Oklahoma football: Do you believe in the Sports Illustrated jinx? Hope not

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Baker Mayfield
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Baker Mayfield /

Something tells me that Oklahoma football is going to need all the skill it can muster and all the help it can get this week to keep its College Playoff and national championship aspirations in front of it.

One of the toughest things in college sports is to beat a team twice in the same season. That is the task that the Sooners have in front of them in the Big 12 Championship on Saturday, when they will face TCU for a second time in the 2017 season, this time with much higher stakes.

Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1) and TCU (10-2, 7-2) will go against each other in an 11:30 a.m. kickoff at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as the Sooners shoot for their 11th Big 12 championship and third in succession.

The Sooners hope to welcome in the month of December by taking home another Big 12 team trophy, and follow that up a week later by having their All-American quarterback Baker Mayfield cart home another coveted piece of hardware, the Heisman Trophy, as the most outstanding player in the 2017 college football season.

It will be a hard enough challenge to win a second time against a very good TCU team without having the ante dramatically upped. That’s what is about to happen thanks to the additional hype engendered by the country’s most popular weekly sports magazine.

The cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, which will be on newsstands on Thursday, features the Sooner superstar quarterback. with the accompanying headline, “Welcome to the Baker Mayfield Show: It’s Amazing. It’s Infuriating. And It Just Might End with a Whole Lot of Hardware.”

As terrific as it is to have one of your own receive deserved national recognition, I probably don’t have to remind you of the infamous Sports Illustrated jinx. According to urban legend, individuals or teams that appear on a Sports Illustrated cover are cursed to experience subsequent bad luck.

That’s the last thing Sooner fans want to hear right now.

Appearing on a Sports Illustrated cover is not something new for Oklahoma. The Sooners have been an SI cover subject more than 40 times since the magazine was introduced in 1954. According to the OU athletic department, only Ohio State, among college teams, has appeared more times on an SI cover than Oklahoma.

Insofar as the SI jinx, it didn’t work out so well for OU in 2016 when Buddy Hield graced the cover not once, but twice during the NCAA Basketball Tournament coverage that year. The Sooners did make it to the Final Four, but were blown out by eventual national champion Villanova in the national semifinals.

Sterling Shepard was the cover subject in the SI issue previewing the 2015 College Football Playoff. No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 2 Clemson met in one of the national semifinal games. Things were looking up halfway through the game, with OU leading 17-16 at the half. But the second half was another story. Clemson outscored the Sooners 21-0 over the final 30 minutes and walked away with a 37-17 victory.

All humbleness aside, things tend to work out better when the Sooners grace a Sports Illustrated cover after the fact. Such as the SI cover for the Jan. 8, 2001, issue featuring OU’s Quentin Griffin with the headline, “Case Closed.” That issue appeared just a few days after the Sooners had finished off a perfect 2000 season by beating Florida State 13-2 in the BCS Championship Game.

Mayfield’s odds of winning the Heisman this season are probably higher than Oklahoma’s chances of getting by TCU and winning a third consecutive Big 12 crown and 11th overall, but Sooner fans are counting on the fiery competitive spirit and refuse-to-lose mindset of their all-world quarterback to be the difference maker going forward…SI cover or no SI cover.