanta, 5-6, is only a half game out of the divisional lead. Washington, 6-5, is 3½ games out of the divisional lead.

Broncos at Panthers: Denver 19-13. The Broncos are 3-7 and it seems like 3-17.

Ravens at Jaguars: Baltimore 17-16. The Ravens have allowed 448 total yards in the last two games combined.

Chargers at Cardinals: Los Angeles 34-10. Hurry back, Kyler Murray, though it’s been fun to see Colt McCoy play again.

Raiders at Seahawks: Seattle 21-20. Las Vegas has three wins. Two are over Denver.

Rams at Chiefs: Kansas City 35-10. Los Angeles won the Super Bowl last February. Now the 3-7 Rams are above only the Texans, Bears and Panthers.

Saints at 49ers: San Francisco 19-10. The Jimmy Garoppolo Niners are looking strong.

Packers at Eagles: Philadelphia 23-17. Jalen Hurts vs. Aaron Rodgers. Who would have believed the Eagles had the quarterback edge in this matchup?

Steelers at Colts: Pittsburgh 17-16. Mike Tomlin never has had a losing season in his 16 years as the Steelers’ head coach. He’d better win this one to keep that streak alive.

Last week: 9-5. Season: 92-71-1.

More:Tramel's ScissorTales: Big 12 football parity shows in title-game participants

Mailbag: Big 12 efficiency ratings

I’ve been doing my Big 12 efficiency ratings for 10 years now, and they are gaining more and more traction with readers.

Edwin: “Have you kept a record of the projected scores accuracy? If so, what is it? I wouldn’t expect the scores to match, but the winners? Does it work?”

Tramel: I did a quick check and saw where they are 6-4 the last two weeks. Not great. The scores don't correlate because they always settle in the middle — never in the 40s, never in the 10s — but it did project TCU 32-28 over Baylor. The final was 29-28.

Oh heck. I’ll figure it out. I don’t start figuring the efficiency until we’re three games into the conference season. So for the season, my projections are 18-8-1. And a few scores have been eerily close. The projections said Baylor 36, OU 28; Baylor won 38-35. The projections said TCU 43, West Virginia 28; TCU won 41-31. The projections said TCU 33, Kansas State 28; TCU won 38-28.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at 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. 

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU fans, get ready for Lincoln Riley, USC in College Football Playoff