CINCINNATI — Alabama barely escaped the Ozarks with its No. 1 ranking. Temple led Penn State most of the game. And Texas, I assume you've heard about.
With upsets brewed and brewing on a wild Saturday evening of college football, Oklahoma priorities quickly changed.
Forget style points. Forget ironing out wrinkles. Just win on the banks of the Ohio River.
The eighth-ranked Sooners did just that, 31-29 over a wounded but dangerous Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium.
The game was not a testament to the coliseum's namesake. Raggedly played by both teams.
The Bearcats didn't take care of the ball and it cost them. Two Jonathan Nelson-produced turnovers in the first half turned away Cincinnati from likely touchdowns, and two fourth-quarter turnovers produced by Sooners you've barely heard of killed UC's chances for a stirring rally.
The Sooners seemed to coast after a 24-9 lead five minutes into the third quarter. Their run defense was awful, as Cincy tailback Isaiah Pead ran free, and he doesn't even play for Air Force.
But on a day when UCLA beat Texas 34-12, a two-point win in Cincinnati seemed downright heartwarming to Sooners.
"We're not trying to win ugly," said OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "But we're not greedy enough to think winning's not good."
Winning is very, very good. Especially when it comes with the help of people like Pryce Macon and James Hanna.
Macon, a third-team defensive end, dislodged the ball from scrambling quarterback Zach Collaros, with UC trailing 24-22 and facing 3rd-and-9 from the OU 43-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. The Sooners' Jeremy Beal recovered.
Moments later, UC's D.J. Woods muffed Tress Way's punt at the Bearcat 7-yard line. Woods fell on the ball and it should have been Cincinnati's possession, but OU's James Hanna outhustled the officials and dove in before the whistle blew. By the time authorities arrived, Hanna had outwrestled Woods for the ball, and two plays later Landry Jones' 5-yard touchdown pass to Trey Millard gave the Sooners blessed breathing room.
"We just didn't play very well tonight," Beal said. "Good win, I'm happy, but we gotta play better."
Maybe. Maybe not. Sometimes you're just as well off being good at the right time rather than good most of the time. Sometimes Pryce Macon and James Hanna can help you win as much Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray.
This game wasn't easy and no reason it should have been, on the road against a team with a chip on its shoulder and back-to-back BCS bowls on its resume'.
Cincinnati is not as good as its Sugar Bowl team from a year ago but is a lot better than the ragamuffins we watched lose at North Carolina State 10 days ago. Truth is, Cincy is as good a pick as any to win the woeful Big East.
"It's NCAA football," said Broyles, who had another whopping game, with 10 catches for 100 yards. "It doesn't matter who you play. If you don't bring your A-game, you can get beat."
But there's the beauty of this gorgeous Saturday. The Sooners didn't bring their A-game to Ohio yet still won. And in doing so, discovered they might not even need their A-game next Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.
And Jones played very well. His fourth-quarter interception helped Cincinnati rally, but otherwise Jones was very good. He seemed to move better than ever, despite a stiff Cincy pass rush, and completed 36 of 51 passes for 370 yards.
Any doubt about the quarterback edge in OU-Texas should have been answered.
So sure, the Sooners looked sloppy. But their 4-0 record looks just spiffy.
"I just want to win," Bob Stoops said. "Last year (8-5 record) was not that long ago. I remember losing some tough, tight games. This feels a heck of a lot better."
You, me and the Sooners don't have to like the way the Sooners won, but on this Saturday, we've all got to admire the fact that win they did, on a Saturday when that was not at all assured.
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 AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.