Big 12 Weekly Must-Win: Oklahoma

Oklahoma-Oklahoma Sooners-Texas-Texas Longhorns-Red River Showdown

Welcome to the Big 12 Weekly Must-Win. 

In this series, we’ll evaluate which Big 12 program is faced with a must-win game each week based on a variety of circumstances — recent record, upcoming schedule, the timeliness and impact a loss will have on the rest of the season and other factors.

This week’s spotlight focuses on a program fresh off a shocking upset loss: Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Sooners season took a turn for the absolute worst on Saturday at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. A program that controlled its College Football Playoff destiny now sits at No. 12 in the polls and fresh off of arguably the worst loss in school history, recapturing such aspirations won’t come easily.

No longer in cruise control, Oklahoma’s road to Atlanta begins on Saturday in Dallas against a Texas team that’s trending favorably, having won three of its last four with the lone loss coming to then-No. 4 USC, 27-24.

While a loss to Texas wouldn’t necessarily signify the end of the world as we know it, considering Oklahoma has lost at least two games in every season since their 12-1 effort in 2004, a second consecutive defeat would put all remaining hopes of a playoff berth completely to bed. To make matters worse, for the Sooners to see the playoff dreams they enjoyed just days ago become reality, Oklahoma will quite likely need to run the table and win a Big 12 title. That’s a destiny Lincoln Riley’s club can still control, but a conference championship, too, will become a far-fetched ambition if Texas comes out on top in the Cotton Bowl.

As is stands, Texas and TCU sit atop the Big 12 at 2-0 in league play. If the Horned Frogs knock off Kansas State as they’re projected to do, Oklahoma dropping a second-straight game would place the Sooners in an uncomfortable position going forward, relying on others to lose just to have a prayer at playing in Arlington following the regular season.

Oklahoma linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo said it best: “This game is going to define the rest of our season.”

Although the circumstances aren’t ideal, Oklahoma’s preseason aspirations – a Big 12 Championship and College Football Playoff berth – still remain intact, although it will take some help for the latter to prove true. With a loss to Texas, though, it all goes away, and worse yet, such a fall from greatness and a No. 3 ranking would have happened within a short, eight-day period.

And then there’s the recruiting factor.

Several of the nation’s premier prospects flood the Red River Showdown each year and the latest installment in this bitter rivalry will be no different. With the game being played on a neutral field in Dallas, the Longhorns and Sooners alternate turns as the official host for the recruits in attendance and this time around, Texas owns that honor.

That changes very little for what Oklahoma needs to accomplish on the field, though.

The Sooners have re-established their recruiting footprint in the Lone Star State as of late and keeping the pipeline flowing is quite simply a must. With Tom Herman proving to be an ace recruiter in his own right, Oklahoma can’t do Texas any favors with elite targets such as Noah Cain, Theo Wease and Brian Williams in attendance, among numerous others. Not to mention, Oklahoma will need to outlast its Red River rival for several of its target’s signatures and falling to Texas before many make their decisions between now and next October can go a long way towards keeping recruits away from the crimson and cream.

The good news for Oklahoma is that it’s a 7.5-point favorite and should be playing with renewed motivation after falling to Iowa State last week, 38-31. As for the bad news – Oklahoma was a 30.5-point favorite against the Cyclones, and the coach across the field this coming weekend is 11-1 as an underdog dating back to his time at Ohio State.

With so much at stake, the Sooners certainly need to prevent Herman’s record in that regard from rising to 12-1 and thus, getting off to a 1-0 start in a new era of the Red River Showdown.

The post Big 12 Weekly Must-Win: Oklahoma appeared first on Diehards.

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