sugar-bowl Addressing This Sugar Bowl Win-Win Narrative For The Sooners

Almost as soon as the official bowl pairings were announced and we learned that Oklahoma would be facing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, many in the local media began to describe the game as a ‘win-win’ for the Sooners.

The logic being that, on paper, this Oklahoma team was woefully overmatched against a Crimson Tide team that many believe is still the best in the country. So if OU were somehow able to shock the world and pull off the upset, it would be a monumental springboard for the program. On the other hand, if OU were to lose the game it would mean very little because, in the minds of the media, everyone is expecting them to lose anyway.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not, nor will I ever be, a moral victory guy. So the latter of those two ‘win-win’ concepts – OU didn’t win but kept it close enough without getting embarrassed – doesn’t really do anything for me. A loss is always going to disappoint, whether it’s by one point or five touchdowns. Granted, there are different levels of disappointment but it’s disappointment nonetheless.

Admittedly, this ‘win-win’ concept is an unfamiliar scenario for an Oklahoma football program and fan base that has become more accustomed to the much less appealing ‘lose-lose’ scenarios.

Win and nobody cares because you’re supposed to win, but lose and you’re the subject of embarrassment and ridicule.

That’s familiar. This ‘win-win’ concept isn’t and, quite frankly, given its connotations – that you’re just fortunate enough to be there – isn’t one, as an OU fan, I want to become familiar.

However, back to the crux of the matter at hand. The problem with this whole ‘win-win’ narrative many have been pushing is that it’s incomplete.

There are more than just the two options listed above. There is a third and it’s an unpleasant one from the OU perspective.

A game in which you are as overmatched as some believe you to be and a game that potentially turns into an embarrassing blowout on national television.

Unfortunately, this is also a familiar feeling for Oklahoma who suffered that very same disastrous fate just last year against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

In fact, many believe it played a significant role in Bob Stoops finally acknowledging the deficiencies in his coaching staff and the noticeable drop off in the talent level on the Oklahoma roster.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you program may be, losses like the one Oklahoma suffered to the Aggies are never a good thing.  So to potentially have another for a second consecutive year, on an even bigger stage, would only add to the embarrassment.

I’m not saying it’s going to happen and I’m sure as hell not saying I want it to happen, but what I am saying is it’s a possibility and one that has to be avoided at all costs.

Perception is a tricky thing and it’s something that, fair or unfair, can be easy to establish, but significantly more difficult to change. The perception of this Oklahoma program were it to suffer another embarrassing bowl game loss, even with all the injuries and even to an Alabama team many still consider the best in the country, should be (and I’m quite confident is) a road Bob Stoops and company do not want to venture down.


  • chasejamy

    I agree losing is not good for the program. I am thinking positive, I think we have a chance if we can slow down the running game. There passing game, I think we can defend. How do we slow down there running game?

    • pitbull17

      It’s a double edged sword with them, sell out to stop the run and McCarron is going play action you all day long. If the safety’s or corners bite he’ll make those passes. I don’t know if OU can stop their run game without stacking the box though. I would be much more comfortable in the match up if the D were healthy and even then I think ‘Bama is better.

      • SoonerGoneEast

        I think we sell out to stop the run and dare McCarron to beat us thru the air. No doubt he’s capable, but much of his success has been built around an established run game. If we can at least limit their run game and TK and the RB’s can find some success on the ground, then we’ve got a realistic shot.

        • leatherneck1061

          That’s certainly a huge if. Stopping Bama’s O will be difficult enough, but I think everyone agrees the real challenge for OU will be moving the ball. TK at least presents a novel form of attack. We know they had problems stopping Manziel….I’d say it’s a given that Stoops and Heupel will have a lot of misdirection and designed qb runs for this one.

          • soonermusic

            I think the success of the “if” will be largely based upon keeping the d rested. If the o can keep the ball for sustained drives as it did vs. OSU, the d will be at max effectiveness. Anything less won’t work. Absolutely cannot put them right back out there after they get a big stop or two. If the d can stay sharp, we’ll stay in it.

          • leatherneck1061

            Agreed. D is what can keep us in this game, but at the same time it’s the O that must keep the D in the game. If we get out there and start pulling the 3 and outs like we have some games, Bama will simply roll right over us. Offense absolutely must find a way to move the ball, or it’s over before it begins.

