Oklahoma football: Championship November has a different meaning

Oct 15, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) throws during the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) throws during the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oklahoma football in recent years has hung its banner in what it dubbed “Championship November”.

Typically the month of November has been a closer for the Sooners, as they look to secure a place in the Big 12 Championship game. The Sooners had won six consecutive Big 12 titles from 2015-2020 winning every November game during that stretch. Last season, OU entered November unbeaten, though things went less than ideal as Oklahoma dropped two games and failed to reach the Big 12 title game.

This season the tables have turned though, OU enters November in a position where getting to the Big 12 Championship game is, simply; highly unlikely. But Oklahoma must still live up to the mantra this November.

By all accounts, Oklahoma football is having a down season, one that some prognosticators suggested was possible, while those close to the situation in Norman believed was highly unlikely.

OU sits at 5-3, a record the Sooners have not had since 2009. Even in the whirlwind of 2014, Oklahoma started the year 6-2. So to say Oklahoma is in unfamiliar territory would be an understatement, but Coach Venables was on the staff the last time it happened, that’s how long it’s been. While Oklahoma is unlikely to make it to Arlington, they still must approach this month with a championship frame of mind, and there truly is no reason currently why they should not run the table.

Oklahoma’s four remaining opponents include home games against Oklahoma State and Baylor. OU will also travel to Lubbock and West Virginia, two tough places to visit. Bedlam is always a big game, and the Sooners host Baylor this weekend.

Baylor in theory seems to be the stiffest test, as the Bears are a top-30 defensive unit in football. The other remaining games seem like defenses Oklahoma should have overwhelming matchups against. So the tone setter will start with the Bears, who certainly set a November tone for OU last year, coming off a bye in their first November contest. The Bears trounced the Sooners with a strong fourth quarter and was the first of two set-backs that would send a 9-0 start down the toilet.

Nov 13, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears running back Abram Smith (7) tries to elude Oklahoma Sooners defensive back Justin Broiles (25) and safety Delarrin Turner-Yell (32) during the first half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears running back Abram Smith (7) tries to elude Oklahoma Sooners defensive back Justin Broiles (25) and safety Delarrin Turner-Yell (32) during the first half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

So this time around Oklahoma will need to beat the Bears at their own game, play physical, quality defense and lean on the ground attack. While the Bears rank highly in rushing defense, the passing game plays came for Oklahoma State, and West Virginia. Teams who did a strong job establishing a ground attack that kept things balanced.

Oklahoma will also need to keep QB Dillon Gabriel upright. In games, Gabriel starts and finishes this season the Sooners are 5-1 and were blown out in both contests he did not. This team will not have much chance of success if No.8 is unavailable.

The Sooner defense will also need to build off a solid showing in Ames, Oklahoma has been much maligned on defense since the start of conference play, but signs of hope showed up against Kansas, and then Iowa State. It’s about putting it all together, and with Billy Bowman back that makes a big difference, Damond Harmon may also be available this week as well.

Oklahoma’s offense could have put up more points last weekend, but superstar WR Marvin Mims had a forgettable type of day, so Oklahoma will need Mims to step it up and provide the big plays for this offense. Farooq has stepped forward with his services the last couple of weeks, but Mims is arguably the best player in this offense, and OU will need him to perform like it.

If Oklahoma can close the season out running the table it sets up some big momentum going into the offseason and will help OU hang onto the elite 2023 class they have been building.

Who knows? A 9-3 record may also be just enough to give the Sooners a chance to head to Arlington, I wouldn’t place a wager on it, but you never know. Oklahoma is probably kicking themselves for not finding a way to beat Kansas State a few weeks back, and they should as their position would be much different.