NORMAN — Bob Stoops isn't saying who his starting quarterback will be in the Sugar Bowl.
Even though the Oklahoma coach surprised exactly no one with his that-will-be-a-game-time-decision proclamation on Monday, that just means we have more time to debate who should start at quarterback against Alabama. Trevor Knight? Blake Bell? Kendal Thompson?
The answer is easy, if you ask me.
And it is the same answer regardless of whether you're most concerned about the here and now or about the future.
Knight has to be the guy.
Let's start with beating Alabama. I know most folks believe that is an unlikely outcome of the game on Jan. 2, but if the Sooners want to have any chance against the Crimson Tide, they have to have a quarterback who can run and throw.
Look at the games this season where Alabama was tested the most. The first was a 49-42 victory at Texas A&M, the second a 34-28 loss at Auburn. Both of those squads have dual-threat quarterbacks.
Johnny Manziel threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 98 yards against Alabama. I'm not sure anyone on scholarship in Norman can have that type of day against Alabama.
But what Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall did against Alabama is a blueprint for OU.
In fact, Sooner center Gabe Ikard said Monday that the offense has been focused almost solely on video from Alabama's loss to Auburn.
“They did a lot of damage just with zone read, counter, just running the ball,” he said.
Marshall ran for 99 yards and a touchdown and threw for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Not huge numbers from the Auburn quarterback, but a balance that kept Alabama honest and gave Auburn a chance.
You could see Knight posting those type of numbers.
Bell, for all his Bedlam success, isn't a zone-read guy. He's a power runner. There's a place for that, but it ain't as the starter against this Alabama team.
As for Thompson, I think we've seen why he didn't play more this season. He can't throw it well enough.
For all the infatuation with mobile quarterbacks like Manziel and Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, the truth is that they wouldn't be starters much less stars if they didn't throw it as well as they do. Got to be able to keep the defense from crowding guys up to the line of scrimmage.
Right now, Thompson can't do that.
But even if Knight doesn't beat Alabama, there's still reason to start him.
OU has clearly decided that the zone-read, mobile-quarterback offense is its scheme of the future. Just look at the quarterbacks coming down the pipe.
All of them are dual-threat guys who have good wheels. The quarterback run game will be part of the OU offense for the foreseeable future, so you'd better get players ready to run it.
And we're not just talking quarterbacks here.
Yes, Knight would benefit by playing in the Sugar Bowl and getting a majority of the reps leading up to the game. Every bit of experience helps.
But the same can be said for the rest of the guys on offense. Ten other players are out there, too, and giving them the chance to focus on a quarterback-run-heavy offense in meetings and film sessions and practice and bowl prep is valuable. The running backs, wide receivers and offensive linemen will be better next season because of it.
So, the Sooners would get the most long-term benefit out of starting one of their zone-read quarterbacks, and Knight is the better of the two options.
I'll be the first to say that I love the way Blake Bell has handled his business. He's been a consummate professional through roller coaster ride's worth of ups and downs. And the chapter he authored a couple weeks ago in Bedlam may never be topped.
Still, he shouldn't start the Sugar Bowl.
Knight should, for reasons both present and future.
So, even though Bob Stoops will spend these next few weeks refusing to cop to who he will start, it's pretty clear who he should.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.