‘Nick Saban can’t be happy’: Alabama is coming to Norman on Nov. 23

‘Nick Saban can’t be happy’: Alabama is coming to Norman on Nov. 23

The Sooners will open their 2024 SEC schedule against Tennessee and play host to Alabama the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Here’s the Sellout Crowd’s reaction to Monday's news.

Mike Sherman

By Mike Sherman

| Nov 28, 2023, 6:00am CST

Mike Sherman

By Mike Sherman

Nov 28, 2023, 6:00am CST

The Oklahoma Sooners will play host to Alabama on Nov. 23, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and face Tennessee at home on Sept. 21 in their first SEC opener, ESPN reported on Monday. The complete 2024 SEC football schedule is expected to be released in December.

Here’s the Sellout Crowd’s reaction to Monday’s news:

Bama was given a brutal back-to-back

Berry Tramel: Nick Saban can’t be happy. His Crimson Tide’s game on Owen Field apparently will be the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, the week before the Iron Bowl, Bama’s annual grudge match against Auburn.

Alabama-Auburn is an emotional wringer, so Bama traditionally has had a rumdum scheduled the week before. Chattanooga this season. Austin Peay in 2022. Western Carolina in 2019. The Citadel in 2018. Mercer in 2017. Chattanooga in 2016.

At least Bama gets Auburn in Tuscaloosa next November. 

We keep focusing on what this Southeastern Conference adventure means for the Sooners. Rightfully so. But what does this adventure mean for the SEC? A harder road for everyone in the league. Like OU and the Iron Bowl back-to-back for Alabama.

No good time to play Alabama

Guerin Emig: So OU is getting Tennessee early and Alabama late in their first run through the SEC. Sounds advantageous for the Sooners at first. 

The Vols are 8-4 currently and 4-4 in the SEC. Their last three games against ranked teams resulted in a 38-10 loss to Georgia, a 36-7 loss at Missouri and a 34-20 loss at Alabama. Makes you wonder if Josh Heupel’s 11-2 2022 breakthrough was an anomaly. Makes you believe Tennessee is a beatable opponent when OU dips its toe into the SEC pool next Sept. 21. 

Perhaps by Alabama’s Owen Field visit on Nov. 23, the Sooners will have settled into their new league enough to slug it out with the Crimson Tide. 

Here’s the reality: There is no optimal time to play the Tide. 

Alabama is 34-4 in November games since 2014, with two losses to LSU (32-31 in overtime and 51-46) and two more to Auburn (48-45 and 26-14). So make it 34 wins, 3 coinflip defeats and a single loss in which the Tide, then No. 1-ranked, was soundly beaten.

That isn’t an encouraging track record for OU, which once owned the Big 12 largely due to a 23-game November winning streak dating back to 2014.

To run Alabama’s November record back the same distance is to discover how big a challenge awaits OU next Nov. 23, and to realize this news isn’t as advantageous as it seems. 

Schedule leak gives OU a start date for SEC odyssey

Jenni Carlson: Quite a headliner to start OU’s SEC odyssey. 

Tennessee stands as a fellow blueblood, so it would be a marquee matchup regardless. But this will be a game against former Sooner quarterback and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. No matter who the Sooners drew for their first opponent in the SEC, it was going to be a big deal. But Heupel? The Vols? Rocky Top? What a great opener.

This move to the SEC becomes more and more real every day, doesn’t it? On Friday, the Sooners played their final game in the Big 12. Three days later, they learned who their SEC opener will be against. The hypothetical is becoming reality.

For the last two years, OU’s departure from the Big 12 to the SEC has been the stuff of crimson-and-cream dreams. Something that would happen down the road. Something Sooners everywhere were excited about. But something that was very much in the future.

Now, there’s a date on the schedule when it becomes a reality. 

That’s exciting, of course. Having teams like Tennessee and Alabama come to Norman is a big deal. Add in all the other teams that will be on the Sooners’ schedule, and it’s a bit of a dream world for OU fans.

But there’s also the reality of wondering whether the Sooners are ready. This season would indicate they’re much more prepared than they were a year ago. But we’ll find out for sure a year from now.

And now we know: we’ll start finding out on Sept. 21 when the Vols and Rocky Top roll into town.

Four straight dates at Owen Field

Eli Lederman: Oklahoma fans won’t be back to Owen Field until 2024. However, they’ll get their fill of home dates when football rolls back around next fall.

Chris Low’s report with dates for 12 SEC football games in the 2024 football season includes a Sept. 21 game with Tennessee. The Sooners’ SEC debut against Josh Heupel will mark the last of at least four consecutive home games to open next season.

Already on OU’s 2024 slate is an Aug. 31 opener with Temple. After that, it’s the first leg of the Sooners’ home-and-home series with Houston on Sept. 7, followed by a Sept. 14 visit from Tulane. From there, it’ll be the Volunteers in Norman on the third Saturday in September, marking Heupel’s return to Owen Field and the first date in OU’s inaugural run through the SEC.

With Tennessee set to visit in late September, it’s going to be a front-loaded home schedule. After the initial four games at home, OU will have four true road games (at LSU, Missouri, Auburn and Ole Miss), a meeting with Texas at the Cotton Bowl and three other home games (Alabama, South Carolina and nonconference visitor Maine).

OU fans can’t quite map out their fall 2024 plans until the SEC releases a full schedule next month, but they can certainly count on spending most of September at home. 

 

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Mike Sherman is the director of content for Sellout Crowd. He spent the majority of his 39 years in journalism at The Oklahoman, first as a sportswriter and then as the sports editor. His staff routinely produced award-winning coverage of the Sooners, Cowboys, Thunder, high school sports and major events. Mike is a past president of the Associated Press Sports Editors. His career includes tenures as the sports editor with the Tampa Bay Times and Utica (N.Y.) Observer-Dispatch, an assistant city editor with The Tennessean in Nashville and a reporter for the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa. More recently, he spent three years as executive editor for Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit investigative news organization in Oklahoma City. Mike and his wife, Cathleen, live in Edmond, Oklahoma, where they raised four children. Email Mike at mikesherman@selloutcrowd. Follow him at @MikeSherman on X/Twitter.

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