NORMAN — The game that should happen will happen: Big 12 champion vs. SEC champion in the Big Bowl. But the stakes are not the same for Oklahoma and Florida, the teams coronated Sunday for college football’s two-team playoff, Jan. 8 in Miami.
Both chase the same carrot. A national championship and all that comes with it: Eternal adoration from a devoted fan base; untold riches in terms of salaries for coaches and plusher towels in the locker room; free doughnuts at several diners in the tri-county area. The Sooners and Gators have the same to gain. But the Sooners have more on the line. Win this game, and bye-bye goes all the aggravation of recent years and recent weeks. Frankly, Oklahoma football has been a punching bag. Some of it self-inflicted. OU’s bowl slump — four straight BCS bowl defeats, with a Holiday win thrown in to break up the monotony — has been a big bugaboo, and not just on the nation’s gazillion talk shows. Bob Stoops himself has admitted the exasperation, telling his troops last year in Phoenix how tired he was of seeing his bowl record crawl at the bottom of ESPN. And Sooner fans are getting downright tired of it, too. But the bowl slump is small spuds compared to the comic opera played out in the Big 12 South in November, when OU, Texas Tech and Texas forged an unbreakable three-way tie that resulted in the Sooners getting the BCS love and Texas getting the national media love. Thus, the stakes in Miami: Win this game, and farewell not just to the bowl problem but all the babble about Texas.