NORMAN — Oklahoma fans don’t want to hear about their team going to a minor bowl game.
But going to a bowl — any bowl — beats not going to one.
That’s where Oklahoma finds itself 10 games into the 2022 season: mired in the muck of a 5-5 season, with big games left against Oklahoma State this wee and Texas Tech next week. Win one, and the Sooners become bowl eligible with six wins. Win them both, and a 7-5 season — with the prospect of an 8-win season with a victory in the bowl game — is possible.
And that’s it. After 2 1/2 months of football, that’s the ceiling for Brent Venables’ first team.
“Certainly that’s important,” said defensive coordinator Ted Roof. “It’s a big deal.”
There are various levels of big.
One, Oklahoma has a streak of 23 consecutive years with a winning record. Only Boise State’s 24 is longer. Nobody in Norman wants that to end—especially on Venables’ first watch.
Two, the Sooners’ current bowl streak that began in 1999 also stands at 23 straight — two below Georgia’s 25 in a row.
And three — and this one can be debated — is that finishing a season strong and getting to the postseason and winning a bowl game can create momentum for the following season.
Big 12 Bowl Ties
Here are the bowl ties for the Big 12 Conference in 2022:
- College Football Playoff
- Allstate Sugar Bowl
- Valero Alamo Bowl
- Cheez-It Bowl
- TaxAct Texas Bowl
- AutoZone Liberty Bowl
- Guaranteed Rate Bowl
- Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl or SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
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Looking back, beating a lame duck Oregon team in the Alamo Bowl last December didn’t exactly create a ton of momentum for the Sooners in 2022, did it?
The real prize, of course, is getting to practice in December. The NCAA allows 15 extra practices for teams that reach a bowl game — and this Oklahoma team clearly needs as much practice as it can get.
“The importance of playing in a bowl game, there are a lot of things that go into that,” OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said Monday. “But with a first-year staff, obviously, I think the biggest thing is more time with our guys. That’s the first thing that comes to mind.”
“It’d be critical, you know?” said defensive coordinator Ted Roof “Absolutely. Because those reps are — man, those reps are like gold for everybody. But especially the young players, who — it helps them launch from a different point for the offseason, as opposed to launch it from here, those additional reps allows them to launch from here. And that’s that’s a critical thing.”
Of course, Oklahoma State stands in the way first. The ’22 Bedlam game kicks off at 6:30 pm on national television, and the Sooners opened Monday as a 5.5-point favorite — a line that quickly moved to 7.
“It’s incredibly important we go 1-0 this week,” Lebby said.” Find a way to get it done on Saturday is something we need to have happen.”
“We do have to finish strong,” Roof echoed, “but we got this one this week and that’s Bedlam and everything associated with that. That’s the focus, is playing well enough to win this game — plan our best to win this game.”
As for momentum, Venables pointed out last week that OU lost its last game to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl in Bob Stoops’ rookie season back in 1999, but then went 13-0 the following year.
But this Oklahoma team sits on a two-game losing streak. Stumbling down the stretch to a 6-6 record wouldn’t be good for any notion of momentum, especially if they lose the bowl game and end up 6-7. Even going 7-5 isn’t particularly good if the end result is 7-6.
Of course, thanks to Saturday’s 23-20 loss at West Virginia, the spectator of 5-7 looms over the team now as well.
“When you play well during the year and you win at the end of the year, you carry momentum into your offseason program,” Roof said. “It carries momentum into recruiting, into the offseason program, spring ball, all the things. You want to end anything on a good note and not a negative outcome.”