NEW ORLEANS – It should have divided the team, at least that's what conventional wisdom would have you believe.
There's no way the two-quarterback system employed by Oklahoma should have been successful. There's no way redshirt freshman Trevor Knight and junior Blake Bell should have been able to find a way to co-exist.
Both have seen the ebbs and flows. Both have been the fans favorite one week and asking to be benched on another occasion.
Somehow through it all they've kept it together. And they've helped keep OU together and will get one last crack to make their statement Thursday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against third-ranked Alabama.
OU coach Bob Stoops said Wednesday they already know who the starter is going to be and both of them have responded the way he expected them to – with class.
"They've practiced really well, just like they have through the year," Stoops said. "They're very supportive of one another. And so that's something that we'll talk to them about going into the game. But they already know how we intend to play them."
Smart money is to expect to see both of them and maybe even both on the field at the same time. They've never been too high after any of the ups and never got discouraged about their abilities when times weren't so great.
When Bell set the freshman record for passing yards in a game against Tulsa, it was Knight who was the first person to congratulate him. When Knight helped spark the OU offense toward the latter stages of the season, Bell was his No. 1 cheerleader.
They've never griped about not being told flat out they're the guy, and it has earned the respect from their coaches and teammates.
"We've been this way throughout the entire year," co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "It's to keep our kids to continue to push and find out who is going to practice the best that typically tells you who is going to play the best."
And that has varied from time to time and injuries have no doubt played a role in things. Knight was given the nod to start the season before a knee injury in the second game of the season gave Bell his chance.
Bell came out of the gates on fire but stumbled during the middle portion of the season. A concussion against Iowa State let Knight back into the picture. Then a shoulder injury to Knight against Oklahoma State allowed Bell to reemerge.
"He pushes me in practice," Knight said. "When he's in there, I'm happy for him. When he's doing well it pushes me harder to get back on top and vice-versa."
Their numbers show how uneven their play has been despite the fact effort has never been the problem. Knight is 47-of-90 passing for 471 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. But he has the added dimension with the run game and is third on the team with 438 rushing yards and two scores.
Bell, who was known as a short yardage runner his first two seasons, has become the passer of the bunch. He is 140-of-233 passing for 1,648 yards with 12 touchdowns and five picks. He has rushed for 255 yards.
Their genuine friendship has helped make something that could have been incredibly difficult into something that has only fueled the fire for both and inspire them both to be their best.
And there's no dissension in the locker room.
"It has been real exciting this season," senior wide receiver Jalen Saunders said. "It's weird because they're two different players, definitely different. But they're the same two people in the way they carry themselves."
All OU fans care about is the combination of Bell and Knight carrying the Sooners to the upset victory in the Sugar Bowl.