The task this evening is tall and daunting for Oklahoma but not impossible. Alabama enters the Orange Bowl as college football’s Goliath and the 14-point underdog Sooners fit the bill as David pretty well.
Here are … things OU can do to turn a potential blowout into a monumental upset.
Set The Tone…Bully The Bully
Oklahoma may be the Kings of the Big 12 Conference but the Tide are Kings of College Football. Used to taking what they want from opponents, Alabama brings a physical brand of football to the table that the Sooners haven’t seen this year. Not only must OU match Bama physically blow-for-blow, they must be the instigators. Oklahoma has to hit first, hit hard, and hit last to let Alabama know they’re in for a slug-fest.
Run The Football
Alabama is allowing opponents an average of 3.36 yards per rushing attempt. The Sooners are averaging 4.0 yards per attempt, with Kennedy Brooks (9.0), Kyler Murray (7.3), and Trey Sermon (6.0) averaging much higher.
Not only is there an avenue for Oklahoma to run the ball there’s a huge need. Doing so effectively does two things. First, is keeps the OU defense off the field. Secondly, it leans on the Alabama defense with the intent of wearing them down late. That’s the only way I see it possible for the Sooners to deliver a potential knockout blow.
Every offensive possession counts. Every third and long is a gateway for the defense to get off the field. Penalties will either be drive killers for Oklahoma or sustain drives for Alabama.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovialoa is less than a month removed from ankle surgery. Oklahoma needs to test his mobility by finding a way to bring pressure. In the S.E.C. championship game Bama’s Heisman runner up struggled against the pressure Georgia brought. The Sooners must duplicate that.
What you don’t want to do is give Alabama extra possessions. What you do want is to pick up a few extra possessions yourself. Giveaways will kill Oklahoma’s momentum. Takeaways will produce the opposite result.
Oklahoma has been in this position before. Heavy underdogs in the 2001 Orange Bowl and 2014 Sugar Bowl, the Sooners produced the two biggest wins of the Bob Stoops era. The only way those two game play into this one is to give confidence that being a heavy underdog doesn’t necessarily mean a loss is coming.