NGSC Sports

Karma or kismet? Sooners find out against ‘Bama

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/sugarbowl.jpg” alt=”sugarbowl” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-2719″ ]College football, more than any sport, is ruthlessly efficient in dispensing doses of kharma.

Oklahoma is about to discover that.

Sports talk radio in the Sooner State was dominated on Monday not by talk of what Oklahoma can do to beat Alabama in next week’s Sugar Bowl. Rather, callers and commentators debated what the Sooners could do to not be embarrassed.

That’s a far cry from this summer when Sooners coach Bob Stoops openly questioned the SEC’s dominance, then questioned it once more in October.

He called SEC hype “propaganda” and argued other conferences, particularly the Big 12, had a bottom half that was as good, if not better, than the SEC.

“So they’ve had the best team in college football. They haven’t had the whole conference,” Stoops said during a Sooner Caravan stop in Tulsa over the summer. “Again, half of them haven’t done much at all. I’m just asking you. You tell me.”

Now, Stoops had a minor point if he had just let it stay with that. The Big 12’s bottom half went 29-35 in 2012 while the five SEC teams that failed to reach a bowl game – Auburn, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee – were a combined 19-41.

But Stoops didn’t stop.

“So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you,” Stoops said. “You’re more than smart enough to figure it out.”
Here’s what we figured out this year – two of those SEC teams that failed to go to a bowl last season played for this season’s SEC championship, with one knocking off the unbeaten, two-time defending national champion along the way.

So that bottom six? Not really a bunch of ne’er-do-wells, Mr. Stoops.

During a Sugar Bowl teleconference, Stoops was asked to revisit those comments.

“Well I’m not playing the bottom half,” Stoops said. If the SEC is Alabama, there’s nothing to talk about, right? If you want to say the SEC is Alabama, then Sure. They’re the ones that won the national championships or most of them.

“Now if you want to play the bottom half, that’s a different story, but we’re not playing the bottom half, are we? So there’s not a lot to talk about, is there.”

There is plenty to talk about. Beginning with that question that has dominated Oklahoma sports talk radio this week.

Can Oklahoma hang with the Crimson Tide? The side-by-side resumes offer little evidence this game will amount to anything more than the SEC marking its territory.

Alabama is second nationally in points allowed at 11.3. Considering that includes eight games against the SEC. Take away the 76 points Alabama allowed against Texas A&M and Auburn and that number plummets to six points per game.

The Tide also ranks 21st nationally with 212 rushing yards per game, spearheaded by super sophomore T.J. Yeldon. What makes Yeldon especially dangerous is the fact he plays better against bigger competition. He rushed for 988 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns in SEC play.

Yeldon’s herky-jerky, upright running style is very reminiscent of a recent Sooner — Adrian Peterson.

His production out of the backfield has allowed quarterback A.J. McCarron to continue doing what he has always done — be efficient. He has averaged 246 passing yards per game in the SEC with a touchdown-to-interception rtio of 18/3.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma hasn’t been especially dominating in any particular arena while compiling its 10-2 record. The Sooners rush for more yards than the Tide, but are pedestrian in points scored (49th nationally) and have allowed 21.3 points per game.

There are two potential avenues of optimism for the Sooners, however.

First, it appears the “Belldozer” experiment has run its course. After getting throttled 41-12 by Baylor on Nov. 7, Oklahoma took the emphasis off the quarterback position and, for the most part, replaced Blake Bell with Trevor Knight.

A 48-10 romp against Iowa State ensued, but the real test came the following week against Kansas State. Knight led the Sooners to a 41-31 win on 14 of 20 passing for 171 yards. It doesn’t sound like much, but Oklahoma had been no threat to Baylor through the air and had paid for that one-dimensionality.

It all culminated in a cathartic 33-24 win against Oklahoma State to deny the Bedlam rival a Big 12 title a week after it had defeated unbeaten Baylor.

Bell returned as the primary quarterback in that game, but the “Belldozer” had been retired. Instead, Bell used his arm and produced an efficient 10 of 16 performance, totalling 140 yards, doing so without recording a single rushing attempt.

Stoops hasn’t named a starter for the Sugar Bowl yet, but be it Bell or Knight, the Tide will have to prepare for a passing game that has become increasingly confident over the final three weeks of the regular season.

The other issue Oklahoma could take advantage of is Alabama’s recent non-title game performances in bowl games. There is a simple way to cause anxiety in a ‘Bama fan — remind them of the 2009 Sugar Bowl when the Tide came off a devastating loss to Florida in the SEC title game and laid a 31-17 egg against a motivated Utah.

Oklahoma should come in with plenty to prove and no doubt the Sooners will throw several wrinkles the Tide’s way. But this isn’t that 2009 Tide team. They are motivated to prove they remain viable national title contenders that were a fluke play away from playing for their third consecutive national championship.

And of course, if they need any other motivation, they can just revisit that bulletin board material from the summer.

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