It's not complicated, OU's Williams will start against TCU

Norman Transcript columnist Clay Horning believes Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley will start Caleb Williams (13) at quarterback against TCU Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Norman. 

 

NORMAN — It’s not complicated.

Lincoln Riley will start Caleb Williams at quarterback on Saturday.

How do I know this?

I know this because Lincoln Riley would rather win than lose.

I know this, too, because the Sooner offense led by Spencer Rattler collapsed in the second half against Tulane and needed the defense to secure victory.

I know this because the same thing happened against Nebraska, all but the part about the second-half collapse, because the Sooner offense collapsed in both halves against the Huskers.

It was the same thing against West Virginia, a program that’s since caught and passed Kansas at the bottom of the Big 12 standings.

I know this because, inside the Cotton Bowl, Rattler turned the ball over twice to help push Texas to a 28-7 lead by the end of the first quarter and a 38-20 lead by the half, a lead that might well have been 38-13 or 38-16 had Williams not come in facing fourth-and-1 and made two guys miss behind the line of scrimmage before sprinting 66 yards to the end zone 15 seconds into the second quarter.

To hear Riley tell it, he’d have stuck with Rattler if not for his second turnover, a second-quarter fumble, thus making it the rare giveaway that made things better for the team that gave it away because it induced Riley’s required response; unless Riley cherry-picked it as an explanation, which he may well have, knowing he’d have to go with Williams anyway.

It’s not complicated.

Do you play the cornerback who covers receivers or the cornerback who can’t?

Do you play the running back bound to gain more yards or the one bound to gain less?

Do you play the kicker more likely to boot it through the uprights or the one who isn’t?

Do you play the quarterback who possesses the most playmaking prowess, for whom the offensive came to life upon his entry or the one it never really came to life behind?

It’s not complicated.

It only feels like it.

It only feels like it because Rattler was the golden child, the No. 1 quarterback in the nation, coming out of Phoenix’s Pinnacle High School in an internet age that pervasively celebrates the next over the now, as though what you did in high school carries more weight than what somebody else has already done on the Power Five conference stage.

The hype so relentless, there were Sooner fans who rued the arrival of Jalen Hurts, even though Hurts didn’t lose his second game at Alabama until he’d played his 26th.

So convinced by the recruiting myth machine, they saw true freshman Rattler as the next Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray, only better, out of the chute, like there’s no learning curve between Class 6A Arizona football and the Big 12.

It only feels like it because handicapping the next Heisman winner has become a parlor game free of performance.

Rattler was never the preseason Heisman favorite, the Sooner quarterback was and he happened to be it.

Rattler actually remained a top-five guy on several Heisman boards entering the Texas game, when he was clearly not among the best five players in his conference and probably not his team.

It only feels like it because it’s now so much easier for a player to leave via the transfer portal, making more appear to be on the line than there really is. Sure, Rattler might enter the draft or the portal if his starting job is lost, but backup quarterbacks transfer all the time.

It only feels like it because Rattler has already cashed in on the new NIL rules, making it appear more could be taken from him than his starting position, when that’s the only thing that can be taken from him because he gets to keep the money.

It only feels like it because so many had so much emotional investment in Rattler’s future for reasons all their own, as though that investment amounts to a hill of beans when the question is who offers the best chance to beat TCU.

It doesn’t.

Shockingly, even the Sooners themselves are acting like there’s a big and difficult decision at hand.

Riley has refused to name a starter and, after the student newspaper dared to practice journalism by viewing practice from on high, away from security, watching Williams take a majority of the first-team reps and reported it, all media access has been pulled until Saturday’s contest concludes.

It’s entirely petty.

It’s not like the Sooners don’t have an indoor practice facility.

Still, secrecy rules as though there’s some huge decision that needs making, as though there are high stakes surrounding what anybody with two eyes and a brain knows to be true.

Caleb Williams will be the Sooner quarterback.

If not, I’ll be wrong.

You know who’ll be a whole lot more wrong?

Lincoln Riley.

It’s not complicated.

 

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