NORMAN — Trevor Knight makes his fourth college start Saturday in Bedlam. What if Knight was making his 12th college start?
Turns out, we have a clue how much that experience would help. Clint Chelf makes his 12th college start Saturday, and what a transformation the OSU quarterback has made. From third-teamer 14 months ago to campus hero today. From shaky in the pocket six weeks ago to national player of the week against Baylor with ESPN's GameDay in the house. Chelf is the ultimate example of a quarterback who improves by playing.
Knight and his option offense give OU a chance against OSU. Blake Bell would have been a punching bag against a Cowboy defense that can rush the passer and cover receivers. The option at least gives the Sooners hopes of moving the ball and controlling the clock.
But the truth is, OU is swimming upstream this Bedlam. The Sooners are playing a season finale with a midseason offense.
“We are where we are and it's time to go lace 'em up on Saturday at 11 o'clock and go play ball,” said offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.
Because of circumstances, the Sooners have not used the offense to which they committed last winter.
When Bell replaced Knight against West Virginia, because of ineffectiveness and injury, OU went away from the option and back to more of the Landry Jones offense of the previous four years.
When Knight replaced Bell against Iowa State, again because of ineffectiveness and injury, the Sooners went back to the option, which they had worked on all spring and August.
“You live with it,” Bob Stoops said. “Those were the circumstances we were dealt. Fair to say in each case, at different times, it makes you adjust offensively … it's been a challenge to manage it overall.”
The coaches were in a pickle. Knight was not playing well in September. Some teams can afford to ride a young quarterback, let him develop and take lumps. But OU 2013 is not one of those teams.
These Sooners had potential. And when Bell played great against Tulsa and then beat Notre Dame, well, how do you change jockeys after winning the South Bend Derby?
Watching Knight and Co. run all over Iowa State and Kansas State the last two games, it's easy to imagine what this offense could have looked like with a full season of the option. Easy to imagine Knight becoming a sharp passer and even better decision-maker.
“It's just getting in a rhythm, getting that confidence down,” Knight said. “The more snaps you get, the more confident you'll be.”
So Knight is about four games confident instead of 12 games confident.
It's really not anybody's fault, though why Heupel and Stoops didn't have at least a Knight package for the Texas game remains an unsolved mystery. Bell showed enough to keep the job as long as he did, against Notre Dame and Texas Tech in particular.
But eventually, the Sooners showed themselves more potent as an option-oriented offense.
It seems the light has come on. “It's fair to say in the last few (two) games, it has,” Stoops said. “You can tell he's operating with much more ease and comfort. And the pace. And the timing.
“I do feel good about what we've done in the last two games, the way we've moved the football.”
It's a good-looking offense. But it's in midseason form. The OSU offense, with Chelf about to make his 12th start, is in a higher gear. Advantage Cowboys.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.