The competition, obviously, wasn’t the same, but the Sugar Bowl performance by the Sooners on Monday night was the kind of performance most thought OU would give for the 2016 season. It was a performance by a top-five kind of team.
A championship kind of showing where quarterback Baker Mayfield made all the plays and running back Joe Mixon found space, got yards and looked like the dominant running back he can be. Instead, OU got beaten by Houston in the season-opener and then dominated by Ohio State two weeks later.
Spin it forward to January. Oklahoma was the team dominating, this time it was against Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. A satisfying end to a season that was supposed to be one where the Sooners made a second appearance in the playoff. That never happened because of the 1-2 start.
OU started slow, finished on a 10-game win streak and will likely wind up in the top five in the nation after starting the year in that very same spot.
It just didn’t happen the way we thought. Turns out, the Sooners were the top-five team we thought they would be, figuring it out amid a season where of distraction and dysfunction, making the ascension to Sugar Bowl champs even more surprising.
People often criticize the poll results and suggest how wrong and misleading they are. Turns out, 2016 was pretty accurate for the Sooners.
In some ways, the Mixon tape and his off-the-field issues overshadowed Mayfield and record-breaker Samaje Perine. Dede Westbrook went from virtual unknown to a Heisman finalist, all the while becoming another off-the-field issue, due to his domestic violence dealings. And all that made more headlines than the fact OU’s defense was record breakingly horrid. You saw the Texas Tech debacle, right?
But here we are. Mayfield made every play Monday night, just like he did for the better part of OU’s 10-game winning streak. Westbrook made all the catches against Auburn and Mixon looked like the best player on the Superdome field, just weeks after the video of his beating of Amelia Molitor was made public
OU achieved everything it was supposed to in 2016. Think about it – 11 wins, just two losses. This was a playoff sorta team. Only problem was the Sooners lost two games and they lost them early.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma defense was lost for a good part of the season, but was vindicated by shutting down an SEC school.
Next year, that won’t be an issue – not the early season schedule, anyway. OU has that non-conference road game at Ohio State, but a loss there won’t keep the Sooners out of the playoffs. The only thing that would do that is a second loss.
The preseason ranking in 2016 was justified and it will prove to be a prediction that came true. It’s just the path OU took to make it back to this spot wasn’t as clear as most thought.That’s what happens when you have off-field issues and on-field defensive lapses.
OU will start 2017 the same way as it did this past season – ranked in the top-five, shouldered with expectation. Wonder if the next year will turn out the way everyone will predict?