"Man, I didn't think we'd beat the brakes off of Oklahoma State like that. I need a drink." – Uncle Bill
My Uncle Bill is not only the seminal father figure in my life, but he's also serves as a good barometer on the quality of our favorite college football team, the Oklahoma Sooners. So when he called me midway through the third quarter of Bedlam as OU was up four touchdowns, I picked up the phone curious as to what he had to say. My Uncle's tone was muted, as he sounded almost beleaguered to what was being broadcasted by his cable provider. I shared in my Uncle's befuddlement, as the reality we were facing as Sooners fans was a simple one.
Are the Oklahoma Sooners really this good? Are they worthy of a #3 ranking? Can they actually win a national championship?
Don't take this as cautious pessimism, although if you know me, then I understand you questioning my ability to be objective about my provincial love for the Sooners. However, there are a few things that are unquestionably true and should ring all the bells and whistles of concern relating to a team being Final Four worthy.
ONE: OU's loss to Texas is the worst loss in college football this season
The fact that OU has been able to rebound from such a heinous loss is remarkable, but the moment the clock hit triple zeroes in the Cotton Bowl with Texas escaping with a 24-17 win, I penciled the Sooners in for eight wins and a trip to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Texas is an awful team this year (even if they had three losses decided by three points or less) and are currently ranked 104th in total offense and 86th in total defense (out of 128 FBS teams) with one game remaining against Baylor. Those rankings are probably going to get worse.
Given OU's stature this season, the loss is inexcusable. Some might say that Oklahoma has a non-conference win over an eight-win Tennessee plus three big conference wins over top-25 ranked Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State to lean on. That's when I remind you of the following...
TWO: OU avoided playing against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State's best QB
Technically that statement is not 100% accurate, as Oklahoma State's QB1 Mason Rudolph limped in for three pass attempts, one of which was a pick-6 interception that essentially buried the Cowboys.
Oklahoma's November schedule was served to Bob Stoops as a gauntlet to determine whether his Sooners were actually legit this season. On the road at #6 Baylor, at home vs. #18 TCU, on the road at #11 Oklahoma State. Three big wins later, OU clinched their place in the Final Four. However, under closer examination...
- OU 44, Baylor 34: Baylor's QB1 this season was Seth Russell, and as the Bears signal caller he went 7-0 while scoring no less than 45 points in each contest. Russell suffered a broken bone in his neck (!!!) and was summarily shut down for the year. Yes, Baylor was fortunate enough to bring in the #1 ranked HS quarterback to replace Russell in Jarrett Stidham, but Stidham only had one game (vs. Kansas State) under his belt before facing Oklahoma. Stidham's effort was admirable, but OU dodged a major bullet by missing Russell.
- OU 30, TCU 29: Missing Russell is one thing, avoiding the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy in Trevone Boykin is something else altogether. Add on top of that missing arguably the best receiver in college football in Josh Doctson, and Oklahoma was poised to cruise to an easy victory. With a 30-13 lead, TCU took out Baker Mayfield (concussion) and their third-string QB Bram Kohlhausen did his best Boykin impression to get the Horned Frogs to pull off a major upset. Steven Parker's pass deflection on the critical two-point conversion saved OU, and officially made the Sooners a possibly in the Final Four.
- OU 58, Oklahoma State 23: We mentioned Rudolph's 0-3, 1 Pick-Six performance in this game earlier, but the reality is that JW Walsh stepped in the QB1 role with just 29 pass attempts for the season. Walsh threw the ball 42 times but was highly ineffective in keeping up with Oklahoma in a track meet. Rudolph's ability to pass on a shaky OU secondary plus Walsh running read option in the red zone would've made for a very interesting contest in Stillwater. instead, we got a blowout.
Oh, and that Tennessee victory? Bob Stoops said it "maybe my favorite" win of his career, because Oklahoma had no business winning that game.
THREE: This might be the stupidest team in OU history
There's a great benefit in young and stupid, as that lack of awareness can allow for people to try and do things they have no business doing.
Watching Baker Mayfield pull off his greatest imitation of Russell Wilson and Johnny Manziel is part magic trick, part athletic ability, and part stupidity.
Watching Eric Striker blitz on every single down is part lunacy, part genius and part stupidity. It's one thing for Mayfield and Striker to play with reckless abandon, partly because their ambition is what drives OU's success, but the rest of this team suffers mightily from lacking judgment, awareness and intelligence.
It's one thing to suffer from blown coverages in the secondary or being penalized for being aggressive, it's another thing when players are tagged with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the biggest games or when you quarterback decides to try and win the football game by himself. This is the life and times of a Bob and Mike Stoops coached football team, as the temperature can get really hot or cold. This year, OU has found a way to not overheat, but the radiator's been through hell and back this season.
In a conversation with my brother and fellow Sooner fan Kenny Masenda, we rambled for a bit following OU's drubbing of Oklahoma State, this is customary fare for the both of us. Usually I'm long winded and full of commentary to share while Kenny either agrees quietly or tells me I've lost my damn mind. This time, my thought was simple focused.
"This Oklahoma team is totally capable of winning the national championship. Unfortunately, this Oklahoma team is also totally capable of embarrassing us on national television." -- Me
Baker Mayfield has been the best quarterback in college football this season and will be in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon is the best running back duo in college football and both will be playing on Sundays for a long time. Sterling Shepard is now one of the three greatest receivers in Sooners history. There's first-round NFL talent on the offensive and defensive lines for the Sooners, and the back seven is loaded with speed and athleticism...
...and yet I'm terrified to see what happens with Oklahoma in the Final Four. They are the biggest enigma in college football, and the quicker you embrace that fact, the easier it will be to manage your expectations.
If you know an Oklahoma Sooner fan, do them a solid for the holidays and buy them a gift of their favorite vice. Trust me when I say their nerves are shot, they stare off in the distance for minutes at a time, and they're totally unsure of what will happen on New Years. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go smoke a cigarette and wonder what the true meaning of life is.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”