Acknowledging that college football's new four-team playoff could someday inch toward a larger basketball-style tournament, we continue our Super 16 countdown, with No. 4,
No one was talking championship after Oklahoma fell to 7-2 last year after a wipeout loss at Baylor.
That defeat came after Oklahoma lost to a Texas team that had no NFL-drafted players for the first time since 1937.
The separation anxiety between "Big Game" Bob Stoops and Oklahoma's 2000 national title was starting to look like a movie scene from "Gravity."
Then the switch flipped.
Oklahoma handled Iowa State and Kansas State and then stun-gunned Oklahoma State in Stillwater. That was followed by a respect-demanding victory against
That started a spitball fight over how much Alabama even cared after a loss to
Alabama used the same consolation-game excuse in 2008 when it lost to Utah in the Sugar Bowl after losing the
For Oklahoma, the Alabama win provided much-needed fuel for a big-time program with its gas tank near empty.
"Like all experiences, you build off them," Stoops said this summer. "I think that really did give us a boost in the last week or two of recruiting."
Oklahoma used the momentum to get bigger, faster and stronger. There is now a bounce in the Sooners' step not seen since the last days of quarterback Sam Bradford.
Optimism is easy when you return quarterback Trevor Knight, who shredded Alabama for 348 passing yards. Knight had come light-years from going 11 for 28 in his debut against Louisiana Monroe.
Knight was shaky much of the year and shared the job with Blake Bell, the hulking presence known as "Bell-dozer."
The Sooners are so convinced Knight has turned the competence corner that Bell has been moved to tight end.
"It looks like he's played it his whole life," Stoops said of Bell's position switch.
Oklahoma returns nine starters on defense and plays Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State in Norman, Okla. A Sept. 13 home win over
The Sooners also have a game-saver in kicker Michael Hunnicutt, who has made 62 of 72 career field-goal attempts.
You know Oklahoma can taste a title because it is delicately weighing acceptable player behavior as it relates to wins and losses.
The school was denied an
"We felt the opportunity to give him a second chance at our place could serve him well," Stoops said.
A second chance for highly touted freshman tailback Joe Mixon will have to wait. The school this week suspended Mixon for the season. He faces misdemeanor assault charges for allegedly punching a woman.
"We are committed to winning the right way," Stoops and Joe Castiglione, the school's athletic director, said in a joint statement.
Winning, whatever way, begins with the Aug. 30 home opener against Louisiana Tech.