Sooners seething as underdogs
Published 7:00 pm Saturday, December 28, 2019
ATLANTA — These lads from Oklahoma sure aren’t very talkative.
Multiple media opportunities most every day and it’s pretty much dour looks and a few forced smiles just to let you know they’re kind of having a good time at the Peach Bowl and the whole College Playoff mishmash.
That’s pretty much the united front you get from the Sooners this week.
Anger and defiance in crimson and cream.
They ain’t happy. They feel slighted. Nothing against getting the bare-minimum No. 4 seed for the affair, of course. They understood they had to beat Baylor to get in at all.
But, best I can tell, they really don’t appreciate this widely held notion that, though certainly not intruders, they are mere cannon fodder for the LSU offense that became the shocking feel-good story of college football.
It’s that awful modern-day morphing of a noun into a verb — they’re being “disrespected.”
The gist of it: They’re here with a “chip on their shoulder,” ready to give the world, and particularly the Tigers, a big atomic wedgie.
Wait a minute here.
LSU has been, well, LSU has been LSU this week. Ed Orgeron has made it clear that “We’ve come to a playoff game not a bowl,” but his Tigers seem as loose and confident as they were all during a magical, near-perfect season, one made all the better and certainly more fun with a lovable, gravel-voiced, straight-from-the-bayou-central casting head coach, Geaux Tiger-ing from first grunt to finish.
They seem intent on having as much fun here as they did getting here, which was a good recipe for mowing down five teams that were ranked in the top 10 when LSU disposed of them.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Oklahoma? Oklahoma is more on a mission, a common football tactic.
But how does that work?
Where do you get one of those chips for your shoulder?
What if it turns out LSU needs one too?
Is it as easy as turning surly and annoyed at news conferences?
The Tigers need to check with the authorities. Was it part of the bowl swag that gets issued to both teams?
The Tigers need to recheck their gift bags.
Was it first come, first serve?
The Sooners, after all, are far more experienced in these playoffs, making a third consecutive appearance and fourth in the six years since the CFP’s inception. Haven’t quite won one yet … but shouldn’t they be showing the LSU newbies the lay of the land here?
None of the losses were embarrassing and that was before the Sooners discovered some semblance of defense, a transformation this season that kind of mirrored LSU’s offensive epiphany. So it’s curious Oklahoma gets to play the plucky underdog card in the biggest game of the season.
Oklahoma has a quarterback in Jalen Hurts, the latest standard-issue Sooner dynamic transfer, who ought to think beating LSU is easy from his previous life at Alabama, where he beat the Tigers twice, once almost single-handedly.
Granted, the Tigers are no strangers to Atlanta and the city has mostly been very, very good to them. If this hotel lobby is any indication, they’ll have the crowd on their side today at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
They all had a jolly ol’ time three weeks ago when in the minority for the Georgia whipping in the same joint.
But it only seems like LSU has been here before. Yes, it’s the school’s debut in the CFP, but they were fairly regular not so long ago in the archaic Bowl Championship Series.
Yet the Tigers are walking around like they own the place.
“I don’t think the pressure of a big-time game is going to get to these guys,” Orgeron said.
Oklahoma is tired of hearing that some have estimated that LSU’s schedule included three or four teams better than OU and there’s still a zero in the loss column.
The Sooners have heard the snickers about losing to Kansas State.
The Tigers aren’t helping matters.
If bulletin board material is your thing, Oklahoma will be first in line there, too.
LSU said a lot of nice (boring) things about Oklahoma at media day Thursday. Then linebacker Patrick Queen stole the bulletin board.
“The O-line’s not great,” he said. “Backs (are) not great, but they still make it work. Jalen Hurts is a great quarterback. CeeDee Lamb is a great wide receiver. I feel like as long as we get the ball out of Jalen’s hands and try to make other players make plays, our defense can make plays in space.”
It’s kind of hard to keep the ball out of a quarterback’s hands. But Queen wasn’t done.
“I feel like, with this game plan we’ve got, we’re going to dominate them. I am very confident.”
If that’s the way the Tigers feel, then fine. Speak your piece, Patrick.
Point is, LSU believes in its talent and especially the coaches. The Tigers think they’re going to win and don’t really need a learning curve for this stage.
I don’t doubt them.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org