Baker Mayfield brought a little piece of Norman with him to California.
As he exited the bus at the Rose Bowl for the team's official photo day Sunday, Mayfield carried a white rectangular sign with him, the word "Pretenders," stretched across in red lettering.
The label, given to the Sooners by ESPN analyst Lee Corso in August, motivated OU throughout the regular season. Now, it sits beside Mayfield's locker as he prepares for the College Football Playoff semifinal (4:10 p.m., ESPN).
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit was sitting beside Corso when he uttered the infamous line on a College GameDay preseason show.
"My facial expression was 'Oh my God, I can't believe he just said pretenders,'" Herbstreit said. "This was in August. And sure enough, they have a sign at practice that says 'Pretenders' and they were carrying it around. I think it's kind of funny that they're using it, but it doesn't surprise me."
Herbstreit believes OU's ability to find motivation in those slights stems from a man who's no longer in charge of the Sooners, but whose presence is still felt everywhere in the program.
"I know Bob (Stoops) is no longer here, but it's a Bob attribute," he said. "I just saw him the other day at their hotel. My buddy said to him, 'Hey, great to see Oklahoma back in the playoff.' He goes, 'Oh, you guys act like we don't ever get into the playoff.' I thought we were just making small talk, my bad.
"They have a way of getting a little bit of a red-a** about anything and everything. You've got to give them credit for, this is actually a real thing."
Herbstreit: run game key to OU's success
Though a big part of Sooners' offense revolves around Mayfield and his arm, Herbstreit thinks another position group will have the biggest impact on the outcome of Monday's Rose Bowl.
"I've watched Oklahoma for a long time, and everyone wants to talk about Baker Mayfield and their passing," Herbstreit said Sunday. "If they run the ball, they're going to score 34 to 38 points. You cannot stop them. Everything gets going off of that."
The Sooners are averaging 215.9 rushing yards per game and have scored 31 touchdowns on the ground.
Running back Rodney Anderson has anchored the running back group in the last seven weeks of the season, rushing for 878 yards. On the season, Anderson has 11 rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns.
To stop OU's ground game, Herbstreit believes Georgia must force OU into third-and-long situations.
"If they can win that line of scrimmage and get them into third-and-7s and third-and-8s, and that's where Kirby and Mel can dial up some pressures, it's a different game," Herbstreit said.
"I think the running game, to me, dictates what kind of game Baker ends up having and what kind of position that the Georgia defense is able to put him in. If he's playing with tempo and they're running the ball, just hold on to your hat because they're going to score and you've got to score with them or they've got to possess the ball and keep Baker on the sideline."