November 23, 2007

Six years to the day

Nov. 24, 2001, is a date which will forever be unforgettable for Oklahoma State fans.

But what about Nov. 24, 2007? That remains to be seen.

Six years ago tomorrow, the 3-7 Cowboys traveled down to Norman and defeated the 27.5-point favorite Oklahoma Sooners, ranked No. 4 at the time. The clutch late-game passing from Josh Fields culminating with the touchdown pass to Rashaun Woods resulted in one of the biggest upsets ever and kept defending national champion OU from going to the Big 12 Championship game.

Almost hard to believe that gigantic game was six years ago. Since then, the Cowboys have played at Gaylord Stadium twice, losing by a combined score of 96-20. No doubt, Norman is one of the tougher places in the country to play (much less drive around), so no one really expects the Pokes to waltz in there and leave with a victory. Even so, 2001 proved that, in college football, anything can happen. That's why games are played on the field and not on paper.

So does OSU have a shot at all this weekend? Right now, the Pokes are 14-point underdogs to the Sooners, ranked 10th coming into the game. Being bluntly honest, OU should win. After all, they have better talent and more experienced coaching. Even so, the Cowboys have nothing to lose in this game and face little pressure. OSU has six wins and a bowl spot wrapped up, so the Pokes are playing for nothing more than pride at this point.

The Sooners, however, need to win this game to secure the Big 12 South title and a spot in the Big 12 championship game. Win, and it's off to San Antonio next week. Lose, and it's likely the Texas Longhorns heading to the Alamodome. So OU is in a must-win situation, especially after last weekend's loss to Texas Tech knocked them out of the national championship picture. While that was only their second loss on the year, it wasn't only the second time they've had a less-than-championship performance on the field.

And that's just it. Sure, the Sooners are good this year. Statistically, they're solid in a lot of areas. But that can't hide some of their worts they've developed in 2007. Worts that could just leave the door just open enough for the Cowboys to steal a win on the home field of the Sooners - six years to the day of their last win there.

So, are you looking for reasons to support your hope of the Pokes winning tomorrow? Read on.

Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith torches secondary. While the final score of the game between the Sooners and Golden Hurricane was 62-21, TU was able to hang around fairly well in the first half before OU pulled away. But even while the Sooners won this game comfortably, TU's Smith had a pretty good outing against OU, passing for 350 yards and two touchdowns. He also tossed two interceptions, but did a good job in exposing the secondary as something that could be taken advantage of.

Road woes. Sure, OU isn't on the road this weekend. OSU is. And you know how the Cowboys have fared on the road this season. Even so, when looking at the Sooners over the year it's important to factor in how they've played away from Norman. The Sooners' best road trip was by far the win at Tulsa. Other than that, the Sooners looked average-to-bad on the road. A loss at Colorado. A win at Iowa State that was closer than expected. A loss at Texas Tech. In each case, the Sooners were off their game. OU teams in the past have played much better on the road than this year's team has. If the Sooners traveled to Stillwater this year...

Home struggles. This is obviously a much more important area for Cowboy fans this year. While the Sooners feasted on bad teams at home early in the season, they have had some tough spots at home in 2007, most notably against Missouri and Baylor. The game against the Tigers was tight throughout, but two late Mizzou turnovers did them in. For the game, though, the Tigers moved the ball fairly well (Chase Daniel had 361 yards passing) and had more total yards (418 to 384) than the Sooners. Just a few weeks later, the Bears came to Norman and hung relatively close in the first half, only trailing 28-14 at the half. While they eventually were blown out 52-21, BU did manage to put up 450 yards of total offense on the Sooners.

Leaky defense late? In their last two outings, the Sooners have allowed 923 yards and 55 points. Maybe a super-balanced Cowboy offense could do some damage?

A Red River role reversal? Last season, Texas went on the road in its second-to-last game of the regular season a week before squaring off against its in-state rival at home. In that road game, the Longhorns lose to Kansas State and freshman stud quarterback Colt McCoy is hurt in the process. He returns the next week but isn't his old self, throwing three interceptions as Texas A&M wins in the series for the first time in seven years, sending the Sooners to the title game. This year, the Sooners went on the road in their second-to-last game before squaring off against their in-state rival at home. In that road game, the Sooners lose to Texas Tech and freshman stud quarterback Sam Bradford is hurt in the process. Will he return this week and not be his old self, throwing three interceptions as OSU wins for the first time in five years, in turn helping send the Longhorns to the title game? That would be an eerie reversal from last season, no?

So, there you go, OSU fans. They might not be the greatest reasons, but they are worth throwing out there. We'll all find out tomorrow whether or not the Cowboys have another upset in them. Hey, six years to the day, right? Stranger things have happened.

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