Oklahoma football: Who are these guys, really?

WACO, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Kennedy Brooks #26 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs the ball against the Baylor Bears in the second half at McLane Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
WACO, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Kennedy Brooks #26 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs the ball against the Baylor Bears in the second half at McLane Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Do you believe in magic? Sooner Magic, to be more precise? There was surely some of that going on in the unbelievable Oklahoma football comeback victory over Baylor.

The Sooners will no doubt need some more of that magic — and not just of their own doing — if they are to reach college football’s version of the Final Four this season.

The possibility of Oklahoma breaking into the College Football Playoff selection committee’s top four still exists, but the probability, with all the dominoes that have to fall to make it a reality…not so much.

For four quarters in their last two games, the Sooners have played some of their best ball of the season. Unfortunately, it was only for a half and came in two different games. The other half of those two games couldn’t have been more contradictory. And it is that latter view of the seemingly schizophrenic Oklahoma team, the experts say, is a big part of the reason the Sooners are looking up at the other one-loss teams in the national rankings.

Two weeks ago, OU had a 21-point lead over Iowa State entering the fourth quarter. Lincoln Riley said after the game he thought the Sooners’ performance in the first half of the game was “probably our best ball  that (we’ve played) all year.”

For whatever reason, both the Sooner offense and defense decided to take the fourth quarter off. The offense failed to pick up a first down over the final 15 minutes and committed two costly turnovers. Meanwhile, the Sooner defensive unit allowed Iowa State to score 20 unanswered points and come within a failed two-point conversion of losing the game.

Oklahoma was extremely fortunate to escape what would have been a devastating and, frankly, disgraceful loss to Iowa State. Some thought the Sooners might have gotten too comfortable and been caught looking ahead late in that game to the following week’s showdown with Baylor. That would have been the glass-half-full explanation. The reality, however, was that OU didn’t defend well, tackled even worse and coughed up the ball on two of its three fourth-quarter possessions.

Then at Baylor, in a game that Riley acknowledged the Oklahoma players were primed and excited for and, to the man, knew the importance of, Baylor came out and smacked the Sooners hard in the face, early and often, to the point the four-time defending Big 12 champions were hanging on for dear life by halftime.

At one point during the first-half Baylor blitzkrieg, Riley gathered the entire OU team around him, with the jubilant and loud Baylor crowd revved to deafening intensity behind him, implored his team to keep fighting and believe.

"“I told them if they don’t believe, we have no shot,” he said in his postgame interview. “But they believed.”"

A funny thing happened  on the way to the third-quarter kickoff. A different Oklahoma team showed up for the second half on Saturday and seized total command of the game. The Sooners overcame a 21-point halftime deficit, controlling the ball for over 24 of the 30-minute second half, outgaining Baylor 368 yards to 69 and, most importantly, outscoring the 13th-ranked and previously undefeated Bears 24-0 in the second half to complete a shocking 34-31 comeback victory.

Much has been written in the last 48 hours about OU’s dramatic and dominant second-half turnaround in the win over Baylor. The Sooner players will tell you they never felt they were out of the game, that they believed and trusted in one another that they would come back and win the game. In retrospect, we know that was largely wishful thinking, but at the time belief was about all the Oklahoma players, coaches and fans had to hold on to. The Sooners clearly weren’t getting it done on the field.

“I think this (the Baylor win) can be a catalyst…our best ball is coming.” –OU head coach Lincoln Riley

With two games remaining in the regular season, Oklahoma has the same season record through 10 games as Riley’s past two Sooner teams (9-1). But there is something different about this team that makes it seem more beatable or vulnerable than those other OU teams, both of which made it into the College Football Playoff.

That may seem like a quizzical assessment of the 2019 Oklahoma football season when the offense continues to hit on all cylinders behind the quarterbacking of Jalen Hurts, leading the nation or in the top 10 in multiple categories.  And a defense that has gotten much better, as evidenced by a 78-position improvement in total defense (OU ranked 114th in the country out of 130 FBS teams in this category a year ago) and a 35-place advancement in scoring defense.

While the Sooners have shown definite glimpses this season of being one of the best four teams in the country — putting it together on all three sides of the game — this has been overshadowed by equivalent lapses of inconsistency.

Nowhere has this been more apparent that in Oklahoma’s last three games. Fortunately, the Sooners prevailed in two of the three, but it just as easily could have been O for 3. And that is not something worthy of celebration.

Three more tough challenges await — the regular-season home finale this weekend with TCU, followed by Oklahoma State and Bedlam on Nov. 30, and then a likely rematch a Baylor team that most definitely will be out for revenge in the Big 12 Championship — before the Sooners’ postseason plans will be finalized.

Without question, the next three weeks will be the most difficult stretch of games this season for Oklahoma. And this is a troubling prospect the way the Sooners have been playing.

“I think people still see we’ve got a lot of things to continue to grow and get better,” Riley said in his postgame comments following the Baylor game. “I thing this (the Baylor win) can be a catalyst for that. I think it will be.

“Our best ball is coming.”

Next. Young Oklahoma receivers grow up in comeback win. dark

Let’s all hope he’s right, but time is drawing short in the 2019 season.