Oklahoma would relish its 2017 success no matter who sat in the head coach’s seat.
But the past few months now seem especially unique, with the 34-year-old Lincoln Riley leading the No. 2 Sooners in their marquee win at Ohio State, to a Big 12 championship and now a College Football Playoff berth against Georgia in the Rose Bowl (4:10 p.m. central, Jan. 1).
It has been a charmed year in Norman, no doubt.
Riley grinned Sunday when asked about OU’s ride thus far, but said there have been few opportunities for reflection, if any.
“There will be time for it,” he said. “I don’t much right now because I know if I spend 30 minutes doing that, that’s 30 minutes I could be doing something to help this program continue to go forward or spending time with my family and my girls.
“I don’t have 30 minutes to spare right now.”
Riley’s five-year deal is worth $3.5 million annually and ranks in the bottom half among Big 12 coaches, but he has positioned himself for a potentially hefty raise on top of his incentive bonuses.
He will already receive a $75,000 bonus for winning the Big 12 championship and $75,000 for reaching the College Football Playoff, according to his contract.
The bonus related to his CFP appearance would increase to $175,000 with a win over Georgia, with potential to reach $250,000 if OU wins the national championship.
Finances seem to be far from Riley’s mind.
“I’ve enjoyed every second of [this season], I really have, but I know right now, we’ve got things to do,” he said. “This team right now needs me to stay focused on the task at hand.”
• League leverage: The Big 12 boasts eight teams that will participate in bowls. The 80 percent participation rate in the postseason leads the nation.
“The strength across all the teams I think was apparent. And as somebody who has either been in or followed this league for a long time, it’s a really really strong year for this league,” Riley said.
TCU (Alamo Bowl), Oklahoma State (Camping World Bowl), Iowa State (Liberty Bowl), Texas (Texas Bowl), Kansas State (Cactus Bowl), West Virginia (Heart of Dallas Bowl) and Texas Tech (Birmingham Bowl) are all still playing.
It’s the third time the conference has had 80 percent or more of its teams in the postseason. The Big 12 peaked at 90 percent in 2010.
• The long gap: OU won’t play another football game for another month, breaking up a palpable hot streak.
The Sooners’ defense is playing better than it has all year, complementing an offense that never stopped thriving during that time.
A virtual month-long break before the Rose Bowl threatens to snap that momentum.
“We’re the only sport that does this,” Riley said of the layoff. “I honestly feel like it’s too long. I don’t think you should wait to play a football game. I still question a lot of why we do it. It is what it is. You’ve got to be able to handle it.
“You’ve got basically a whole spring practice between playing a game. So yeah, I think there’s a lot more variables when you get to this point and you’ve got this time in between. Is it good? Is it bad? At the end of the day, it’s probably about how you handle it. You gotta handle it well.”
• Rose Bowl tickets: Sooner Club members should be notified by noon Monday regarding the amount of Rose Bowl tickets for which they are eligible, and have until noon Wednesday to cancel orders.
Student ticket charges will be applied to their university bursar accounts. All student tickets will be placed at the Rose Bowl will call and require student identification for pickup.
A limited number of tickets will go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. central Monday, Dec. 11 at Soonersports.com. OU plans to update its social media accounts with more information as it becomes available.
• This, that: OU is making its 19th straight bowl appearance. Only Virginia Tech (25) and Georgia (21) own longer streaks of bowl appearances recognized by the NCAA. ... The Sooners face an SEC team for the second straight postseason. OU has won its last four games against SEC teams and is 7-3 against the league since 2000. ... OU-Georgia will receive ESPN's top broadcast crew, with Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and sideline reporter Maria Taylor scheduled to anchor.