Prefer to go bowling, but does it really matter?

Oklahoma Football is heading for a postseason bowl for the 24th straight year.

What isn’t said in that declarative sentence is that in that span of time, dating back to the 1999 season, the Sooners have come their closest to postseason.

It’s not yet clear which bowl Oklahoma will be sent to or who the Sooners’ opponents will be. That won’t be announced until December 4th, the day after the conclusion of the Conference Championships.

What we do know for sure is that Oklahoma won’t go into a top-tier bowl with just a 6-6 record, which has been the general rule for the past 24 seasons. Since Bob Stops OU became the Sooners’ head coach early in the 1999 season, played in four national championship games and four college football playoff games during the BCS era (1998-2013).

During the same period, the Sooners have appeared at least once at each of the top six bowl locations that make up the CFP and New Year’s Six Bowl rotation: Orange Bowl (5 times); Sugar, Cotton and Fiesta Bowls (3 times each; Rose Bowl (2 times) and the Peach Bowl (1 time).

That adds up to 17 appearances in one of the six major bowl assignments in the 23 seasons since 1999. Or, to put it another way, Oklahoma has only gone to one of the minor league bowls six times in that span.

There are many teams across the country who would relish the opportunity to brag that they’ve competed in 23 consecutive postseason bowls of any type, regardless of where they fall in the bowl pecking order.

All of this raises two obvious questions:

  • Does OU really deserve to go to a bowl, even with the minimum number of wins to qualify for the bowl, considering the Sooners’ level of play was no better than .500 during the 2022 season?
  • Given all the disappointment the fans have with the team’s performance and the team’s history, does it really matter to play for a lot more at this point in the season?

As for the first question, some outside the team may feel that this Sooner team isn’t representative of Oklahoma’s proud resume in Bowl history and would be better off just packing it up, regrouping, and moving on to the next prepare for the season. But the reality is that Oklahoma did what it had to do to qualify for the bowl, and as a result, players earned the right to compete in a postseason bowl.

Regarding the question of whether going to a bowl game really matters this year since it’s not a big bowl game, the answer is it absolutely matters. Do you really think that the OU players, who have worked very hard over the past five or six months despite less than favorable results, want their season to end in defeat in the regular season finals at Texas Tech? It’s also an opportunity for Brent Venables and his staff to continue training and developing them, both for next season and in preparation for winning the bowl game.

A bowl game is more than the actual game itself. It’s also a reward for the players for all the hard work and effort put in during the summer, preseason, and during the season itself. It’s one of the goals every team strives for, at least every college football season.

And it goes without saying that it’s better to end the season with a win to give momentum to go into the offseason and ramp up the process again next season. Attending a bowl game provides OU with this opportunity.

So if we can all agree that Oklahoma has a right to play a 13th game this season and that going to a bowl has value for the players, coaches, recruits and even the fans, that’s it next question, which bowl will the Sooners end up in and who will they play?

Several media outlets have followed this nationally, releasing weekly forecasts of who will go where and what the encounters might look like.

For example, the latest bowl predictions from ESPN and CBS Sports show the Sooners playing a Big Ten opponent in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on December 27 at Chase Field in Phoenix. ESPN lets OU play Wisconsin. CBS Sports projects Maryland as the Sooners’ opponent.

Yahoo Sports, Sporting News and Pro Football Network have differing views on where the Oklahoma journey will go. All three have the Sooners play either Ole Miss (the former team of OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby) or Arkansas in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 28 at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis.

USA Today, 247Sports and Athlon Sports are traveling to Oklahoma for the TaxAct Texas Bowl on December 28th at Houston’s NRG Stadium. Athlon Sports and 247Sports forecast Arkansas as opponents of OU. USA Today has Oklahoma and Missouri as a possible matchup in what would be a fight with a former Big 12 foe.

As you can see, there are several options. We’ll know for sure this Sunday. A Texas location would be more convenient for Oklahoma fans, but Memphis isn’t that far either. We know Sooner fans travel well, and the Oklahoma football brand in general is a huge draw for any college bowl site

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