Norman, Okla. As he watched what was going on in college football during Oklahoma’s open week, tight end Trent Ratterree’s first reaction to seeing Stanford and Boise State drop from the ranks of the unbeaten was sympathy.
“Well, shoot, I know how that feels,” he thought.
Then it hit him. The losses had catapulted the Sooners (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) right back into the national championship chase with three weeks left in the season. Oklahoma moved up to No. 5 in the polls and the BCS standings, with a head-to-head meeting still to come against No. 2 Oklahoma State on Dec. 3.
“We’re right on the cusp of where we want to be, and the only way that it’s going to happen is for us to go and make it happen,” Ratterree said Tuesday “But that excited me, the fact that our destiny is in our hands. There’s other things that don’t matter but really if we don’t win out, then none of that even comes into effect.”
In late October, the Sooners’ title hopes took a serious blow when they lost at home to unranked Texas Tech, snapping their 39-game winning streak at Owen Field. It’s still an inexplicable loss, with the Red Raiders going on to lose their next three games by a combined margin of 159-33.
But with dominoes starting to fall in their favor, it’s starting to look like a loss the Sooners may be able to overcome.
“Anyone that has a loss, you could turn it around any way you want it and make it look the way you want to write your story or make your comment,” coach Bob Stoops said.
The Texas Tech loss is by far the worst of any of the national championship contenders. No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Oregon each lost to top-ranked LSU, and No. 6 Arkansas lost at Alabama. And none of the other losses came at home.
Stoops said it does him “no good” to continue dwelling on it now, though. When his players returned from their long weekend, he told them what could lie ahead if they win out in their final three-game stretch.
“And now that we’ve discussed that, all that matters is Baylor,” Stoops said. “What can we do something about?
“That’s being as thorough and as good as we can possibly be to play Baylor on the road down there. Then that leads us into the next week. There’s a lot that’s still in front of us, but the priority and the main and only focus, really, after that discussion (Monday) going to practice, was Baylor.”
Oklahoma is 20-0 against Baylor, but the Bears (6-3, 3-3) come in ranked 25th and are 5-0 at home, where they are averaging 49 points per game.
“In the game of football, you never know what might happen. It’s kind of like a gamble,” Sooners defensive end Frank Alexander said. “On one Saturday you can come out and be the best team and everybody’s talking you up. You lose one game and now people have doubts about you.”
Regardless of what happens with the other contenders down the stretch, another loss would certainly wipe away Oklahoma’s newly regained national championship chances.
“You can’t worry about other things that’s going on. You’ve just got to worry about your situation and what’s going on with you,” Alexander said. “I feel like if we win out, who knows what may happen? I feel like we’re still in a good spot to get to the national championship. It’s all on what we do from here.”