Nick Saban awaits the Sooners in the Sugar Bowl game on Jan. 2. Oh my.
Unless Saban awaits the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl stadium every October. My oh my.
Suddenly, OU can't get away from the specter of the coach who's as good a pick as any for starting OU's tortoise-speed slide from the pinnacle college football. Bob Stoops hasn't come as close to his second national title since losing 21-14 to LSU and Saban 10 years ago in the Sugar Bowl.
Now there's a rematch. Same bat coach, same bat bowl. But not the same bat school. Saban coaches Alabama these days, maybe you've heard, and the Crimson Tide will be a prohibitive favorite against the upstart Sooners.
If Saban's even there. The Saban-to-Texas rumors won't go away and will only intensify if Mack Brown steps down this week, which most of us expect. I have no idea if the rumors have remnants of truth. Both parties — UT and Saban, not Mack — deserve to be drug through the mud, after Texas regent Wallace Hall and longtime booster Tom Hicks talked with Saban's agent last January about his client replacing Mack. Uncool. Very uncool.
The prospect of playing Saban's team in the Sugar Bowl is both exciting and terrifying for Sooner Nation. Hopefully just the former for the ballplayers, who have shown uncommon fortitude in keeping a troubled season not just afloat, but asoaring. Everyone else, including perhaps the coaches, have to be thinking, careful what we wish for.
But if you think the idea of playing Bama in the Big (Not So) Easy is daunting, consider the prospect of Saban coaching the Longhorns, a nodding-off giant in the sport. Texas is 30-20 the last four years.
Such a hire in BevoLand would sober up a variety of Big 12 ports. Norman and Stillwater. Manhattan and Morgantown. Waco, Lubbock and Fort Worth. Everywhere, really, except Lawrence, and even then should Saban agree to take over the basketball team, too.
Saban has dominated college football in recent years like we thought never it would be again. Like Frank Leahy in the ‘40s and Bud Wilkinson in the ‘50s and Bear Bryant in the '60s and Barry Switzer in the ‘70s and Tom Osborne in the ‘80s. But Saban has coached four of the last 10 national champs, including three of the past four years. Saban has lost six games in the last five years, eight games in the last six. Not since Osborne's Cornhuskers went 60-2 from 1994-97 has a program been so consistently excellent.
Put Saban on the Forty Acres, and suddenly Bob Stoops' blowouts in the Cotton Bowl don't come so frequently. Suddenly, Mike Gundy's wins in Austin (three straight) aren't quite as easy. Baylor's days of winning three of four from UT are over. Not even Kansas State would have a coaching edge.
So would that be a bad thing? The truth is, while a strong Texas would strengthen a Big 12 Conference that certainly could use some strengthening, Saban's presence would make each individual school's path much more difficult. Parity — five schools have won the past five Big 12 titles — would be more difficult to maintain. Not impossible, but difficult.
But a rising Crimson Tide lifted all boats in the SEC. Bama has dominated the league, as Stoops is quick to point out, and the SEC hasn't suffered. Auburn, Bama's archest of arch rivals, has had plenty of high times throughout the years. But its greatest stretch of football has come within the middle of the Saban Reign. Auburn won the 2010 national title and plays for the 2013 crown on Jan. 6 against Florida State.
A stronger Texas could lift the entire Big 12. Whatever complacency that infiltrated the Sooner staff in recent years would be gone. Whatever satisfaction might have seeped into Stillwater over OSU's recent rise would be mitigated by the sobering news that the bar has been raised again. Efforts in both camps would be redoubled.
Of course, Saban is likely to just stay in Tuscaloosa. In which case, the Sooners can go to New Orleans and take their chances. Or take their medicine, whichever is the case.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.