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2015 Orange Bowl Preview | Comparing The Schedules And How Clemson And Oklahoma Got Here

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Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The year will officially come to an end this week, and with it, so will the football season for either Clemson or Oklahoma. Both teams arrived in Miami with national championship aspirations, yet both took different routes to the Final Four. Clemson was awarded the top seed after running the table and ultimately knocking off North Carolina in the ACC championship game. For Oklahoma, it was surviving the gauntlet of the round-robin schedule of the Big 12, and while the Sooners arrived in South Beach with a loss on their record they are also the only team in the playoff that can say they've played every team in their conference.

The Loss

While the Tgers are a perfect 13-0 the Sooners have a nasty blemish on their record. Oklahoma dropped a 24-17 decision to the Texas Longhorns, in Dallas, on October 10th. Texas blitzed relentlessly and slowed the OU offense to their lowest scoring output of the season. The loss resulted in multiple on-field personnel changes for Oklahoma but remains the ugly point of the season that we're forced to acknowledge and try to explain.

The Close Calls

On November 22nd Oklahoma escaped an upset bid by TCU, in Norman, 30-29. A 72-yard touchdown run from Samaje Perine and an athletic play by Steven Parker, to break up TCU's 2-point conversion attempt, were the key factors in Oklahoma playing Oklahoma State the following weekend for the conference championship.

Clemson actually survived two close calls in back-to-back weeks. On September 17th they were able to sneak out of Louisville with a 20-17 win and the next week they got past Notre Dame 24-22 in Death Valley. In both games the Tigers benefited from turnovers. Safety Jadar Johnson picked off a desperation pass, from Louisville's Kyle Bolin, at the goal line to close out the Cardinals and then the Tigers forced four turnovers against the Irish the following week.

The Cupcakes

Oklahoma front loaded their schedule with Akron and Tulsa and Clemson with Wofford and Appalachian State. Even though Wofford ended with a 5-7 record, the term "cupcake" doesn't really apply here because Akron, Tulsa, and Appalacian State all went bowling this season.

Oklahoma

Opponent Points Scored National Ranking Points Allowed National Ranking
Akron 24 103rd 21.5 28th
Tulsa 35.9 27th 38.6 120th

Clemson

Opponent Points Scored National Ranking Points Allowed National Ranking
Wofford 25.81 N/A 27.72 N/A
Appalachian State 37.2 20th 18.3 13th

The Ranked Opponents

Oklahoma went 5-0 against ranked opponents this season, with wins on the road at #23 Tennessee, #6 Baylor, and #11 Oklahoma State, along with home wins over #23 West Virginia and #18 TCU. Clemson went 3-0 against Top 25 teams with home wins against  #6 Notre Dame and #16 Florida State, to go with their win over #10 North Carolina in the ACC championship game. Oklahoma won their games against Top 25 opponents by an average score of 41.6 - 26.8, Clemson won by an average of 30-24.

Oklahoma vs Top 25 Result Clemson vs. Top 25 Result
at #23 Tennessee W 32-24 #6 Notre Dame W 24-22
#23 West Virginia W 44-24 #16 FSU W 23-13
at #6 Baylor W 44-34 #10 UNC W 45-37
#18 TCU W 30-29
at #11 OSU W 58-23


The Conferences

Both the ACC had three teams finish with 9 wins or more and the Big 12 had four. The ACC had three schools ranked in the final AP poll (all in the top 10) and the Big 12 had four.

The Big 12 had five teams ranked in the Top 10 in scoring offenses this season and averaged 36.19 points per game across the board. The ACC had no schools ranked in the Top 10 in scoring offenses and averaged 29.88 points per game across the board.

Defensively, the ACC had two teams ranked in the Top 10 in points allowed and gave up an average of 24.09 points per game as a conference. The Big 12 allowed an average of 30.86 points per game this season.

Final Thoughts

While you really won't be able to draw any sort of advantage from a schedule comparison there are a couple of thoughts that really stand out from an in-depth look.

  • Clemson is legitimately #1 and should be treated as the top team in the nation. I know it's a bit natural to try and diminish accomplishments by bringing up opponent strength, luck, and health of the team, but those are all things that contribute to a very special season.
  • Oklahoma needs to own up to the loss to Texas. While I agree that if the Sooners played the Longhorns ten more times they would win all ten, they didn't win on October 11th. This is a different team than the one that played at the Cotton Bowl, but it is what it is and OU is without excuse.
  • The Sooners are more seasoned than Clemson. The Tigers may have the better record, but Oklahoma has more bigger games under their belt. When you play against everyone in a round robin format then each game becomes pretty big. Playing three ranked opponents on the road this season should be a benefit to the Sooners in Miami, and let's not forget that many of these same OU players took the field against Alabama, in the Sugar Bowl, two years ago.
  • Conversely this will be the first time Clemson faces a Top 25 team outside of the Carolinas.
  • Big 12 offenses were really, really good in 2015!