Oklahoma and Heisman winner Kyler Murray knows shootouts, even if the annual meeting with Texas long ago lost that word from its official name.
For the Sooners, it’s been a way of life – and a road to the College Football Playoffs.
It may be the blueprint – if there is one – to a win over Alabama in the CFP semifinals at the Capital One Orange Bowl.
Consider that Oklahoma became the first team in the history of the Associated Press poll era to allow 40 points in four-straight games and win. Or consider these scores during that stretch: 51-46, 48-47, 55-40 and topped off by the 59-56 win over West Virginia on Black Friday.
Those numbers were enough to cause heartburn for football purists and Georgia and Ohio State fans when the final College Football Playoff rankings were released on Dec. 2. OU was ahead of the Bulldogs and Buckeyes for the all-important fourth and final CFP spots.
“I don’t really look into who criticizes us or whatever,” Murray said Wednesday at media availability in Norman. “We know what has to be fixed, but at the end of the day, you have to win the game and we did that.”
CFP selection chairman Rob Mullens was left explaining how a committee that has valued defense over its short history gave Oklahoma the benefit of the doubt.
“So sure, that’s part of the debate is how do you evaluate a team that has a historic offense and maybe a defense that doesn’t match that?” Mullens said. “And so there’s a lot of different ways to win football games.”
No one really believes that Oklahoma and its 108th ranked defense will be able to stop Alabama, regardless of whether or not quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is 100 percent healthy from an ankle injury suffered in the SEC championship game against Georgia.
While Alabama’s image under Nick Saban is a defense filled with top 100 recruits, the Crimson Tide ranks right behind Oklahoma in scoring.
“They’ve certainly been a lot more explosive than they have been in the past,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “They’ve got all the ingredients, no doubt, and they’ve done a tremendous job this year offensively. I think it’s going to be a lot like what we see often.”
No one has really slowed Oklahoma outside of Army, which held the ball for nearly 45 minutes of regulation running the triple option. Since its only loss to Texas, Oklahoma has averaged 50.7 points in the seven games since, by necessity.
Conversely, Alabama’s 35-28 comeback win in the SEC title game was its first win of less than 20 points all season.
“I don’t look forward to going in there and trying to be in a shootout,” Murray said. “If that what it comes down to, yeah, I believe we have the recipe. I think we know how to handle it.”
In other words, when every possession is pretty much score or else and a stop is the momentum-shifting equivalent of a turnover in a real game, Oklahoma is very good. It’s not foolproof. The Sooners couldn’t hold onto a 17-point lead against Georgia last season in the Rose Bowl and fell to Georgia 54-48 in double overtime.
“Does it give us an advantage? I’m confident in our team in a close game. … I’m confident in our team,” Riley said.
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