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Oklahoma is a Sugar Bowl underdog, but the Sooners wear that role quite well

The Sooners are an underdog like never before. But history says OU doesn't face an impossible task against Alabama.
by Berry Tramel Published: January 1, 2014

NEW ORLEANS — The colors are identical. That certain shade of red that has dominated college football off and on for almost 70 years.

Oklahoma crimson. Alabama crimson. Unless the action on the Superdome field ignites a roar, good luck identifying which fans are which Thursday night in the Sugar Bowl.

“You just gotta look at the logos,” said Sooner tailback Roy Finch. “Going to be an ‘A' and going to be an ‘OU.'”

Not exactly. This game will be different. The Sooners won't be sporting an O. They've been branded with only a U. For underdog. The Sooners are an underdog like never before.

Oh, they've been saddled with a higher point spread by the Vegas crowd than the 161/2-point line established for this game. But that was for years like in the '90s against Nebraska. Never with a Sugar Bowl-caliber team. Never with a team that has shown spunk and resiliency and enough talent to spend New Year's Eve on Bourbon Street.

“As a competitor, it kind of gets to you a little bit,” said OU quarterback Trevor Knight. “You just gotta embrace it, get a chip on your shoulder and go play the game.”

And so with that U on their chest and a chip on their shoulder, the Sooners take a swing at mighty Alabama, which but for a fluky finish against Auburn could be playing for its third straight national championship.

A 161/2-point spread is not only a testimony to Alabama, it's an indictment of OU. That spread is more than twice as big as when the Sooners played Cinderella Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl seven years ago and when Georgia played outmanned Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl six years ago.

This 161/2-point spread is the second-biggest in BCS history, trailing only the 17-point line when OU was favored over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl three years ago.

“It definitely is motivation,” said OU defensive end Geneo Grissom. “We feel disrespected from seeing double-digit (point spreads). I feel like most guys are going to step up to the plate.”

No reason not to dream big. History says the Sooners don't face an impossible task.

BCS and OU bowl history are rife with big underdogs pulling an upset.

In the BCS era, four double-digit underdogs have won BCS bowls. Heck, the Sooners have won and lost major bowls as a double-digit underdog.

The last time OU was a double-digit underdog in a BCS game, the Sooners won (2000 national title game against Florida State).

The last time Alabama was a double-digit favorite in a BCS game, the Crimson Tide lost (Utah in the Sugar Bowl five years ago).

The last time the Sugar Bowl had a double-digit favorite, Louisville upset Florida, last season.

“A bowl game is all about mindset,” said Bama coach Nick Saban. “How your team sort of resets their mindset is really important to how a team's going to prepare, how they're going to focus, how they're going to play in the game.

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by Berry Tramel
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 Oklahoman,...
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