            How I wish we had Philips, Nelson, and Millard for this game….would feel so much better about our chances.

          • soonermusic

            well said. Exactly the point I was trying to make.

            I think if TK is good to go, we have a decent chance of avoiding 3 and outs, due to the variety of plays available and his improvisational skills. I also think that pretty much everyone continues to seriously underestimate his ability to pass. If ‘bama does the same, it could turn out very interesting.

            agree about the missing guys…if only….

          • SoonerGoneEast

            We’ve seen the damage inflicted on our defense this year by our own offense. If we come out clueless (again) as to our own offensive identity/direction, then this game will become unwatchable. K. Smart will own JH and never break a sweat.

            The key to this game is our defense, but it’s JH who will either put our defense in a position to succeed or fail.

          • leatherneck1061

            Unwatchable is precisely the word, and it’s exactly what I fear most about this game.

          • pitbull17

            OU really better hope they don’t have to depend on heuple out-thinking Smart.

          • SoonerGoneEast

            Yes, it’s a very HUGE “if,” but I feel it’s the only way we stay in this game. If they’re able to have their way with us on the ground, it’s over.

        • pitbull17

          I agree, just hope the D is as healthy as possible and M.Stoops has a hell of a game plan dialed up!

  • L’carpetron Dookmarriot

    I think the win-win scenario was developed to make people (themselves) feel good inside, shortly after seeing that Bama was our opponent. And this win-win has nothing to do with the football players or the program, IMO. Some media members and fans said it would be a good thing to know how far off you, a player and a program, are away from the gold standard.

    Why don’t we ask some players what they are feeling after the game in the 2nd.

    Hey guys, you just pulled off a major upset, which no one thought you all were capable of doing because we didn’t think you were good enough. How do you feel?

    A fluke feels good to people?

    Hey guys, you just got clobbered on national TV, for the second year in a row and what we (many) thought was going to happen. How do you feel?

    Knowing that the gulf between you and other top teams is embarrassingly large feels good?

    The win-win, for me, is a backhanded compliment.

    • pitbull17

      I like that train of thought. This win-win scenario does nothing to help the players. I will say that an outright win gives recruiting a shot in the arm though.

      • leatherneck1061

        It may well be the Mt. Everest scenario, but a win would be absolutely huge in my opinion.

  • pitbull17

    I’m with you on this one Jordan. If we see a repeat of what happened last year there is no way,shape, or form it’s good for OU. If ‘Bama is able to beat OU by 4 or more touchdowns that’s an embarrassment. Sure losing sucks but keeping it close does no damage to the program in the short or long term. Getting curb stomped hurts recruiting, it happened last year. ‘Bama may not have Manziel but they have skill guys all around a QB that isn’t going to lose the game for them. Their D is also no slouch at all, with a very intimidating front 7, If OU can’t put points on the board early, it could get ugly quick.

  • Scott Cloud

    I get where you’re coming from and I agree.
    As a program, OU should never be playing for moral victories. This team, however, has achieved plenty with the adversity it’s faced this year. A loss to Bama would not mean I think less of this team. It’s actually been one of my favorite teams to watch because of their grit and character and it’s competitiveness (by and large).
    A blowout loss would be bad and not help OU’s national perception but it won’t change my feelings about this group of players, I think they have overachieved, imo.

  • Sooner Ray

    I don’t believe there is a win-win in this game. I think there is an outright win(slim chance), Lose with some national respect( likely), Or walk away in shame with your asses having been handed to you(possible). I’m not a moral victory guy but I am capable of feeling ok (after a day or two) if we play hard and just get beat by a team who everyone believes is more talented. Something inside me believes we have a good chance to shock the world, no one gave us a chance going into the Fla. St. game and we just found a way.

    All we can say is “so you’re saying there’s a chance?”

  • anron4581

    Come out with our hair on fire and I believe we can compete with Bama and maybe even win. Come out flat with piss poor execution and get blown out, for me at least, means something needs to give. I love Bob Stoops but no one can argue that his teams play great in bowl games. I realize it is a tough deal when you don’t achieve your greatest goal of playing for a NC, but winning your bowl is important, regardless of what bowl it is. Having said all of that…OU 28 Bama 24 Boomer Sooner!!!!

