NORMAN — For the third time this season, Oklahoma will enter a game as a double-digit underdog.
The Sooners are currently a 14-point underdog to Alabama for the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, and if that line holds, it would be the biggest line against the Sooners in the Bob Stoops era.
Here's a look at five reasons why Oklahoma might, might have a better chance than most expect in the Sugar Bowl:
1. The way each team's regular season ended.
Alabama lost a last-second heartbreaker to archrival Auburn in its regular-season finale, while Oklahoma went to Stillwater and mounted a stunning comeback in the final minutes and stunned the No. 6 Cowboys.
Alabama's loss not only cost it a shot at the SEC and national championships, it gave Auburn those opportunities. That could be a tough pill for the Crimson Tide players to swallow, and if they enter the Sugar Bowl disinterested or unmotivated, that might give OU a glimmer of hope.
2. The return of the Riverboat Gambler.
One of the most impressive, memorable risks Bob Stoops took early in his tenure at Oklahoma came against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
With OU leading Alabama 13-10 late in the third quarter, it faced a fourth-and-10 play at its own 31-yard line. Stoops dialed up a fake punt, resulting in a 22-yard gain that set up the game-clinching touchdown a play later.
Stoops has grown more conservative in recent years, but a successful fake field goal against Oklahoma State would seem to indicate a possible return of the Riverboat Gambler.
If the Sooners are going to have any chance against the more talented Crimson Tide, Stoops will have to be willing to pull out all the stops again.
3. OU's demonstrated ability to run the ball effectively.
The Sooners have rushed for at least 200 yards eight times this season, including four games with at least 300 rushing yards.