Sooners-Bears matchup has unfamiliar feel

NORMAN, Okla. – Saturday against Baylor in Norman was supposed to be for the Big 12 championship.

Remember when we all thought that? Seems like a lifetime ago, or maybe it was the August temperatures clouded our judgement.

Instead of OU and Baylor, it’s Kansas State and TCU facing off for the Big 12 lead. Instead of the Sooners and the Bears, there’s West Virginia in the way.

Instead of playing for a spot in the college football playoff, all OU has left is playing spoiler.

Picked 1-2 in the preseason Big 12 poll, the Sooners and the Bears have fallen off. Instead of playing in primetime, maybe with the nation watching, they’ll be playing a breakfast kickoff – the fourth week in a row the Sooners have kicked off at 11 a.m.

But there’s plenty for Baylor, which has an outside shot at making the college football playoff. They’ll have to win in Norman, win out and get some help. But for OU, it’s a bit different. It’s a last chance to get a quality win against a ranked opponent.

Oklahoma has two losses this season by a combined five points. If Michael Hunnicutt kicked through what looked to be an easy 19-yard field goal against Kansas State in the fourth quarter, we’re likely talking about Saturday’s game meaning much more. Yet, here we are talking about how Oklahoma’s chances at the Cotton Bowl are more realistic than the college playoff.

So, Saturday becomes about salvaging the season and about some redemption from a season ago. It’s about figuring out a way to beat a ranked team and it’s about rallying.

A season ago, Oklahoma did all those things after losing 41-12 to Baylor. OU rallied against Iowa State, got some redemption against Kansas State and then beat a ranked team on the road at OSU. All the while, Oklahoma figured out its quarterback of the future in Trevor Knight.

The result put OU into the BCS. And now, with little chance of a Big 12 title and virtually no chance of going to the playoff, Oklahoma gets to see if they can do it again.

Since losing against Kansas State, the Sooners had a week off before getting right against Iowa State and re-inventing its quarterback game once more.

And just like a season ago, we’re about to see if that’s repeatable, too. Knight had his best game of the season a week against Iowa State, running it for more than 140 yards, taking what he said the defense gave him. But Knight hasn’t been consistent, just like the Sooners haven’t been consistent. 

Before we get to see if the Sooners have another run in them like they did in 2013, we get to see if Knight has one, too.

So, there’s another opportunity for Saturday. A chance for a quarterback to do what he did a season ago and bring a team back like it did a season ago.

The Sooners will tell you they have plenty to play for against Baylor. They’d be right, but they are intangibles, nothing anyone outside of the program can get a grip or a handle on. There’s no titles to be won.

This week will tell us a lot about Oklahoma football. We’ll find out if there’s consistency in play from quarterback and beyond. We’ll see if the Sooners have urgency in their game and an attitude in their step.

What we won’t see is OU on the way to the college football playoff or a Big 12 title.

And that’s not quite what we expected back in the late summer when we saw Nov. 8 and Baylor at Oklahoma.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK

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