Oklahoma Football: Saving Face From Last Postseason a Major Motivator


The teams are different and the stakes are different, but the Sooners are definitely motivated to reverse things the second time around.

Bob Stoops and his assistant coaches are downplaying the fact that the humbling defeat handed the Sooners by Clemson a year ago at this time will be a driving motivational force for No. 4-ranked Oklahoma in its national semifinal showdown against the Tigers later this week.

If you buy in to that corporate-speak line of thinking, it is my firm belief that you are either ignoring the patently obvious or your ability to judge human character is severely flawed. I’ll tell you this, I would rather be the team having that extra motivational accelerant than the team on the receiving end.

Dec 29, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine (32) runs the ball as the Clemson Tigers beat the Oklahoma Sooners 40-6 in the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

And this is precisely why I’m more confident of the Sooners’ chances against top-seeded Clemson than I would be if Oklahoma would have drawn Alabama as its opponent in the Playoff semifinal round. That’s because the same redemption factor that the Sooners harbor against Clemson most certainly exists on the Crimson Tide’s side because of the stunning loss to Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl.

It is probably fair to say that the stakes that exist in the New Year’s Eve showdown are more than enough motivation for both sides, but the way Oklahoma lost to the Tigers last postseason in the Russell Athletic Bowl – more so than the what – should provide an added motivational boost to the Crimson and Cream to right the wrong from a year ago and demonstrate that the Sooners’ No. 1 standing in the ESPN Football Power Index is more deserving than Clemson’s top-ranking in the human polls.

The two quarterbacks in this year’s game – Deshaun Watson of Clemson, this year’s Heisman runner-up, and Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, the Sporting News Player of the Year – were not part of the game a year ago, but definitely will have a big say in which team prevails and moves on to face the winner of the other Playoff semifinal contest between Alabama and Michigan State. Mayfield may not have played in the game, but he definitely was there to witness the emotional pain and humiliation along with a number of other Sooner players who aren’t about to forget it.

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If you don’t believe that redemption is a big motivational incentive, consider the fate this season of four of the five teams that defeated Oklahoma in 2014: Baylor, TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

Here’s what happened in 2014:

Baylor 48, Oklahoma 14

TCU 37, Oklahoma 33

Kansas State 31, Oklahoma 30

Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 35

In 2015:

Oklahoma 44, Baylor 34 (at Baylor)

Oklahoma 30, TCU 29

Oklahoma 55, Kansas State 0 (at Kansas State)

Oklahoma 58, Oklahoma State 23 (at Oklahoma State)

Oklahoma ?, Clemson ?

Beating Clemson would give Oklahoma a clean sweep over the teams that handed the Sooners all five of their losses in the disappointing 2014 season. If that’s not motivation enough, perhaps momentum will take over and be enough to send them into a winner-take-all final game.