The Norman Transcript

November 3, 2013

A lot on the line for the Sooners in Waco

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s showdown with No. 5 Baylor is just four days away. The excitement in the 12th-ranked Sooners’ locker room continues to build. Everyday there seems to be another reason the stakes continue to build for Thursday’s game at Baylor’s Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas.

Sunday night, it was the latest BCS standings. The Sooners remained at No. 10 and Baylor was still at No. 6. But that will change drastically based on what happens Thursday night.

It’s the kind of national game the Sooners typically play in at least once a season, if not more. There’s always the hype surrounding the Red River Rivalry, and Bedlam has had BCS implications in the previous two meetings. Already, OU experienced a hype-filled week leading up to the Notre Dame game.

It’ll draw on the lessons from those games.

“The Notre Dame game helps out a lot. It was big stage and going to South Bend; that was awesome,” OU quarterback Blake Bell said. “More than being nervous and pressing and all that stuff, I think it’s fun. The reason you come to Oklahoma is for games like this. You want to go out there and play your best.”

The Sooners (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) agree the best way to handle things is to stay loose and embrace the opportunity.

“It’s exciting. We know it will probably be a hostile environment,” OU cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “At the same time, we can’t be affected by that. It’s our game and we have to play within our scheme and our defense.”

Poise is the characteristic that will come to the forefront Thursday night. OU will either show it has it or lacks based on how it handles the situation.

Lately, poise — particularly on the road — has been a defining characteristic of the Sooners. They’ve won their last seven true road games dating back to last season.

Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel quickly pointed out on Sunday night that very fact.

“I think our guys are excited to play in a big ball game against a great opponent and play on the road. Our guys look forward to that challenge,” he said. “For the most part, we’ve played extremely well for the last year and a half on the road and this will be a big test.”

But huge road tests have been infrequent during that stretch. Only two of those games were against ranked teams — Texas Tech last season and Notre Dame in September.

Nonetheless, the Sooners were at their best in both instances, winning both games by at least 15 points.

Three straight would be enough to throw the Big 12 title race for an interesting loop, cause some shuffling in the BCS standings and help reinstitute OU as a program that wins big games like Thursday’s.

It all starts with embracing the spotlight and not trying to hide from it.

OU certainly isn’t.

“This is why you sign the paper and come to college and play in atmospheres like this,” defensive end Geneo Grissom said.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com