It wasn’t the biggest game Bob Stoops ever won for the Oklahoma Sooners, but it ranks right up there. To say Stoops outcoached Nick Saban in the Sugar Bowl Wednesday night in a 45-31 victory would be the understatement of the NCAA football season.
Stoops, who would obviously have to point to the 2000 national title victory as his biggest game, definitely had his team ready for Wednesday’s Sugar Bowl and knew the only way to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide was to get off to a quick start and make Alabama’s players not quite know what hit them. Executing a game plan to out-fox the Alabama defense and get 31 points on the board in the first 30 minutes shows that Stoops realized from the Auburn victory over the Tide that Alabama had some weaknesses that could be exploited.
All the experts were wondering how Stoops would stop the Alabama offense.
The easy answer was for the Sooners to cause all sorts of problems for the Crimson Tide defense and give Alabama more concerns about their offense than their defense.
More apparent is that Saban’s team, for the first 30 minutes, was obviously still reeling from the loss to Auburn in the regular season finale. A sloppy first half against Oklahoma was heavy indication of this factor. Not having a chance for a third straight national title was devastating for Saban and his players, more than anyone outside of Alabama realizes. The one-game showdown for the BCS title was not geared this season toward Alabama’s situation.
Chances are that if the four-team playoff system, which starts next season, was in place this year, the Tide would still have been among the qualifiers, along with Florida State, Auburn and possibly Michigan State. Having a shot at the national title would have made the Tide a more effective team in a bowl game. A bowl contest with no chance for a national title gave little incentive for the Tide.
Oklahoma wanted to prove something in the Sugar Bowl, although Stoops had nothing to prove to anyone. He’s shown in the past that he can play with the best college football programs in the country. He proved that Wednesday night by out-coaching Nick Saban.