Oklahoma football: Five Games the Sooners MUST win in 2022

Oct 11, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners mascot Boomer performs prior to the game against the Texas Longhorns during the Red River showdown at the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma beat Texas 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners mascot Boomer performs prior to the game against the Texas Longhorns during the Red River showdown at the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma beat Texas 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

It would be somewhat of an understatement to say that the 2021 season of the Oklahoma football team ended on a rather inauspicious note.

The Sooners traveled to Stillwater to play the Oklahoma State Cowboys, in what every OU fan hoped and prayed would be the second to the last game of the regular season, only being followed by the big 12 championship game. For a while, it looked to be just that.

The score of that bedlam game could have induced nausea the way it went back and forth. Still, it finally ended with the Sooners on the losing side of things due to a Caleb Williams pass that was knocked away at the goal line (and a somewhat questionable lack of a DPI call), and had that pass been caught, it would have given the Sooners the lead and most likely the game.

Due to this gut punch of a loss, the Sooners would miss the big 12 championship game for the first time in six years, and mere days later their head coach Lincoln Riley would prove he is a man of his word by not leaving Oklahoma for LSU as he stated in a presser he would not, but rather leave for USC instead (and taking OU’s quarterback with him while other players scattered to the winds)  and for the first time since the hiring of Bob Stoops in 1999, the program was thrown into an off-season of uncertainty.

Now here we are, and as I type these words (adorned in my Kyler Murray jersey) the opening day of the 2022 season is just a week away, as is the season with the most question marks that OU has experienced in a very long time.

Indeed everything from a new coach, to a new quarterback and many new faces on both sides of the ball, makes this OU team a deck of wild cards.

It is a safe assumption that this OU team is largely a mystery to most college football fans, so let us take a look at the five must-win games of the 2022 season, either for regaining their rightful place as big 12 champs (and possibly for the last time) or for matters as simple as redemption.

Now, I know, I know, in college football, just about every game is a must-win, but these are the five that I want to see the Sooners win more than any other regular-season games.

Five must-win games for the 2022 OU Sooners:

Texas Longhorns:

Texas is a must-win game because… its Texas. I don’t care what season it is. I don’t care about rankings or what is at stake. I don’t care who is coaching or under center; the Oklahoma Sooners must beat the Texas Longhorns every stinking year.

I have legitimate reasons that OU needs to beat Texas besides the usual hatred, venom, and vitriol.

No matter where both teams are ranked when this game is played, OU vs. Texas is viewed as a marquee matchup, and whichever team walks out the loser, will greatly struggle to make a case for themselves as big 12 championship contenders and therefor would almost assuredly have no chance whatsoever in making the CFP.

Last season, Oklahoma had about the worst start to a game I have ever seen an OU team have in my 34 years, but somehow managed to come back from it, scratch and claw their way up and end as the victors of the Red River Showdown.

With all the question marks surrounding OU football this season, and with apparent hot shot Quinn Ewers taking the snaps for Texas, not only beating Texas but beating them soundly would be a statement win for OU in the first year of what appears to be the Brent Venables and Dillan Gabriel era.

Oklahoma State Cowboys:

You can copy and paste my first couple of sentences from why OU needs to beat Texas from above and paste them here.

OU is expected to beat OSU in Bedlam year in and year out, and anything less than that is considered entirely unacceptable.

As I stated at the beginning of this piece, last year’s Bedlam was a whole boat race (which OU lost), and honestly, most Bedlams do turn out to be boat races.

Not only does Oklahoma need to avenge their heartbreaking loss from last year that kept them out of the big 12 championship game and possibly their seventh big 12 title, but there also lurks the possibility that this could be the last Bedlam game before Oklahoma’s pending move to the SEC.

The game is in Norman this year, and if this legendary series known as Bedlam must come to an end, Oklahoma must go out with a win.

This OU fan, hopes that even after OU packs its bags and leaves for the SEC, the Bedlam series will continue in the form of non-conference games.

Baylor Bears:

Beating Baylor is all about avenging a loss from last year. Oklahoma traveled to Waco, Texas, last season, only to be spanked by Baylor in a 27-14 loss that was not as close as the score would indicate.

At the time, Oklahoma was holding on to a 9-0 record; Baylor came into the game at 7-2 and added a rather ugly #1 to Oklahoma’s loss column.

