Sooners to the Alamo Bowl, Dillon Gabriel’s Portal Decision

On Sunday, the College Football Playoff Committee announced their final rankings of the season, much to the chagrin of one particular fan base. (Sorry, Florida State fans, your team deserved to be in the top four.) 

The Oklahoma Sooners finished 12th in the country and were selected for the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, where they will face the No. 14 Arizona Wildcats on December 28. This marks the Sooners’ 57th bowl appearance and their 25th in a row, a school record.

How does OU match up against Arizona?

There will be a more in-depth preview of this game as it approaches, but for now, let’s take a brief look at the Wildcats and their key players. At the helm for ‘Zona is head coach Jedd Fisch, who is in his third year at the school. He has dramatically improved his record each year, going 1-11 and 5-7 in his first two seasons before finishing 9-3 this year.

The Wildcats went 7-2 in the Pac-12, ending up in third place with impressive wins over the Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, UCLA Bruins, and Utah Utes. They also had extremely close losses to the USC Trojans, 43-41 in three overtimes, and the Washington Huskies, 31-24. 

Noah Fifita, a redshirt freshman from Servite High School in Anaheim, California, was thrust into duty as Arizona’s starting quarterback after Jayden de Laura was injured early in the season. Fifita started eight games and threw for over 2,500 yards with a 23:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

Fifita’s favorite target was his high school teammate and former five-star recruit and sophomore Tetairoa McMillan. He was one of the best receivers not just in the Pac-12 but the entire country, finishing eighth in the nation in receiving yards with 1,242. 

The leader of the Wildcat defense is another Servite Friar and teammate of McMillan and Fifita, Jacob Manu. The sophomore from Santa Ana, California, led the team in tackles by a wide margin while also finishing second in tackles for loss and sacks.

Oklahoma may have the bigger name and flashier recruits, but this Arizona team has shown it can take down competent teams and scare teams that are significantly more talented than them. Make no mistake, the Sooners will have their hands full with the Wildcats in the Alamo Bowl.

Farewell to Dillon Gabriel

On Monday morning, Dillon Gabriel announced his plans to enter the transfer portal with one year of eligibility remaining. While fans probably didn’t expect Gabriel to return to Norman for next season, it was a bit surprising that he decided to transfer. 

It’s possible that the coaching staff had a conversation with him and let him know that five-star freshman Jackson Arnold would be the preferred starter entering next year, or maybe Gabriel just felt that he was ready for a different challenge. Whatever the case, Dillon Gabriel will be remembered fondly by Sooner fans forever. 

He stepped in at quarterback when the program was on shaky ground following the departure of a certain coach and quarterback duo and he played phenomenally. He weathered the storm of losses and injuries in his first year and then led the Sooners to a 10-2 record this year. Statistically, he finished fourth all-time in touchdowns accounted for, seventh in passing yards, and eighth in passing touchdowns. He was also a perfect leader and mentor for a young team that truly looked up to him.

But the thing that he will probably be remembered for the most is throwing the winning touchdown pass with 15 seconds left to beat Texas in this year’s Red River Rivalry. DG needed Oklahoma, but they needed him even more. Best of luck to Dillon Gabriel; all of Sooner Nation is pulling for you.

Transfer Portal News

The transfer portal opened on Monday, and a whole host of players entered it. Other than Gabriel, the Sooners didn’t lose any major names. As the dust settles, we’ll detail the transfer portal’s full impact on Oklahoma, but for now, here are the players who are in the portal:

Dillon Gabriel (QB), DJ Graham (WR), Jason Llewellyn (TE), Tawee Walker (RB), Nate Anderson (OL), Marcus Hicks (OL, transferred to South Dakota St.), Savion Byrd (OL), Reggie Grimes II (DL), Key Lawrence (DB), Marcus Major (RB), Daylan Smothers (RB)

The running back room was hit the hardest, losing two of its top three rushers. However, it was also a complete logjam before, so that position has become a lot clearer with the new vacancies. Freshman Gavin Sawchuk showed out down the stretch and is the team’s clear starter, with sophomore Jovantae Barnes as the presumable number two. OU could add a transfer back for depth but should still feel comfortable with Sawchuk and Barnes.

Key Lawrence’s departure stings a little bit, but he was also inconsistent at times and was benched in Bedlam for missing assignments and tackles. OU’s safety position looks to be in good hands with youngsters Peyton Bowen and Robert Spears-Jennings. 

But don’t expect the Sooners to take all of these transfers lying down. Brent Venables has already shown a willingness to play the portal game and to play it well. The Sooners are sure to be in on many of the top transfers but should probably focus on the offensive and defensive lines, defensive backs, and wide receivers.

Main Image: © BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

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