The Norman Transcript

December 11, 2013

Sugar Bowl a win-win scenario

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Bad break, right?

First, Oklahoma goes up to Manhattan, Kan., against the greatest coach in the history of the game, against a team that had turned its season around, that few thought it could win, in which it entered a 5 1/2-point underdog and won 41-31.

Next, the Sooners went to Boone Pickens Stadium a 10-point underdog by the time it all kicked off, lost its starting quarterback, lost confidence in its back-up quarterback and returned with the only quarterback on the squad to be a starter, back-up and third-teamer this season, and needing a two-minute drive in less than two minutes, Blake Bell brought the Sooners back.

Now OU must return to the scene of a most difficult memory, where the Nick Saban-coached Tigers of LSU ended the Sooners’ national championship dreams 10 years ago to face the Nick Saban-coached Crimson Tide, who everybody still believes to be the nation’s best team, who would surely beat Auburn in a best three-of-five or four-of-seven if that was the way football worked. And, oh yeah, Alabama’s a 15-point favorite.

Tough sledding.

Thanks a lot.

No fair.

Right?

Wrong.

Instead, it is the best of all possible worlds for a Sooner team that was moribund and listless and 7-2 (and seemingly going on 8-4) following an embarrassing 41-12 loss at Baylor Nov. 7.

Indeed, this is a case of everything coming together.

One, the Sooners are playing with house money. When was the last time they were ever playing with house money.

1999?

Everybody should have taken a 10-2 regular season when it all began the last week of August. And nobody figured the Sooners would ever get there when they stood 7-2 with three games remaining, two of them against the Wildcats and Pokes.

Now, there’s just no losing. Also, OU might not lose.

As long as it remains unclear what’s happening with Mack Brown at Texas, and as long as Nick Saban waits to sign his next extension at Alabama, there will be a cloud over the Crimson Tide’s preparations for the game.

Also, we’ve seen it so many times before. We’ve actually seen it happen to OU before. That is, when the game feels like a consolation prize, it’s hard to get very motivated. Well, Alabama never wanted to be playing in the Sugar Bowl the same way OU wasn’t wild about having to play Boise State one year at the Fiesta Bowl and West Virginia the next and it showed. The Sooners were just plain bad and lost both games.

Then you’ve got all the things Bob Stoops has said about the SEC, all of which have been incendiary but also correct, yet it’s hard to believe Alabama must care much about it. After all, he was never talking about Alabama.

But, just maybe, his team will play inspired football in the name of backing up its coach, knowing full well how big a Sooner win would be on the college football landscape.

To say nothing of the fact that any underdog — right, it doesn’t happen often, by OU is a clear, clear, clear underdog — should be only too happy for a game like this.

Unless you’re playing for a national championship, you want to be the underdog in January. It’s never done anybody any good to pick a fight with a bottom-dweller. You can only lose. But try to knock somebody off a top perch and its hard to finish any lower than where you began,

Really, this is a game to be celebrated. Win it and it will feel like a national championship just as long as Saban remains on the Tide sideline. Lose it and, whatever, this team was never supposed to go 10-2 in the first place and certainly wasn’t after losing at Baylor.

Stoops like to say he loves every game because it’s the next one and he’s in the game-playing business. It’s a good line and a fine way to look at things. But there’s so much more to like about this matchup if you’re donning crimson and cream. 

Even if OU falls short.

Also, it might not.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning

cfhorning@normantranscript.com

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