  • Leroy Jenkins

    Totally agree. If this game is like Bama’s 2010 Outback Bowl (49-7 vs. Michigan State) would be discouraging. We’ve got to play with total confidence, strong QB play and run game, and good open-field tackling on defense. We need a few breaks to go our way for us in both special teams and turnovers for us to have a realistic chance. Trying to stay “glass half full”, I believe we have a chance.

  • JY

    The difference this year is that we can run the ball. If we can establish that early, it will shorten the game exponentially. You know that Bama’s gonna come out and try to run on us all day long to establish dominance. If both teams are running, it’ll keep the clock moving. We’ve got to win on special teams and get a push on either offense or defense. If we can get a couple of big plays, this might get fun.

  • Shelby is a Patriot

    Winning and losing is always 50/50; you never who is gonna show up and who won’t, no matter how much of a favorite a team is over their opponent; We know this well. I’m always proud of our team for having a good or solid season, but I don’t want to settle for one, I want to improve. I’ve had enough moral victories. The only “win” you get from losing depends on what you take from it and what you do from then on, so when we lose, they figure out what they did wrong, work hard and get better, and that is what I expect from our players and coaches. I know they expect the same from each other and themselves. Sometimes they do that and get better, and sometimes they don’t. Regardless, I will still expect it and hopefully we’ve done that this year and can show it against Bama.

  • Gregor

    A loss is a loss period. We are Oklahoma we don’t deal well with losing. In our minds there is an undefeated season scenario every year(no matter how unrealistic that is). I am fine with that. To achieve greatness, you have to believe that there is greatness to achieve.

    That said, I am also a realist. I understand that challenges that this team has faced. I understand that much of what we suffered through this year could only be corrected through the lens of hindsight(and a time machine, I guess). When you are a consistent winner and a loyal person, it is hard to know when to pull the trigger on big moves. Most programs reach their peak at ten wins in a season, but at Oklahoma it can get you fired.

    Bob started making some big moves with his program 3 years ago despite the relative success. Fans were restless because of “missed opportunities”, but Bob even more so. Guys that had been with him since the beginning were demoted or removed. New hires had a shorter rope. We have had a major overhaul on both sides of the ball(scheme and coaches), yet we still managed ten wins.

    But ten wins isn’t an accomplishment at Oklahoma. Big games are the foundation of our success. Going toe to toe with the best and not backing down is what we value. Win, lose, or draw just make them scared to play you.

    I wasn’t upset with the loss to aTm last year, I was upset with how pathetic we looked losing to aTm. If we look pathetic on the playing field January 2nd that is not a win.

    Getting run ruled by USC in the Orange bowl was an embarrassment, so was West Virginia leaving us in their dust. Losing hard fought games to LSU and Florida were just a disappointment, even if preventable. Boise State was frustrating, they were higher ranked, but didn’t have the street cred. We got it together to physically manhandle them in the second half only to give it up to a hook and lateral and a Statue of Liberty?

    This is our chance to see if this team is more like the team that beat Florida State against all odds or more like last year’s team. Are we moving in the right direction? We might not know about the new offense and the new defense until we recruit to these schemes, but we can start to see how guys are responding to Mike, Kish, Montgomery, Bedenbaugh, and Boulware. Half of the staff has turned over in the past two offseasons, are we seeing development that we didn’t see before? Are we seeing fire and passion? Are we seeing the back of their jerseys as they run to the endzone?

    Getting to this game is a win.

    Beating Bama would be a colossal win. Losing to Bama would most likely offset getting to the game, but getting blown out would be much worse than anything gained by making it to the game. We have to start changing perception nationally. We have to get back to winning on the big stage. Competing with Bama might show progress from the changes, but winning is what it is going to take to make up for the USC, LSU, Florida, BSU, WVU, and aTm losses.

    • Sooner Ray

      Very well said Sir. I agree with you about many things. We are Oklahoma and ten wins is not something we can be satisfied with unless ten puts you in the national championship. I also agree that it will take that colossal win on this stage against this opponent to even begin to erase the humiliation of some of those past losses. It is win or find people who will here and I hope as you that the current staff can pull it together and give us what we expect to see. Bring back the passion!

  • ToatsMcGoats

    I’m not saying that we’re going to win, but, if Colorado State and Miss. State could hang with these guys, why is it so unrealistic that we could? I get the offensive problems, but, for what it’s worth, Auburn couldn’t/can’t throw the ball either and they did just fine against Bama. I think our players realize that they have a chance to win this game, and I believe that Alabama doesn’t even want to be here.

