Oklahoma is headed back to the bayou. The Sooners, fresh off winning their 10th Big 12 championship, will take on Auburn in the AllState Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.
OU finishes the season ranked No. 7 in the college football playoff and has won its last nine games of the regular season with a 10-2 record. The Sooners were the only other Power Five conference team besides Alabama to go undefeated in conference play.
Auburn closed the year at 8-4 and was much in the same mold of the Sooners in terms of being a different team at the end of the year compared to the one that started 2016.
Both teams were 1-2 through their first three games before turning it around. For OU, it was an improved defense and the emergence of a superstar like wide receiver Dede Westbrook. For Auburn, it was figuring out an offense to go with an incredibly talented defense.
The Sooners knew what was on the line Saturday in Bedlam against Oklahoma State. With hopes of a berth in the college football playoff basically extinguished, it was about earning another conference championship and going back to New Orleans.
College football playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said Sunday afternoon what OU fans have known all season. It was OU’s below average defense that kept the Sooners from making a strong case for inclusion for the second year in a row.
OU’s last Sugar Bowl experience was about as sweet as it gets. Entering as a double-digit underdog, the Sooners upset Alabama 45-31 in what was the hallmark moment of then-OU quarterback Trevor Knight’s career.
This time around OU is heading to New Orleans on the arm of Baker Mayfield and the arms and legs of Westbrook. Both are viable Heisman Trophy Award candidates and could be among the finalists in New York City next weekend.
There was no real drama about the pairing since the Big 12 and SEC are contractually obligated to face each other in the Sugar Bowl, pitting the two best non-playoff teams against each other. Everybody knew it was OU in the Big 12, and following Alabama’s dominant 54-16 win vs. Florida, it was clear the Tigers would be the option.
The matchup is about as fresh as can be as the last time these teams played was back in 1972, a game won by OU 40-22.
It’s Boomer Sooner vs. War Damn Eagle in New Orleans. OU’s offensive juggernaut vs. Auburn’s stifling defense. The stage is set.