Lincoln Riley, Nick Saban see non-Power 5 games differently

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley watches the action during the Sooners’ game against Houston earlier this month at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

NORMAN — Alabama coach Nick Saban recently said he wants every Power 5 school to play a minimum of 10 games against Power 5 schools.

That would mean every team playing someone from the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Pac-12 — or independent Notre Dame. Saban sees the benefits as better fan entertainment, better experiences for players and more flexibility with losses as they relate to making the College Football Playoff.

“I don’t know that I totally agree,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said Monday when asked about the topic.

Games against non-Power 5 schools, Riley said, are important to smaller schools and useful for Power 5 teams developing depth. He also mentioned conference format.

With divisional champions playing each other in some conferences, not every team has to play the best team in its league for a title. The Big 12’s round-robin schedule pits the top two teams against each other each season, and contenders might want an easier non-conference game to offset that.

“Now, could I get behind maybe limiting that and coming out and declaring exactly how many Power 5 [games get scheduled] and all that? Sure,” Riley said. “I think a lot of people would stand behind that to just even the playing field, especially in the era of the four-team playoff and you get this committee here at the end that has got to evaluate not only different teams, but just a wide array of different schedules that I know has got to pretty difficult to do.”

• Hurts watching, working: Maryland erupted for 650 offensive yards in a 63-20 victory over Syracuse last weekend.

OU quarterback Jalen Hurts knows Maryland head coach Mike Locksley well, as his former offensive coordinator at Alabama.

“Mike Locksley, he’s a great at what he does. He knows football,” Hurts said. “I got a lot of respect and love for him. He’s doing great things up there. I’m happy to see him have success. He knows how to scheme it up.”

Unrelated to his former coach, Hurts was spotted in a video on strength coach Bennie Wylie’s Instagram page after Saturday’s game, putting in a workout. Some wondered why.

He did it to alleviate soreness, Hurts said. But also “I had something on my mind. I got it off my chest and went and got some work in.”

Hurts declined to say what was on his mind.

• Seeing the good: OU’s loss to Georgia in the 2017-18 Rose Bowl will surely stir up some sour memories. But it won’t sully the trip to UCLA (Saturday, 7 p.m.) this week, Riley said.

“It’s one of the most historic fields in our game,” Riley said. “Within conference and even some of the bowl games, you cycle through those some. You only get these — going to Ohio State, going to Tennessee, going to UCLA. We have several great ones here on our future schedule. You only get to do these a time or two in your career, so you definitely want to make the most of it.”

OU has won 20 consecutive true road games. A victory over the Bruins would tie the nation’s second longest, which belongs to Alabama’s teams from 1970-75.

Five more true road wins and the Sooners would tie their own nation-leading streak of 25 from 1953-59 under Bud Wilkinson.

• Health watch: Riley said Kenneth Mann is a possibility to return this week from injury. He hasn’t suited up this season since serving as a team captain last season.

Left guard Marquis Hayes sat out with an injury last week, but it isn’t considered serious. Riley isn’t sure when he’ll return.

“Mann’s getting close. Really, really close. For this week, it’s a possibility but not a certainty,” Riley said. “Hayes [is] not going to be out for an extended time. Don’t know yet on this week with him.”

• This, that: Sophomore nickelback Brendan Radley-Hiles earned Big 12 defensive player of the week for his fumble recovery and interception against South Dakota. … Bob Stoops’ autobiography, “No Excuses,” will be released Tuesday and available where books are sold. The book details some of Stoops’ best and turbulent times as OU’s coach and is co-written by ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski. … Joe Davis (play-by-play), Brock Huard (analyst) and Bruce Feldman (sideline) will anchor Fox’s coverage of the UCLA game.


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