Not only does OU need this victory to avenge an ugly loss from last year, but as this piece is being written. Once it is published, Baylor is ranked in the #10 spot on the AP poll, right behind Oklahoma at #9, and if they can retain that position or something close to it, then beating a ranked Baylor team, and the former big 12 champions would do nothing but bolster OU’s strength of schedule.

The only redeeming quality of OU’s loss to Baylor last season was that Kansas would beat Texas in Austin later that evening. Suddenly, no one is talking about Baylor beating OU anymore.

Nebraska Cornhuskers:

There are fewer more storied rivalries in college football than in Oklahoma and Nebraska. Sadly, as is the ways of conference realignment, OU Nebraska went the way of Kansas Missouri and Texas Texas A&M.

The home and home series between OU and Nebraska during the 2021-2022 season has helped to reignite this historic match up, if only for a couple of seasons.

Last year, Nebraska traveled to Norman, and frankly gave OU more of a run for their money then they should have.

Oklahoma pulled away the victor, but only by a touchdown, which is roughly 14-21 points less than most expected it to be, especially with head coach Scott Frost’s pending firing all but a certainty (or at least we believed so at the time)

Oklahoma needs to travel to Lincoln and deliver Nebraska  a sound beating, not only because last season’s victory rang somewhat hollow with the OU faithful, but even more important than that, Nebraska is the only power 5 team on OU’s non-conference slate.

If OU can’t beat a very average Nebraska team, which no longer has Adrian Martinez taking the snaps and who’s head coach was on the hot seat at the beginning of last season, OU’s season will be in mortal danger before the month of October and conference play even begins.

Note added after Nebraska’s loss to Northwestern:

Unfortunately, Nebraska did OU no favors by losing to Northwestern to open up the season, and now it is looking likely that OU will be playing for Scott Frost’s job.

If OU travels to Lincoln and barely beats Nebraska like they did last year in Norman, the powers that be will dismiss it as OU barely scraping by a below average Nebraska team with a coach that has a U-hall company on speed dial, so a victory by a narrow margin will do nothing for OU’s strength of schedule.

Even worse, if OU travels to Lincoln and loses to a Nebraska team that just lost to Northwestern (even after having an 11-point lead twice during the game), it will be a huge black mark, not only on OU’s non-con strength of schedule but on its strength of schedule for the entire season.

Either way you flip it, Nebraska blowing it against Northwestern (and being the only power five teams on OU’s non-con schedule) makes OU’s non-con schedule look pretty weak in the CFP community.

The way I see it, it is not enough for OU to beat Nebraska, they need to go into Lincoln and absolutely pummel them, just an absolute mollywopping, as well as a sound thrashing of the other two smaller teams on their non-con, and that might be enough to maintain OU’s strength of schedule heading into conference play.

Kansas Jayhawks:

If I have to explain why Kansas is a must-win for Oklahoma, then perhaps some of you are blessed with amnesia and don’t remember precisely how the OU-Kansas game went down last year. Still, if there is such a thing as a bad win, OU’s victory over Kansas was a prime example.

At one point, Kansas fans were pouring into the stadium in droves, for Kansas was dangerously close to toppling the #3 team in the country, the 7-0 Oklahoma Sooners.

Oklahoma managed to pull victory from the jaws of humiliating defeat, but I promise you there was not a fan alive wearing crimson and cream that day who was happy with the win.

As stated earlier (but certainly can’t be stated enough), Kansas would beat Texas in Austin later in the 2021 season, but we simply can’t stand for Kansas to beat the Sooners.

Kansas is coming to Norman this season, and the Sooners and their fan base need an absolute thrashing of biblical per portions to get the taste out of their collective mouths of what very nearly happened last season.

Now obviously, as I stated at the beginning of this piece, this is college football, and every game in college football is a “must-win.”

I believe that what would be viewed as a successful season for OU, with first-season head coach Brent Venables and QB Dillan Gabriel, is at least a big 12 champion title.

I am not expecting a playoff appearance (and I don’t think any reasonable, rational OU fan is). Still, I believe anything less than regaining their rightful place as big 12 champs would be unacceptable.

While nearly every game in college football is a must-win, I want to see Oklahoma win these five games to prove that no matter what changes with coaches, players, or even conferences might occur, the Oklahoma Sooners shall not be stopped. They will go as champions if they must leave the Big 12 in the coming years.