Oklahoma vs. Oregon: Alamo Bowl preview, storylines & predictions

Arizona v Oregon
Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

The Sooners can end the 2021 season on a relatively high note with a win over the disheveled Ducks.

After a turbulent turn of events over the last month, the No. 16 Oklahoma Sooners (10-2) are finally set to close out the year against the No. 14 Oregon Ducks (10-3) in the 2021 Valero Alamo Bowl. This marquee Big 12/Pac-12 matchup will be just the eighth all-time meeting between these two iconic college football brands and the first since the colossal onside kick debacle in ‘06. To make matters all the more unique this time around, both teams will undoubtedly look much different than they did during the regular season due to a laundry list of coaching moves and player attrition. Regardless, this game represents an opportunity for each program to enter the upcoming offseason with a modicum of momentum.

Speaking of coaching changes, Bob Stoops will be back on the sideline as OU’s interim head coach after Lincoln Riley accepted the job at USC. On the other side, Oregon’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon has also taken over on an interim basis following the departure of Mario Cristobal to Miami.

Date, Time & TV: Wednesday, Dec. 29 at 8:15 p.m. CT on ESPN

Line: Oklahoma -6.5 (as of Tuesday at 3 p.m. CT, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

O/U: 60

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Major Storylines

Which Sooners will not be available?

When you tune in to watch Oklahoma take on the Ducks, you won’t see WR Jadon Haselwood, QB Spencer Rattler or TE/H-back Austin Stogner inside the Alamo Dome as they’ve all officially found landing spots through the transfer portal. Additionally, OLB Brian Asamoah, EDGE Nik Bonitto, DE Isaiah Thomas and DT Perrion Winfrey have each opted out of the bowl game after declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft. While that’s admittedly a lot of talent that won’t be suiting up for the Crimson & Cream, OU isn’t in too bad of shape after the recent coaching exodus nearly sent the program into a tailspin.

On the flip side, Oregon will reportedly be without more than 30 players for a number of reasons on top of the fact that the team will be without former head coach Mario Cristobal. On paper, Oklahoma certainly looks like the odds-on favorite with a significant advantage from a depth perspective alone, but this is college football, and strange things are known to happen.

What kind of energy will OU play with?

The bowl season is typically dictated by which teams want to be there more than their opponent, but in this matchup that’s difficult to determine from the outside looking in. Both squads had legitimate College Football Playoff aspirations deep into the season, and both saw those dreams dashed down the stretch. Plus, given the aforementioned coaching changes and player attrition, it wouldn’t be surprising if either group wasn’t overly excited about kicking this one off. Still, the game will be played, and a winner will be crowned as a result. If Stoops can galvanize his beloved Sooners in his temporary return, that could go a long way toward deciding the outcome of this contest.

How much will revenge factor into this game?

In short: it won’t play a factor at all. At least not for the players, although it would be mighty interesting to hear what Stoops would say off the record given he was on the receiving end of that absolutely atrocious call that ultimately decided that non-conference contest 15 years ago. Still, this game won’t be about revenge, but for the fans it’s been a fun side storyline that has only helped boost the intrigue of this matchup.

Caleb Williams still has a decision to make

True freshman phenom Caleb Williams has the potential to become the face of college football in the very near future. His ability is that elite, and that’s why his upcoming decision to stay in Norman or leave Oklahoma will be a game-changer, one way or another. For now, ‘Superman’ is doing all the things that a guy who intends on sticking around would do, and it’s a probably good sign that former five-star receiver Theo Wease removed himself from the transfer portal to announce that he’s staying at OU. Still, nothing is official until CW makes it official, and that likely won’t happen until some time after the Alamo Bowl.

Prediction

The combination of having Bob Stoops back in the saddle and Oregon’s depth issues will prove to be too much to overcome for the Ducks. Oklahoma feels like the team with more stability and energy coming into this game, and that should bode well for the Sooners who were once reeling to end the regular season. One thing is for sure, and it’s that Caleb Williams will be the best player on the field whenever his team has the ball, especially since UO star DE Kayvon Thibodeaux opted out to prepare for the draft. On the other side, expect to see a lot of relatively unfamiliar names for interim DC Brian Odom, as that’s the side of the ball that will have to replace the most starters for the Crimson & Cream. Because of this, I can see this game looking particularly sloppy in the early going, but in the end, I see OU holding onto a late lead for its first Alamo Bowl victory in school history.

Oklahoma 33, Oregon 26

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