I haven’t written an extraordinary amount about Oklahoma’s matchup with Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Part of that is due to the obligatory year-end commitments that have kept me away from the keyboard.
More importantly, though, I just don’t feel as though I have much to add to the conversation.
I suspect that this edition of the Crimson Tide is a hair below Florida State, but I don’t think Bob Stoops is all that far off when he says ‘Bama is still the best team in the country. The Tide own an edge in nearly every facet of the game – kicking being the lone notable exception.
‘Bama presents an especially daunting challenge because Nick Saban’s team beats you in the most unglamorous of ways. Quite simply, the Tide have the best players. They do everything better, too. There’s no real sorcery here: ‘Bama has a countermove for every maneuver you make against it, and the team’s weakest spots are almost undoubtedly better than your best.
So, short of an outbreak of Bayou Fever following the Alabama team meal, I don’t harbor much hope of a Sooner W. That’s a cold dose of reality for a proud program such as Oklahoma, which doesn’t have the horses to stay up with the college football elite.
The time for digging into how OU reached this point has passed, however. Even though the coaches have made some calls this season that didn’t sit right with me (or a number of inhabitants of Sooner Nation), you can’t really knock the results. I’ll happily take 10 wins with this team and this schedule and not look back. Put him under a hot lamp, and I bet Stoops would say the same.
Yet, if we accept that a win will require a truly miraculous turn of events, it raises the thorny question of how to calibrate expectations and craft a framework for evaluating the Sooners’ play. In this scenario, stats such as point and yardage differentials are relatively arbitrary and offer little value.
In fact, the best answer that I can come up with is that OU just needs to play well, which is kind of a case of knowing it when you see it. I’d like to leave the game with the feeling that the Sooners were prepared with a coherent plan above and beyond a collection of disparate plays and gimmicks. It would be nice to see OU minimize the mistakes and bad decisions on both sides of the ball, forcing the Tide to execute to win. Maybe most importantly, I’d hope that the players look like they’re actually enjoying themselves and are excited to be playing – that has been missing too often in the postseason under Bob Stoops.
The Sooners did show positive signs this season that a lot of the bleeding in the program has stopped. However, winning this game won't prove that they're back and ready for prime time. Losing it shouldn't be viewed as some kind of death blow, either. In the long run, the potential for OU to move forward or backward from this game depends far more on how they play than the final score.