Five reasons to feel good about being a Sooner

NORMAN, Okla. – There are still a few more weeks to immerse yourself in sheer panic about what could, and, what most folks think, will happen on Jan. 2 in New Orleans.

It’s Alabama. The undisputed Kings of College Football, if not for a flukey, 109-kickoff return. If there were a college football playoff today, wouldn’t you pick Alabama? It’s OK, be honest.

Doesn’t mean the Sooners (a 15-point underdog) don’t have a chance and it doesn’t mean there’s not plenty of reason to look at the bright (crimson) side of things.

So, just in case the end result of the Sugar Bowl doesn’t work out the way you want, here are five things to feel really good about from an Oklahoma perspective:

1. Gabe Ikard

Anyone else think Ikard should be up the Heisman instead of Johnny Manziel? The Oklahoma center just wrapped up another selection to the All-Big 12 team – his third. He will finish his career at OU with 49 starts.

He won the Selmon Spirit Award given to the player who excels in both academics and community service. It’s a national award.

Ikard was also named an Academic All-American. He has a 4.0 GPA in multidisciplinary studies with a biological sciences theme and also won the 2013 National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete Award.

Oh, and one more, too. Ikard won the Wuerffel Trophy for the college football who, “best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.

“This is a tremendous honor, just overwhelming,” Ikard said in a release. “When you consider all that this trophy represents from academic achievement to athletic achievement along with community service, I think this definitely ranks up there as the biggest honor I’ve received.”

The award, named for former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel, is given annually by the All-Sports Association of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Ikard even got to make a trip to New York for the National Football Foundation’s annual awards.

Pretty good stuff for Ikard.

2. You’re not Texas

So, OU gets Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, at least you’re not Texas getting Oregon in the Alamo Bowl and dealing with all sorts of coaching rumors from Mack Brown to Nick Saban.

That’s a lot to deal with.

At Oklahoma, you have a coach who transformed a team that changed defenses, had all sorts of devastating injuries, and on top of all that, had no stability at quarterback.

From Trevor Knight to Blake Bell and back and forth again. Oh, and mix in some Kendal Thompson, too, and you have an offense that never really developed much identity. No identity because Oklahoma moved from a passing offense to a Pistol offense and back again.

Bob Stoops deserves a lot of credit. He kicked off the team’s best running back (Damien Williams) and helped Brennan Clay become the most reliable. Meanwhile, the Sooners rallied from losses to Baylor and Texas with road wins at Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

At Texas, the Longhorns have four losses, a date with Oregon and a bunch of coaching issues to sort through. It looks like Mack Brown is gone, but there’s no guarantee the Longhorns get anyone better.

You don’t want any business being Texas right now.

3. You’re not Alabama

OK, so you’re Oklahoma and find yourself paired up with Alabama in what looks like a monumental task.

At least you’re not Alabama.

Alabama has nothing to gain. Alabama has a bunch to lose, and that’s not taking into consideration its coaching situation.

Usually, it’s Oklahoma that has found itself in losing propositions for bowl games – think Boise, West Virginia, Connecticut. Now, Alabama gets an OU team that’s not only an underdog but will have a lot of the nation on its side. There’s a bit of Bama fatigue out there, so finding a reason to cheer for Oklahoma won’t be difficult.

Meanwhile, Bama is coming off a weird loss, can’t win the national title in a season where it looked like it was going to, and now has to deal with trying to be motivated to play a game that really doesn’t matter.

And now to the coaching situation. Unless Nick Saban gives a definitive answer – and quickly – to the coaching rumors surrounding his possible departure to Texas – then it’s hard to see the talk as anything but a distraction.

The best thing possible for the Sooners is the Saban/Longhorn soap opera plays out as long as possible.

4. How bout that basketball team?

Didn’t think about that now, did you? The Sooners are 8-1, their only loss coming to top-ranked Michigan State, and are one of the most-exciting teams in the country.

This team is going to the NCAA Tournament, there’s no doubt about that, because it can score. A lot. OU is averaging 86.7 points per game – a bit different from the past teams at OU that have struggled to get the ball in the basket.

The Sooners also feature a pair of players who are good enough to be All-Big 12 performers. Lots of talk about OSU’s Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas, but Cam Clark is a four-year starter, averaging 18 points per game on 50 percent shooting. Not bad for a guy who averaged 9.3 points per game as a freshman and then nothing over nine the next two seasons. Clark had 32 on 11-of-17 shooting against Michigan State.

Buddy Heild is averaging 16.4 points per game and is shooting 46 percent. All five starters are averaging more than 10 points per game and newcomer Ryan Spangler is getting 11.2 and 9.3 rebounds.

5. You’re not heading to the World Cup as Team USA

Seriously, guys. Have you seen that draw for this June’s matches? No more complaining about playing Alabama. You could be the United States having to face Ghana, Germany and Portugal – three teams that would make the BCS playoffs of soccer.

At least the Sooners will have next year. If you’re the USA, you get a full, three years off to think about things.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK