Last Call with The Rivalry, Esq. - Is Oklahoma College Football's New Pariah?

I believe I've discovered what Aristotle meant when he said that the Best life is one acted in accordance with self virtue.  It's the end of a long day, greeting the pleasant night camped out on an antique flapper sofa in an oversized pair of sheep-skin slippers; a carefully poured glass of a choice beverage hovering on a nearby coffee table.

The streets of Columbus' Victorian Village are quiet.  This is when I get my best thinking done.  Last Call with The Rivalry, Esq. is about taking advantage of the calm to stew on some of the more philosophical aspects of the college game. 

Several times a week we'll kick back and dive into the current.  Let's get to it.

Welcome to the offseason; a colorless void of impatience, speculation, and hope.  For those that ended the season on a high note (say USC, or TCU), it's about incubating and magnifying the buzz.  For those that dropped the ball and came up short, it's about re-focusing and re-developing. 

There are few programs out there that have as much baggage as the Oklahoma Sooners.  I doubt it took much longer than the trip to the locker room for Big Game Bob to feel the distinct isolation of tonight's BCS National Championship loss.  Sure, he's been here before -- four times actually -- but I suspect that this evening's misgivings are troubling in an entirely new way.

No, it wasn't a blow out.  The Sooners kept things competitive up until the 2:00 minute mark in the fourth quarter -- even dominating the first-half of the game.  But what killed Boomer tonight is the same auspicious shadow that's haunted great giants like Ohio State and Nebraska.  It's a failure to follow through, an inability to execute.

Oklahoma had the talent.  They put out effort above and beyond, taking a piecemeal defense and jamming it down the throat of the Gator's vaulted running attack.  But they failed to capitalize on their success: getting to the doorstep two separate times in the first half only to let Florida to turn them away through vanilla play calling, and just plain bad luck.

Now they're losers again.  But will the Sooners face the chill winds of criticism the Ohio State Buckeyes know well this offseason?

Let's look at the records:

In 2002 the Buckeyes wrestled a national title away from the predestined favorite Miami Hurricanes, capping a 14-0 season; the first in history.  They again appeared in the BCS in 2003, blasting an overmatched Kansas State team, and garnering a No. 4 final ranking in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  Flash forward to 2005: the scarlet are seated across the table from a curiously successful Notre Dame guided by an acclaimed offensive mastermind Charlie Weis'.  Six-hundred and seventeen total yards later, the Irish were knocked out.  Then came 2006, that painful, embarassing 41-14 loss to the underdog Florida Gators in the BCS title game.  And 2007, another underwhelming, mistake-laden finish; this time at the hands of the LSU Tigers.  This year, brought another BCS loss to the Texas Longhorns -- albeit on far different terms.

Oklahoma, by contrast, got on the board first, stunning a heavily favored Florida State team to win the 2000 BCS National Championship.  In 2003, OU again reached the title game, but this time fell to Louisiana State.  2004 was much worse: the Sooners were manhandled 55-19 by the USC Trojans in yet another title match.  In 2006, they set their sights on a more manageable goal: a Fiesta Bowl matchup with WAC competition.  The result, a memorable overtime defeat at the hands of a tricky Boise State squad.  In 2007 the Sooners returned to the Fiesta Bowl, only to get throttled by a headless West Virginia team with an interim coach. 

And now, in 2008, the Sooners again fail to circle the wagons.

One thing is clear from a cursory glance at the records: Oklahoma's shortcomings are far more pronounced than Ohio State's.  Yet, strangely, the Buckeyes have weathered the bulk of the reputational storm.

I suspect this has more than something to do with the perceived weakness of the Big 10 Conference.  At the same time the rival Big 12 is experimenting and evolving; the blue bloods in the Midwest seem to be perfectly content allowing themselves to rust. 

Still, the numbers don't lie, and something tells me the folks in Norman are about to face their fair share of doubters. 

If you have any questions, feel free to direct them this way.  I'm used to it by now.

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