It’s All Up to the OU Football Team Now


The College Football Playoff committee has had its say, now it’s all up to the OU football team to have the final word and close the deal.

It’s not Notre Dame nor is it Iowa that Oklahoma needs to concern itself with at the moment. Once looking up at those two schools in the Playoff standings, OU has moved passed them in the eyes and votes of the Playoff selection committee.

The  only thing the Sooners need to be concerned with moving forward is themselves and their preparation for the next opponent up on the schedule.

All the Sooners have to do is win at Oklahoma State on Saturday and they appear to be a lock as one of the four teams to compete for the national championship this season. But don’t kid yourself, the Sooners have no easy task in Bedlam this weekend.

Nov 21, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook (11) celebrates with wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) after catching a touchdown pass during the first half at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As I pointed out in this space earlier this week, Oklahoma has been in this exact position before, with the Cowboys the only thing standing between OU and a chance to play for the national championship. That was in 2001, and with Nebraska falling in an improbable upset to Colorado the day after Thanksgiving that season, the door was open for No. 4-ranked Oklahoma to move up and into position to play for a second consecutive national crown.

It represented the ideal scenario, with the Sooners in control of their own destiny and not having to rely on favors from other teams. All that was left for the Sooners to do was take care of business at home against an unranked Oklahoma State team. Only this was Bedlam and a rivalry game, and we all know that season records and past achievement means nothing in games like this.

The Cowboys foiled OU’s plans that season with a game-winning touchdown in the closing seconds. And that Oklahoma State team was not as good as this year’s OSU squad, which was undefeated in 2015 until last weekend and still ranks 11th in the College Football Playoff standings.

So suffice to say that any celebrating at this time by Sooners fans would be both foolhardy and highly premature.

There is not going to be anything easy about the Bedlam showdown on Saturday night. Oklahoma is not the only team that has something at stake in the outcome. Oklahoma State may have lost out in its chance to make it into college football’s version of the Final Four this season, but the Cowboys can still win the Big 12 championship with a victory over their hated in-state rival coupled with a loss by Baylor in one of its remaining two regular-season games.

To add to all the hype and national attention, ESPN “College GameDay” will be in Stillwater for the game and it will be Senior Night, which is always a festive and emotional event that gives the home team an extra boost of adrenaline, as if that is really necessary to get up for a rivalry game.

Nov 21, 2015; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) looks to pass against the Baylor Bears during the first half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The team that wants this game the most will come out the winner and reap the awards that are waiting, and you can be assured that Oklahoma State believes it will rain on the Sooners’ parade (no pun intended, given that the forecast is for rainy and cold conditions).

Oklahoma has already lost to one major rival this season, losing to Texas in the annual Red River rivalry game. Ever since then, the Sooners have been playing at a very high level while playing catch up in the rankings, advancing from 19th in the national polls all the way up to their present position on the sails of six consecutive wins, the last two of which have been over ranked teams (Baylor and TCU).

Oklahoma State is playing at home and will have something to prove after losing last weekend. Discounting its neutral-field loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl, the Sooners are a perfect 4-0 in true road tests this season, including wins at Baylor, Tennessee and at Kansas State, all very tough environments for visiting teams

After OU’s impressive victory over Baylor two games back, many were calling it the biggest game of the season in college football. That may or may not have been the case then, but in my view, Saturday night’s Bedlam game tops the OU-Baylor game, at least on paper beforehand and with what is on the line for both teams, playing their final game of the regular season.

The Sooners and Cowboys are relatively close in terms of their offensive strength and defensive capability. Last season’s affair, as Sooner fans hesitate to recall, went down to the very end, with Oklahoma State tying the game with an ill-fated 92-yard punt return for a touchdown following a punt do-over by OU  set up by a defensive penalty called against Oklahoma State that was not declined by the Sooners’ coaching staff. The game ultimately was sent to overtime, and the Cowboys prevailed 38-35 in the extra session.

The Sooners are still stinging from the way they lost last year’s Bedlam game, so its’ fairly evident that both teams will enter the contest with something to prove and with a chip or their shoulder. That’s why I expect this to be a close game that won’t be determined until the final whistle is blown.

If it is a close encounter, as most college experts expect it to be, field position and turnovers will no doubt play a very important role in the outcome. In their last two games against Baylor and TCU, Oklahoma picked off five passes and had two fumble recoveries. For the season, Oklahoma State has been the most opportunistic team in the conference in the turnover category with a plus-15 ratio.

It definitely won’t be easy for the Sooners against Oklahoma State, but then nothing worth fighting for ever is. Watch for my prediction on the game on Friday morning.