    If you take a trip over to their SB Nation fan page, they have articles that are somewhat about the game, but nobody wants to talk about it. The subject sticks for a few comments, then it’s off to Saban’s loyalty, basketball, or baseball. I don’t think their team is of the same mind, but I can’t help but think that they don’t realize what’s coming for them.

    • Sooner Ray

      I guess you noticed their butt still hurts over that loss? They seldom mention us and that is encouraging.

  • soonermusic

    yeah, i think “win-win” just refers to the possibility that OU there are scenarios in which OU could lose the game and still look pretty good. Refers to the fact that most, if not all the pressure to win is on the other team. ‘Bama has to win, or they don’t come off looking good, no matter what. But I agree, it doesn’t eliminate the possible embarrassment of a blowout, even if it’s only by a couple of td’s. So I think the phrase is somewhat misused here.

    And I agree, that most of us will be disappointed at some level if we don’t win, even though we’re not favored to.

    • Jordan Esco

      Solid points

  • Gary Jackson

    For me it all comes down to the QB play. If Knight can ever show in a live game what the coaches saw in practice that gave him the starting job to begin with I think he has a chance to be really special. He was showing flashes of it in the OSU game. If he keeps improving we have a chance to stay with Bama.

  • leatherneck1061

    I’ve been down on this matchup from the day they announced it. I would have gladly taken it some years, but not in a year where we don’t even know from week to week who our starting qb is. All the more confusing has been the reaction of those who are all pumped and excited over this. It seems that some Sooner fans have short memories. Losing is one thing – getting utterly destroyed on national television – particularly on a night when there are no other games being played – is another matter entirely. I’m not predicting that will happen (fingers crossed), but that is certainly the conventional wisdom right now anyway.

    I was frankly looking forward to seeing Bama face FSU for the NC – I really think FSU is the one team in the country that could have put a beating on them, and it would have been fun to watch. I hope Stoops has some tricks up his sleeve like in Bedlam, and we’ll all have something to celebrate. But this is not the matchup I would have ever picked for us.

  • Boom

    OU football history lesson. 1977 OU vs Arkansas, win and we have another natty. Hogs didnt have a chance in addition, 4 Arkansas players were kicked off, one being an all American. Now, it was show up win and keep the party going. We have numerous all Americans with Lott leading the bone. OU was the Bama of the 70′s.

    My brother and I along with our friends were sitting in our den and watched a major butt whipping. No one could say a word, Arkansas 33-7. Hogs lead by none other than Holtz. Coaching won that game. Stoops has that same opportunity.

    OU is young whereas Bama has a veteran team. We are trending in the right direction and winning this game plants a swag in our program we haven’t seen in a long time. I’m pulling for Big Game Bob to show America what OU football is all about.

  • DCinAZ


    What worries me about our teams is that in every BCS bowl game outing against a good team we couldn’t just out-talent since the Rose Bowl in 03, our team has come out unfocused, lackadaisical, flat, and unprepared, like they just didn’t care. I don’t think there has been a seriousness or intensity about bowl game preparation here, that weren’t NT games, in years. I just wonder if our team is really preparing for this game with any intensity at all or just jacking around like they were at last year’s Cotton Bowl practices. I just haven’t seen that in several years around here. Surely Bob has to see how much damage his poor bowl preparations, and their outcomes, have had on the image of the program?


    Another thing that worries me even more, is having ZERO confidence in Heupel’s ability to gameplan for a Kirby Smart defense. I’ve just never figured out what his “plan” is when I watch him call plays. He doesn’t attack a defenses weaknesses. He doesn’t attack personnel changes of a defense due to injuries it has sustained prior to, or during, a game. You never see him pick on a defensive player that’s having a tough game. Nothing like that….
    The Baylor game and the Texas game were jaw-dropping, sloppy incompetence on his part, and I just don’t see any brilliance in his play calling when he goes up against a stout defense. When the going get’s rough, all I see is scattershot, panicky playcalling that doesn’t attack a defenses weaknesses, but instead seems wedded to what appears to be some sort of scripted play calling whether it’s working or not. At least that’s how it looks to me. I believe Bob still has some deficiencies on his staff, at least one more weak link in the chain anyway, and he is in charge of our offense for some reason.

    • Sooner Ray

      We are all looking through the same pair of glasses DC.