Nebraska Series: Three Reasons It's Crucial

NORMAN, Okla. -- Since starting the year 16-0, the Sooners have been much less impressive in conference play, slipping to a 7-7 mark after last weekend's Bedlam series loss, setting the stage for a crucial series against Nebraska this weekend in what many thought would be a potential yawner at the beginning of the season.

Here now are the three reasons why winning this series is even more important than ever:

1. It will keep them among the top half of the league--The Sooners, the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 Conference, are currently in fifth place in the standings and can't afford to fall any lower than that. Who would have thought this would have been a possibility at the start of the year? But it is the harsh reality of a poor conference performance so far, and a series victory or sweep will likely pull them back into the top four and potentially inch them closer again to the top three, Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.

2. It will help their NCAA Tournament implications--In all likelihood, unless the Sooners go on a ridiculous run at the end of this year, they have no realistic chance at getting a national seed, which was a high probability at the first of the season. But the Crimson and Cream can still earn a No. 1 seed and regional host with the right kind of finish. And it starts this weekend. Should the Sooners sweep, they'll improve to 10-7 in Big 12 play and 30-11 overall. That already looks better than 7-7 and 27-11.

3. It will go a long way in regaining some of the early season momentum--Sixteen games into 2011, the College World Series looked like a strong possibility. Twenty-two games later, after OU has gone just 11-11 since, it doesn't seem so possible. And along the way, OU seems to have lost a lot of its swagger. The Sooners have failed to sweep a conference series to this point, something that most people expected heading into the conference slate. In fact, they're only 1-3-1 overall in these series, so they haven't made a habit of even winning them. Win one, and some of that swagger will come back.

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