NEW ORLEANS —
But the loss to Auburn in the regular-season finale ended the national championship hopes and left it without a shot at the SEC title.
However, the thought of playing the Sooners — a program with seven national championships, five Heisman winners and a tradition that rivals Alabama’s is something to get excited about.
“I think it’s fantastic to be a part of something that has that kind of tradition, certainly makes it special to be a part of,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
For the Sooners at least, the esteem of the opponent has made this bowl trip — the program’s 15th straight and 47th overall — different than many others. Players have enjoyed their time in New Orleans, but the opportunity to play against the Crimson Tide was the biggest prize. Questions about mindset and preparation weren’t necessary.
“We know we have a big challenge, but very excited about the challenge,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. Our team is excited about the challenge of it. And we’ve worked hard to put ourselves in the position, hopefully, to win the game tomorrow.”
The ramifications of doing that would be a massive shot in the arm to OU. Seniors have talked about wanting to leave with the program heading on an upward track. Those returning see this as a chance to catapult the Sooners into the 2015 national championship discussions.
Big bowl games against perennial national title contenders create those scenarios. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
Both OU and Alabama have done it many times in the past. That’s why they’re two of college football’s most acclaimed programs.
You don’t get games like this often. Both are savoring the opportunity.
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