Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma football: Emails show not a lot of Sugar Bowl optimism

by Berry Tramel Published: January 2, 2014

 Time for some OU pregame emails, although I have to admit, the excitement level is not high. I’ve had more emails this week about the Thunder than OU-Alabama.

Craig: “Could you tell me some keep factors that would have to occur for OU to win their bowl game and what do you think their chances are?”

Slim. I think the chances are slim. OU needs another special teams touchdown, it needs to control the ball and keep the game close going into the fourth quarter. Then maybe figure out a way to win.

Ben: “Berry, you should have told the truth. A person DOES need to trash a pair of shoes for every day spent on Bourbon Street.”

Maybe not if you watch where you step. And you know, if you stay away from the French Quarter  —  which I’ve done; haven’t been there since the night I arrived  —  New Orleans isn’t such a dirty city.

Mark: “OU has no shot against Bama from the national media, and I can understand their perception.  However, what I can’t get out of my head is 1977.  You remember a team named Arkansas?  Yep, led by none other than Lou Holtz, with four players kicked off the team, one being an all-American.  No way they could hang with OU.  It was supposed to be a day in the park for Lott and Co. OU was the current Bama of the ‘70s.  David hit us right in the head and we went down, hard.  David left victorious and left an army in dismay.”

Excellent points. OU’s chances against Alabama are much greater than Arkansas’ chances against OU 36 years ago. But still not great.

Travis: “I was looking at the current list of NFL players from OU on ESPN.com a couple of days ago (there are 23 listed).  I was struck by how close this listing comes to filling out a really good NFL starting lineup. There is no punter – though Tress Way is certainly good enough to get a look from an NFL team at some point. There is no kicker, but only because the Saints recently released Garret Hartley.  And there is no center, but Gabe Ikard will soon fill that role, and Lane Johnson could slide over for now given the other great tackles. But otherwise, you could essentially line these guys up at their listed positions and have a very good NFL team. I haven’t compared this to other NCAA powerhouses, but it’s really impressive that OU’s NFL players fill positions across the board. I think this is a testament to the OU coaching staff.  I know they take heat these days for not having as many blue-chip recruits.  And some of these NFL players go back a few years (although all from the Stoops era).  But the staff gets these guys ready for the next level – at every position.  They don’t just send linebackers, or offensive linemen, or running backs. They just prepare players across the board.”

Just off the top of my head, I think OU would fall far shy of the teams that could be put out there by Bama, LSU, Miami, USC. Of course, those schools might not have a quarterback, which would put them behind the 8-ball, but my impression is that OU’s NFL alumni is weaker now than say 5-10 years ago, and weaker than the ’80s and ’70s Sooner alums.

David: “Las Vegas makes money by being right or close booking. OU is 151/2 points in arrears. The QB has the protection of Wells Fargo, Brinks and Loomis. The bubble screen becomes more dangerous against persons wanting to make a name for themselves. The three and out is a formula for disaster. Would like your mini game plan for some hope.”

First, Las Vegas makes its money by getting people to bet both sides. It has no interest in who wins and doesn’t claim to know. It knows how weak people think. OU will have to play great defense. Probably has to hold Bama to less than 20 points, then control the ball, find a way to score a non-offensive TD and somehow win 20-17.

Clay: “I enjoyed your article on punt returners.  I was surprised at how well Saunders ranks, but I agree with you based on his production. Imagine if the coaches would have let him return punts all the time after he gained eligibility last year.   By my calculations, Justin Brown had 16 punt returns while Jalen only had five returns.  Interestingly, even after the OSU return for a TD, he only had one more return and Brown had two. Of course, OU wasn’t forcing very many punts last year.”

Interesting points. Of course, Brown had a long punt return for a TD vs. Florida A&M, but still, it was clear that Saunders was a primo weapon. The Sooners would be sunk without him. And OSU would have won three of the last four Bedlams.

Greg: “Checking into the hotel about 1 p.m., got a single ticket, great seat, third level, about the 30-yard line, behind the OU bench. Try to eat a great early dinner, walk to Dome, sit down, no expectation, relax, and let God defend the right … the Sooners.”

That’s the right idea. This is not the kind of game to get worked up about. If the Sooners get smoked, not much anybody can do about it. Alabama is the much better team. OU gets a chance at a huge upset. Just accept whatever happens.

David: “I don’t suppose you’re going to make OU your upset special.”

No. Already went with my Big 12 upset special. Texas over Oregon. Hey, I never did hear. How did that turn out?

Ron: “Nice feature on Saunders. What a marvelous player he is. I was surprised when I noticed during the Oklahoma State game that he weighs only 157 pounds! Your list included Tommy McDonald. I’m thinking he wasn’t all that big either.”

Excellent point. Not to say that Jalen Saunders is another Tommy McDonald. McDonald is one of the all-time greats. In 1955, McDonald led OU in rushing, receiving and passing. And was a punt returner extraordinaire. A ballplayer for the ages. And he was a little guy. But Saunders is good, too. I don’t know if he can pass, but that reminds me. Maybe it’s time for another LaColtan Bester sighting. A trick or two?

Brooks: “Hypotheticals. Any chance Browns, Cowboys (if Garrett is fired) or another NFL team comes after Stoops? AND if they were to beat Bama, would that be the perfect opening to part Norman on great terms with his fascinating career in check and all parties pleased?”

It would indeed be a great time to depart. Coming off an epic victory, a veteran team returning, including a quarterback. But it looks like Garrett’s staying. And I don’t think Stoops likes cold weather.

Bob: “I don’t care (about the Sugar Bowl). We beat OSU, and whatever happens, happens, tonight. Our recruiting would be hurt more if we had lost to OSU than losing to the best team in college football for the last four years. OU is young, and with last year’s and this year’s class, OU is starting to get depth back again. If we had lost to OSU, OU would have gone to the Alamo Bowl and probably lost to Oregon. So what is better? Beating OSU and going to a BCS game and probably losing, or finishing the season with two losses and everybody saying OSU is the big boy in Oklahoma now? So my suggestion to everyone worrying about Alabama, is just enjoy the moment, this won’t hurt OU.”

Well, it will hurt if Bama wins 49-3. But you’re basically right. Always better to win Bedlam and take your chances. By the way, I’m convinced OU would have been in the Cotton Bowl, had it lost to OSU. The New Orleans people say the Sugar Bowl was sure to take a Big 12 team if one was eligible, and Baylor would have been eligible, ranked seventh or eighth. That would have put the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl.

Roy: “Quick, dig up the film on the last time OU played Bama and send it to Stoops. As I recall, Dennis Franchione pulled off two onside kicks and ran a couple of nifty fake field goals, never seen before or since. Though OU was the better team, Sooners were lucky to win. Would make a good story with ironic twist, and it’s our only chance.”

It might be OU’s only chance. And like I said, Stoops has shown himself to be a gambler this year. I don’t remember all of Franchione’s tricks — it wasn’t the last OU-Bama game, by the way, it was the 2002 game, not 2003 — but they were cool.

How surprised would you be if the Sooners win tonight?

Well, I’d put it somewhere between a cruise ship running aground onto Poydras Street and Bourbon Street going dry.

 


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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