- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit turned heads across the Big 12 Thursday morning -- especially those in Norman, Oklahoma.
As part of his annual Herbie Awards, Herbstreit released his playoff projections.
And along with Ohio State, LSU and Arizona State, Herbstreit is picking the Sooners to win the Big 12 and make the playoff. That is not a typo.
"I think Oklahoma is gonna surprise everybody," Herbstreit said. "I think Oklahoma is gonna end up emerging. The main reason I feel like they will have the ability to do that is the backfield that they have. Samaje Perine might be the most talented back that not a lot of people are talking about."
But OU winning the conference and making the playoff?
Even if the Sooners got to mid-November unscathed or with one loss, they would probably have to defeat Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State in consecutive weeks. It's doubtful the Sooners could survive a loss so late in the season. Baylor and TCU are top-five teams. Oklahoma State could be a factor in the Big 12 race as well.
That kind of gauntlet will remind Sooners fans of the "Red October" stretch in 2000, when Oklahoma defeated No. 11 Texas, No. 2 Kansas State and top-ranked Nebraska in three straight games to climb to No. 1 in the polls. The Sooners went on to win the national championship.
Those Sooners, however, had a returning starting quarterback in Josh Heupel, who finished second in the Heisman voting. These Sooners have Baker Mayfield, who has never started for Oklahoma and hasn't started a game for anyone in two years.
Those Sooners had a pair of Thorpe Award winners roaming their secondary in Roy Williams and Derrick Strait. These Sooners last year had the ninth-ranked pass defense in the Big 12.
Herbstreit, however, has been right about the Sooners before, when everyone else was doubting them. Two years ago before the Sugar Bowl, Herbstreit predicted Oklahoma would make the game close when almost everyone else was predicting an Alabama blowout. Oklahoma went on to upset the Crimson Tide.
Herbstreit knew something about the Sooners the experts didn't then.
Maybe he knows something again.