When it comes to the Oklahoma Sooners, I’m reminded of the sage advice Vinny Jones’ character “Bullet Tooth Tony” offers in Snatch:
Perhaps I’m stupid for suggesting this, as recent precedent points to a predictable outcome. But, are this year’s Sooners the version to contend for a national championship?
Yes, yes. It’s a road we’ve all been down before, myself included — just last year, as a matter of fact. Riding high on the momentum of a marquee win, Bob Stoops regains the Big Game moniker for a couple weeks, like after beating Florida State in Doak Campbell Stadium, or a couple months in the case of a Sugar Bowl win scored at Alabama’s expense.
But then, the Sooners inevitably lose. It’s not always the big games, either. No one would have tabbed last year’s encounter with TCU as a big game beforehand.
The same goes for the Texas Tech loss in 2011. Or the 2013 Red River Shootout against a seemingly downtrodden Texas team. Or…well, you get the idea.
Stoops’ Sooners have a way of recapturing the nation’s imagination, only to squander it somewhere in Big 12.
Saturday’s win in SEC Country against a good Tennessee team is the latest confidence-inspiring victory. Much like Florida State in 2011, Oklahoma went into hostile territory and scored a big-game win.
This one was perhaps more hostile than the trip to Tallahassee, what with Bob Stoops’ rivalry with the SEC as a conference and the less than hospitality reception linebacker Eric Striker received for comments he made about the conference.
That, coupled with the Sooners digging a two-touchdown hole that lasted much of the evening, make this a win perhaps more on par with the 2014 Sugar Bowl.
This Tennessee team isn’t of the same caliber as that Alabama squad, but both the way in which the Sooners won and the surroundings give it similar magnitude.
“The environment away from home, the Checkerboard, the stadium, the whole deal,” Stoops said on the Big 12 Conference coaches call Monday. “To come from behind two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and win it, that’s pretty special.”
Saturday was a coming-out party for quarterback Baker Mayfield, who threw for three touchdowns and rushed for a fourth. The Texas Tech transfer Mayfield seems a perfect fit for first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s system, and the running back tandem of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine provide the steak with the sizzle.
But then, the Sugar Bowl was a coming-out party for Trevor Knight, who skewered the Alabama defense 348 passing yards and four touchdowns.
So what’s different this time?
As with past Sooners team, Big 12 play will be the measure of whether any faith put in Oklahoma is just the predictability of stupidity.
Until proven otherwise, Oklahoma is playing catch-up to TCU and Baylor. Many of the Sooners’ season-unraveling losses have come against either Kansas State or Oklahoma State — or both, as was the case last season — and West Virginia is a team I like to be a surprise contender in the Big 12 title race.
There are no shortage of ways in which a potential return to the national championship landscape could go awry for Oklahoma. However, Stoops points out a caveat of Saturday’s win that could be the underlying theme that gets the Sooners over the hump that’s tripped them up in recent years.
“It really can give your team a boost to always know you’re always in it,” Stoops said. “Keep fighting, keep working and things can change.”
The question for the Sooners, then: Have things changed?